Children could start going to school in the dark next year in exchange for more sunshine later in the day, while their parents come home from work enjoying the light.
These would be among the impacts of abandoning standard time and adopting year-round daylight saving time, a change in legislation the Senate passed this week with virtually no opposition.
If the Sunshine Protection Act, as written, were to win House approval and President Joe Biden’s signature, Americans would roll back to November, roll forward to March 2023, and never change the clock again.
After nearly all Americans rolled back their clocks on Nov. 7 to usher in standard time, the sun rose over New York City at 6:33 a.m. ET and set at 4:45 p.m. On the last day of standard time Saturday, the sun rose and set over the city at 6:12 a.m. and 5:59 p.m., respectively.
Keeping daylight saving time during those fall and winter months would push the sunrise an hour later, which means early risers and kids who go to school around 7 a.m. would do it while the sun is still sleeping.
But more than eight hours after that, much of the evening rush would unfold with the sun in the sky until closer to 6 or 7 p.m.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a leading supporter of the bipartisan bill, said he would expect year-round daylight saving time to reduce crime with off-hours. Later sunshine decreases childhood obesity by encouraging children to play later in the day and reduce rates of seasonal depression.
“I know it’s not the most important issue facing America, but it’s one of those issues that there’s a lot of agreement on,” Rubio told the Senate on Tuesday. “And I think a lot of people wonder why it took so long to get here.”
The potential change could have profound implications in many facets of American life, affecting education, transportation, health care and even evening news weather reports.
Health and sleep
Among the most vocal opponents of year-round daylight saving time are doctors and researchers at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
Sunlight activates key hormones that fuel a person’s activities for the day, and the earlier this process begins, the better, according to Standard Time advocates. And melatonin, which is key to falling asleep, is triggered after the sun goes down, so the sooner that happens, the longer the track to a good night’s sleep.
“Going to daylight saving time year-round is a really bad idea,” said Dr. Nathaniel F. Watson, sleep academy spokesperson and neurologist at the University of Washington Sleep Medicine Center. . “If we’re doing that, it’s basically dosing the whole of the United States with jet lag — permanent jet lag.”
Watson said his ideal would be permanent standard time, but changing the clock every spring and fall would still be better than year-round daylight saving time.
Yet switching from standard time to daylight saving time is linked to a variety of negative health outcomes, according to a 2020 study, including higher rates of heart disease and more accidents. the circulation. Thus, eliminating the practice of clock changing could at least mitigate these risks.
Despite its potential impact on school systems, the bill surprised some education stakeholders.
Eric Runez, chief of the DeForest Area School District in Wisconsin and a member of the executive board of the American Association of School Administrators, said lawmakers had not recently consulted with his group and other education policy institutions. On the question.
Runez said he was worried about early morning transportation issues.
“It’s going to be quite a dark environment, kids waiting in the dark for buses or walking around,” he said. “There are security concerns about that.”
For much of January and December in the Runez neighborhood near Madison, the sun doesn’t already rise until 7:30 a.m., which puts kids on the streets just before sunrise. It would be even darker with daylight saving time all year round.
Seattle offers an even more extreme example, as the last sunrises arrive there minutes before 8 a.m. According to the new bill, the sun would not rise until nearly 9 a.m.
The Institute for Highway Safety, which is funded by insurance companies, has long advocated daylight saving time year-round.
The group says more lives, especially those of pedestrians, would be saved with better lighting during peak hours.
“It would have a benefit for road safety – it’s something we hope policy makers will keep in mind,” spokesman Joseph Young said.
National Weather Service offices across the United States release balloons into the atmosphere at 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily during daylight saving time and at 7 a.m. and 7 a.m. during standard time.
Data from these balloons is the basis of almost every weather report read online or shown on television.
So if the 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. norm were maintained, the forecast data would arrive later. That, in turn, could influence people’s decision to pack umbrellas or how they rate the likelihood of their children’s Little League games going ahead.
Been there, done that
The United States already adopted DST year-round, in 1974-75. But the change was repealed, largely due to parents’ concerns about schools running before sunrise.
“We tried it before in the mid-1970s during the OPEC oil embargo, and people in the United States didn’t like it,” Watson said. “We’ve been here before and we know it doesn’t work.”
He added: “Standard time is the time that best aligns your biological clock with the solar clock, which is how we have lived for millennia.”