We live in an era of tectonic change.
Global pandemics, battlefield fiascos for superpowers, and — soon, maybe — an extra hour of daylight in the afternoon in December.
I am fully, even eagerly prepared to lose an hour of sunshine in the morning in winter in return for an extra hour in the evening. But is America?
Holy shit. The Senate just unanimously passed a bill making daylight savings time permanent.
If this clears the House, no more changing the clocks twice a year. https://t.co/d85L72mzf8
— Andrew Desiderio (@AndrewDesiderio) March 15, 2022
Whitehouse: We have just passed the bill to end the return from Daylight Savings Time.. pic.twitter.com/lDdwRzyemN
— Acyn (@Acyn) March 15, 2022
This idea has been kicking around in the Senate for awhile thanks to Marco Rubio but it enjoys bipartisan support. “Springing forward and falling back year after year only creates unnecessary confusion while harming Americans’ health and our economy,” solidly left-wing Ron Wyden said last year. “Making Daylight Saving permanent would give folks an hour back of sunshine during the winter months when we need it most.” Year-round Daylight Saving Times should mean better sleep, more productivity, and less Seasonal Affective Disorder from people getting the winter blues because the sun keeps going down at 4 p.m. ET.
Because the news cycle never sleeps, I get up early enough to start work in the dark all year ’round. Gimme that sweet, sweet extra hour of sun in the afternoon.
Are you ready, though? More importantly, are your children?
— John McCormack (@McCormackJohn) March 15, 2022
Josh Barro has argued for years that we’d be fools to switch from the current system for the sake of “gaining” an hour of sunlight during winter. We’re not gaining anything, he points out. We’re just trading an hour of sunlight between the a.m. and the p.m. “It’s designed to minimize the waste of daylight hours by adjusting the clock so people roughly tend to wake up shortly after sunrise, all year,” he writes of the seasonal changeover in the fall and spring. “We should keep it like it is.”
Older readers may remember (although I do not) that America experimented with permanent DST nearly 50 years ago during the Nixon administration. It didn’t go great.
And yet the early-morning darkness quickly proved dangerous for children: A 6-year-old Alexandria girl was struck by a car on her way to Polk Elementary School on January 7; the accident broke her leg. Two Prince George’s County students were hurt in February. In the weeks after the change, eight Florida kids were killed in traffic accidents. Florida’s governor, Reubin Askew, asked for Congress to repeal the measure. “It’s time to recognize that we may well have made a mistake,” US Senator Dick Clark of Iowa said during a speech in Congress on January 28, 1974. In the Washington area, some schools delayed their start times until the sun caught up with the clock.
The factual picture was a bit more complicated. The National Safety Council reported in February that pre-sunrise fatalities had risen to 20 from 18 the year before. In July, Roger Sant, then an assistant administrator-designate for the Federal Energy Administration, wrote a letter to the Post that noted a 1 percent energy saving achieved by going to DST equated to 20,000-30,000 tons of coal not being burned each day. Further, he wrote, accidents had fallen in the afternoons.
When the bill making DST permanent passed in December 1973, in the thick of the winter afternoon darkness, it enjoyed 79 percent approval. Three months and many dark winter mornings later, support had dropped to 42 percent.
I don’t think there’s anything stopping this train this time, though:
The Senate is typically the main obstacle to legislation in Congress, not the House, and the Senate cleared the bill today via unanimous consent. Presumably there’ll be strong support in the lower chamber as well, possibly even by veto-proof margins. Exit question: Are you ready for a 9 a.m. Christmas sunrise?