Editorial – Time change no longer serves purpose

Published 6:58 pm Friday, March 17, 2023

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Every year around this time — and again in the fall — we complain about the antiquated practice of moving the clock ahead or backward because, well, we’ve always done it that way.

Actually, not always. The person credited with the idea to “spring forward” and “fall back” depends on which history you choose to believe. In 1895, New Zealand entomologist George Hudson proposed daylight saving time because he wanted additional daylight hours to collect insects. Ten years later, tired of having to cut his golf round short at dusk, William Willett, an English builder and outdoorsman who also noticed that many Londoners slept through a large chunk of summer days, suggested moving the clock forward an hour in the spring.

The U.S. adopted daylight saving time in 1918, and while many countries abandoned the practice after the first World War, it became common again during World War II and the 1970s energy crisis. But how relevant is daylight saving time in current times?

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In addition to disrupting sleep patterns, studies have shown that the risk of having a stroke goes up 8% during the first two days after the beginning of DST and the chance of suffering a heart attack rises 24% the Monday after the change to DST.

Daylight saving time is also costly. According to a 2017 study in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, associated costs for the time change is $275 million annually and roughly 30 people die each year as a result of the time change.

According to a recent report in The Hill, two states — Hawaii and most of Arizona — observe permanent standard time, meaning they don’t change their clocks at all. Instead, they change time zones: Arizona shifted from Mountain Time to Pacific Time when the rest of us moved the clocks forward, and Hawaii moved from six hours behind Eastern Time to five hours behind.

At least 19 states have enacted legislation or resolutions to stay on daylight saving time permanently, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. But these states can’t make the change without congressional approval, or their neighboring states enacting similar legislation, The Hill reports.

Interestingly, Virginia isn’t among them. The state Senate this year defeated a bill to add us to the list of states wanting to keep the time the same year-round.

We accept that abolishment of time changes shouldn’t be patchwork. Imagine the confusion, for example, if Suffolk was an hour behind or ahead of Gates County, or the Outer Banks, for that matter.

The change should happen at the federal level. Here’s hoping Congress, which has dodged the issue to date, comes around and puts an end to the nonsense of moving the clock ahead and behind an hour — a practice that is no longer practical.