March 15, 2022

Permanent Daylight Saving Time Would Be An Ugly Case Of 'Be Careful What You Wish For'

The U.S. Senate passed the Sunshine Protection Act on Tuesday, which aims to make Daylight Saving Time permanent across the country. If the bill passes the House and President Joe Biden signs it into law, we'll ditch switching the clocks beginning next year and remain on "spring forward" year-round.

Proponents of the time change are over the moon about the (seemingly surprise) passage of this bill, arguing that the 'extra' hour of daylight at the end of the day is some much-needed relief. On the flip side, permanently switching us over to Daylight Saving Time has strong potential to be a crash course in "be careful what you wish for." 

We already did it once—and people hated it!

Arguments over changing the clocks are older than many of the people arguing over the time changes.

Congress already tried switching us over to permanent DST back in the 1970s. President Richard Nixon signed a bill on December 15, 1973, that froze the clocks in their "spring forward" position.

The experiment didn't even last a year.

The time change was so universally hated that Congress passed another bill reinstating the twice-yearly clock changes not long after Nixon resigned. President Gerald Ford quickly signed the bill, restoring the biannual time-shift tradition in October 1974.

Our problem is with seasons, not the clocks

The end goal of pushing for permanent Daylight Saving Time seems to be less about salvaging the end of the day as it is about voicing our displeasure with Earth's axial tilt.

The crux of the problem is that it sucks that there's less daylight in the winter than in the summer. There's nothing we can do about that. If we glue our clocks an hour forward all year round, we're just robbing ourselves of an hour of daylight in the morning to pay for it. 

All the complaints about "it's dark at 4:30 p.m.!" will shift to "it's dark at 8:30 a.m.!" come wintertime. The miserable experience of driving home in the dark and taking out the trash in the dark will shift to a series of dark, miserable events to begin the day instead. 

"What about the children!"

The most commonly cited issue with permanent DST is that kids will have to wait for the bus in the dark in the morning. "But kids already do that!", proponents will argue. Sure! I spent about half the year every year in high school waiting for the bus in the dark on the side of a busy road with few lights.

Many school districts stagger their start times: the older kids go to high school first, then middle school, then elementary school. This schedule allows the older kids to navigate the darkness while younger kids get the relative safety of the early morning light.

Permanent DST would force almost all students, regardless of age, to wait or walk in the dark. That's...not ideal! If you thought changing the laws around changing our clocks was a tough sell, try convincing a school board to adjust school start times.

Dangerous winter weather could be more impactful in permanent DST

The weather is the weather. Daylight is daylight. We can't change that. But we can change how hazardous weather affects our daily lives, and switching to the spring-forward position year-round will have a significant impact on how we handle dangerous conditions.

Think about the morning commute. There are plenty of mornings where there's black ice on the roads that quickly melts beneath the bright morning sunshine and heavy traffic.

Extending morning's darkness by an extra hour will make the morning commute even more treacherous on those icy winter mornings. We're pouring more commuters and pedestrians onto icy roads and sidewalks, but they'll all have to navigate those tricky conditions in the dark now. 

Two-hour delays will become three-hour delays. Schools and workplaces could wind up closing their doors more often—maybe not so much an issue nowadays that we can work and learn from home, but still disruptive nonetheless.

Shifting darkness deeper into the midwinter morning commute will create even more issues than a dark drive home in the evening.

- - -

Permanently switching over to Daylight Saving Time is one of those feel-good policies that will create as many problems as it purportedly solves. We can't legislate the seasons or the sunshine. If this bill becomes law, I'm willing to bet most folks are going to wish it hadn't after their first winter without standard time.

[Top image via Unsplash]

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I graduated from the University of South Alabama in 2014 with a degree in political science and a minor in meteorology. I contribute to The Weather Network as a digital writer, and I've written for Forbes, the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang, Popular Science, Mental Floss, and Gawker's The Vane. My latest book, The Skies Above, is now available. My first book, The Extreme Weather Survival Manual, arrived in October 2015.

1 comment:

  1. Would it make more sense to do permanent Standard time?