Quantcast

5 Ways Life Would Be Better if It Were Always Daylight Saving Time

Insights + Opinion
A considerable portion of the population sleeps past sunrise. aphrodite74 / E+ / Getty Images

By Steve Calandrillo

In my research on daylight saving time, I have found that Americans don't like it when Congress messes with their clocks.

In an effort to avoid the biannual clock switch in spring and fall, some well-intended critics of DST have made the mistake of suggesting that the abolition of DST – and a return to permanent standard time – would benefit society. In other words, the U.S. would never "spring forward" or "fall back."


They are wrong. DST saves lives and energy and prevents crime. Not surprisingly, then, politicians in Washington, California and Florida are now proposing to move to DST year-round.

Congress should seize on this momentum to move the entire country to year-round DST. In other words, turn all clocks forward permanently. If it did so, I see five ways that Americans' lives would immediately improve.

Daylight Saving Time - How Is This Still A Thing?: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO) youtu.be

1. Lives would be saved.

Simply put, darkness kills – and darkness in the evening is far deadlier than darkness in the morning.

The evening rush hour is twice as fatal as the morning for various reasons: Far more people are on the road, more alcohol is in drivers' bloodstreams, people are hurrying to get home and more children are enjoying outdoor, unsupervised play. Fatal vehicle-on-pedestrian crashes increase threefold when the sun goes down.

DST brings an extra hour of sunlight into the evening to mitigate those risks. Standard time has precisely the opposite impact, by moving sunlight into the morning.

A meta-study by Rutgers researchers demonstrated that 343 lives per year could be saved by moving to year-round DST. The opposite effect would occur if the U.S. imposed year-round standard time.

2. Crime would decrease.

Darkness is also a friend of crime. Moving sunlight into the evening hours has a far greater impact on the prevention of crime than it does in the morning. This is especially true for crimes by juveniles, which peak in the after-school and early evening hours.

Criminals strongly prefer to do their work in the darkness of evening and night. Crime rates are lower by 30 percent in the morning to afternoon hours, even when those morning hours occur before sunrise, when it's still dark.

A 2013 British study found that improved lighting in the evening hours could reduce the crime rate by up to 20 percent.

3. Energy would be saved.

Many people don't know that the original justification for the creation of DST was to save energy, initially during World War I and II and then later during the 1973 OPEC oil crisis. When the sun is out later in the evening, peak energy loads are reduced.

Virtually everyone in our society is awake and using energy in the early evening hours when the sun sets. But a considerable portion of the population is still asleep at sunrise, resulting in significantly less demand for energy then.

Having more sun in the evening requires not just less electricity to provide lighting, but reduces the amount of oil and gas required to heat homes and businesses when people need that energy most. Under standard time, the sun rises earlier, reducing morning energy consumption, but only half of Americans are awake to be able to use the sun.

This rationale motivated some in California to recommend permanent DST a decade ago, when the state experienced recurrent electricity shortages and rolling brown-outs. Officials at the California Energy Commission estimated that 3.4 percent of California's winter energy usage could be saved by moving to year-round DST.

Similarly, DST resulted in 150,000 barrels of oil saved by the U.S. in 1973, which helped combat the effect of OPEC's oil embargo.

4. Avoiding clock switches improves sleep.

Critics of DST are correct about one thing: The biannual clock switch is bad for health and welfare.

It wreaks havoc with people's sleep cycles. Heart attacks increase 24 percent in the week after the U.S. "springs forward" in March. There's even an uptick during the week in November when the clocks "fall back."

If that's not bad enough, a study from 2000 shows that the major financial market indexes NYSE, AMEX and NASDAQ average negative returns on the Monday trading day following both clock switches, presumably because of disrupted sleep cycles.

5. Recreation and commerce flourish in the sun.

Finally, recreation and commerce flourish in daylight and are hampered by evening darkness.

Americans are less willing to go out and shop in the dark, and it's not very easy to catch a baseball in darkness either. These activities are far more prevalent in the early evening than they are in the early morning hours, so sunlight is not nearly as helpful then.

Not surprisingly, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as well as most outdoor recreational interests favors extended DST.

Research shows that sunlight is far more important to Americans' health, efficiency and safety in the early evening than it is in the early morning. That's not to say there aren't downsides to DST – notably, an extra hour of morning darkness. But I believe the advantages of extended DST far outweigh those of standard time. It is past time that the U.S. sets the clocks forward forever, and never has to switch them again.

Steve Calandrillo is the Jeffrey & Susan Brotman Professor of Law at the University of Washington.
Disclosure statement: Steve Calandrillo does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond his academic appointment.

Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A verdant and productive urban garden in Havana. Susanne Bollinger / Wikimedia Commons

By Paul Brown

When countries run short of food, they need to find solutions fast, and one answer can be urban farming.

Read More Show Less
Trevor Noah appears on set during a taping of "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah" in New York on Nov. 26, 2018. The Daily Show With Trevor Noah / YouTube screenshot

By Lakshmi Magon

This year, three studies showed that humor is useful for engaging the public about climate change. The studies, published in The Journal of Science Communication, Comedy Studies and Science Communication, added to the growing wave of scientists, entertainers and politicians who agree.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
rhodesj / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Cities around the country are considering following the lead of Berkeley, California, which became the first city to ban the installation of natural gas lines in new homes this summer.

Read More Show Less
Rebecca Burgess came up with the idea of a fibersheds project to develop an eco-friendly, locally sourced wardrobe. Nicolás Boullosa / CC BY 2.0

By Tara Lohan

If I were to open my refrigerator, the origins of most of the food wouldn't be too much of a mystery — the milk, cheese and produce all come from relatively nearby farms. I can tell from the labels on other packaged goods if they're fair trade, non-GMO or organic.

Read More Show Less
A television crew reports on Hurricane Dorian while waves crash against the Banana River sea wall. Paul Hennessy / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope

Some good news, for a change, about climate change: When hundreds of newsrooms focus their attention on the climate crisis, all at the same time, the public conversation about the problem gets better: more prominent, more informative, more urgent.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) met with Bill Gates on Nov. 7 to discuss climate change and ways to address the challenge. Senator Chris Coons

The U.S. Senate's bipartisan climate caucus started with just two members, a Republican from Indiana and a Democrat from Delaware. Now it's up to eight members after two Democrats, one Independent and three more Republicans joined the caucus last week, as The Hill reported.

Read More Show Less
EPA scientists survey aquatic life in Newport, Oregon. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to significantly limit the use of science in agency rulemaking around public health, the The New York Times reports.

Read More Show Less
A timelapse video shows synthetic material and baby fish collected from a plankton sample from a surface slick taken off Hawaii's coast. Honolulu Star-Advertiser / YouTube screenshot

A team of researchers led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration didn't intend to study plastic pollution when they towed a tiny mesh net through the waters off Hawaii's West Coast. Instead, they wanted to learn more about the habits of larval fish.

Read More Show Less