The United States is now one step closer to making daylight saving time permanent, a move that has long been talked about but never put in place, but what exactly will the change mean and what still needs to happen?
The Senate unanimously passed legislation Tuesday that would end the changing of clocks. The bill will now head to the House, and, if passed there, will be sent to President Joe Biden’s desk.
Here's what to know:
When is Daylight Saving Time?
Daylight saving time is defined as a period between spring and fall when clocks in most parts of the country are set one hour ahead of standard time. Americans last changed their clocks on Sunday. Standard time lasts for roughly four months in most of the country.
How Would Permanent Daylight Saving Time Work?
The bipartisan bill, named the Sunshine Protection Act, would ensure Americans would no longer have to change their clocks twice a year. The move would essentially eliminate standard time, which is what many states switch to during winter months.
In the United States, daylight saving time lasts for a total of 34 weeks, running from early-to-mid March to the beginning of November in those states that observe it. Under the bill, daylight saving time would no longer end in November.
How Would The Change Impact Sunrises and Sunsets in the Midwest?
Illinois residents are used to the sun going down just after 4 p.m. in the month of December, but that would of course change with permanent daylight saving time, with the earliest sunset of the year occurring on Dec. 8, 2023 at 5:21 p.m.
Twilight would allow for a bit of residual daylight to stick around until just before 6 p.m.
The real change would occur at sunrise. With the time shifted forward by an hour, sunrise would not occur until after 8 a.m. for a good chunk of the winter, meaning that morning commutes for students and workers would be a bit darker.
In fact, sunrise wouldn’t occur until after 8 a.m. for a span of nearly two months, from Dec. 4 to Feb. 3.
Since daylight saving time is already in effect during the summer, the earliest sunrise of the year (June 13) and the latest sunset of the year (June 24) will remain unaffected.
*Note: All times listed here are accurate for the winter of 2023 and 2024, the first season that the new times would be in effect.
When Would the Change Take Effect?
According to the text of the bill, Illinois residents would still need to change their clocks at least two more times. The new time wouldn’t go into full effect until 2023, with clocks not rolling back after springing ahead for daylight saving time in March of next year.
After that March 2023 spring forward, no more time changes would take place in most of the United States.
Why Make the Change?
According to Reuters, at least 30 states have introduced legislation to end the practice of changing times each year, and Rep. Frank Pallone cited a study that suggested 71% of Americans are in favor of ending the time change each year.
Supporters of the bill, including co-sponsor Sen. Marco Rubio, said that giving children an additional hour of sunlight after school will allow for safer trips home, more time spent outdoors and other health benefits. He also argued that there would be economic benefits to such a change.
Members of Congress have long been interested in the potential benefits and costs of daylight saving time since it was first adopted as a wartime measure in 1942. The proposal will now go to the House, where the Energy and Commerce Committee had a hearing to discuss possible legislation last week.
Pallone, the chairman of the committee, agreed in his opening statement at the hearing that it is “time we stop changing our clocks.” But he said he was undecided about whether daylight saving time or standard time is the way to go.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has been for years been calling for a permanent switch to standard time, saying "there is ample evidence of the negative, short-term consequences of seasonal time changes."
The AASM cautioned that "making daylight saving time permanent overlooks potential health risks that can be avoided by establishing permanent standard time instead."
"Current evidence best supports the adoption of year-round standard time, which aligns best with human circadian biology and provides distinct benefits for public health and safety," the group said in a statement.
But the Department of Transportation says daylight saving time has a number of benefits. The DOT's website highlights the following:
- It saves energy. During daylight saving time, the sun sets one hour later in the evenings, so the need to use electricity for household lighting and appliances is reduced. People tend to spend more time outside in the evenings during daylight saving time, which reduces the need to use electricity in the home. Also, because the sunrise is very early in the morning during the summer months, most people will awake after the sun has already risen, which means they turn on fewer lights in their homes.
- It saves lives and prevents traffic injuries. During daylight saving time, more people travel to and from school and work and complete errands during the daylight.
- It reduces crime. During daylight saving time, more people are out conducting their affairs during the daylight rather than at night, when more crime occurs.
How Did Daylight Saving Time Start?
So how did daylight saving time get started in the first place and is there any chance of it permanently ending any time soon?
Well, first, as a reminder, it's called daylight saving time and not daylight "savings" time.
Some people like to credit Benjamin Franklin as the inventor of daylight saving time when he wrote in a 1784 essay about saving candles and saying, "Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." But that was meant more as satire than a serious consideration.
Germany was the first to adopt daylight saving time on May 1, 1916, during World War I as a way to conserve fuel. The rest of Europe followed soon after.
The United States didn't adopt daylight saving time until March 19, 1918. It was unpopular and abolished after World War I.
On Feb. 9 ,1942, Franklin Roosevelt instituted a year-round daylight saving time, which he called "war time." This lasted until Sept. 30, 1945.
Daylight saving time didn't become standard in the US until the passage of the Uniform Time Act of 1966, which mandated standard time across the country within established time zones. It stated that clocks would advance one hour at 2 a.m. on the last Sunday in April and turn back one hour at 2 a.m. on the last Sunday in October.
States could still exempt themselves from daylight saving time, as long as the entire state did so. In the 1970s, due to the 1973 oil embargo, Congress enacted a trial period of year-round daylight saving time from January 1974 to April 1975 in order to conserve energy.
Daylight saving time has continued to evolve. It now starts at 2 a.m. the second Sunday of March and ends at 2 a.m. the first Sunday of November. The change was advocated in part to allow children to go trick or treating in more daylight.
Do Any States Not Observe Daylight Saving Time?
Only two states don't observe daylight saving time, Arizona and Hawaii.