Daylight Saving Time

Was That the Last Time We Changed the Clocks? Here's What to Know About Daylight Saving Time

Earlier this month, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., reintroduced the Sunshine Protection Act for 2023, which seeks to make daylight saving time permanent and would effectively eliminate the "fall back" later this year

On Sunday, clocks across the U.S. jumped ahead one hour as part of the annual "spring forward" for daylight saving time, but was that the last time change for many states?

There have been plenty of questions in the lead-up to the 2023 daylight saving time shift, particularly surrounding the Sunshine Protection Act.

Earlier this month, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., reintroduced the Sunshine Protection Act for 2023, which seeks to make daylight saving time permanent and would effectively eliminate the "fall back" later this year.

“This ritual of changing time twice a year is stupid," Rubio said. "Locking the clock has overwhelming bipartisan and popular support. This Congress, I hope that we can finally get this done.”

To be clear, nothing has been made official yet. As it stands, clocks will once again fall back later this year, unless the legislation that has sat in limbo for some time is approved.

Here's what to know.

What's the status of the Sunshine Protection Act?

The legislation was first introduced last year and was unanimously passed by the Senate. Under the Sunshine Protection Act, the seasonal changing of clocks would effectively be eliminated in the U.S., except for Hawaii and parts of Arizona.

Despite passage in the Senate, the bill stalled in the House, where it remained in a committee until the expiration of the previous Congress.

Rubio's reintroduction sent the bill to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

Whether it will pass through the legislature and be signed by President Joe Biden, however, remains to be seen.

Overall, thoughts on the potential shift vary.

When the Sunshine Protection Act was introduced by Rubio, he suggested it would reduce crime, encourage kids to play outside and lower the risk of heart attacks and car accidents.

"There’s some strong science behind it that is now showing and making people aware of the harm that clock-switching has," Rubio said on the Senate floor in March, NBC News reported.

2020 study found that fatal traffic accidents in the U.S. rose 6% in the week after daylight saving started. Other studies have found that the switch to daylight saving brings small increases in workplace injuries and medical errors in the days following the change. A 2019 study, meanwhile, found that the risk of heart attacks went up in the week after clocks sprung forward, though other research did not find such an increase.

The research overall is mixed, however, and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine supports the opposite switch to permanent standard time, as research shows that bodies function best with more sunlight in the morning.

“I have received calls from constituents who prefer permanent standard time because they have safety concerns for children who have to wait too long in the dark during winter for the school bus," Rep. Jan Schakowsky, of Illinois' 9th Congressional District and a Democratic member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said at the time.

Schakowsky said she has also heard from constituents who prefer longer daylight hours and as a result support permanent daylight saving time.

While the congresswoman said there does not seem to be a consensus among voters, she stated "we know that the majority of Americans do not want to keep switching the clocks back and forth."

What would permanent daylight saving time look like?

If the Sunshine Protection Act were to take effect, areas in the northern U.S. would be disproportionately affected during the winter months, according to the AASM.

"Some parts of Montana, North Dakota and Michigan would not see sunrise until after 9:30 a.m. during the winter months," the American Academy of Sleep Medicine said, if the country adopted permanent daylight saving time.

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 and the latest sunset of the year will remain unaffected.

*Note: All times listed here are for the winter of 2023 and 2024

When does daylight saving time start and end in 2023?

Under provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which amended the Uniform Time Act of 1966, daylight saving time begins every year on the second Sunday in March. That time change will remain in effect until the first Sunday in November, when clocks turn back one hour.

The spring change will push sunset to nearly 7 p.m., a barrier that will be broken on St. Patrick’s Day, according to officials.

Daylight saving time will end at 2 a.m. on Nov. 5, 2023, in what is known as the annual "fall back."

What is daylight saving time?

Daylight saving time is a changing of the clocks that typically begins in spring and ends in fall in what is often referred to as "spring forward" and "fall back."

Under the conditions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, daylight saving time starts on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November.

On those days, clocks either shift forward or backward one hour.

But it wasn't always that way.

Clocks used to spring ahead on the first Sunday in April and remained that way until the final Sunday in October, but a change was put in place in part to allow children to trick-or-treat in more daylight.

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 states that observe it.

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.

Which states observe daylight saving time?

Nearly every U.S. state observes daylight saving time, with the exceptions of Arizona (although some Native American tribes do observe DST in their territories) and Hawaii. U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, do not observe daylight saving time.

What is standard time?

According to the website Time and Date, standard time is the local time in a country or region when daylight saving time is not in use.

"More than 60% of the countries in the world use standard time all year," the site says. "The remaining countries use DST during the summer months, generally setting clocks forward one hour from standard time."

According to the AASM, it's standard time that more closely matches our body's internal clock.

"The daily cycle of natural light and darkness is the most powerful timing cue to synchronize our body’s internal clock," the Illinois-based organization says. "When we receive more light in the morning and darkness in the evening, our bodies and nature are better aligned, making it easier to wake up for our daily activities and easier to fall asleep at night. Daylight saving time disrupts our internal clock, leading to sleep loss and poor sleep quality, which in turn lead to negative health consequences."

Which is better?

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 according to the Department of Transportation, 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.

Sheldon Jacobson, PhD, a computer science professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, said a compromise could be possible.

Jacobson write this op-ed for The Hill, urging lawmakers to split the difference when it comes to time changes.

“Why not compromise in the middle, which is what we proposed here, which is a 30 minute change?” Jacobson said.

“You're not getting the full negative effect of the circadian rhythms, which the which physicians are concerned about, at the same time, the light balance that people prefer to have either early or late in the day is smoothed out,” Jacobson added.

One potential issue with a 30-minute shift is it would put us out of sync with our other North American neighbors.

“I'm convinced that if we do that Canada and Mexico will follow suit, especially Canada, which has such a long border, over 2000 miles of border, with the United States,” said Jacobson. “And what we will see is a trend beginning that could really affect and help everybody because with no change. We don't have to worry about it twice a year.”

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