Even the crankiest pillow snugglers have adjusted to the time change after springing forward earlier this month. But daylight saving time is still making news because of a pending attempt in Congress to set the nation’s clocks right once and for all.
Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Vern Buchanan, both Florida Republicans, have introduced the Sunshine Protection Act, which would take what we now call daylight saving time and make it the universal standard time nationwide.
“Making Daylight Saving Time permanent is O.K. with me!” President Donald Trump tweeted.
We agree. The history of these 60-minute manipulations is marked by special-interest lobbying, frequent tweaks and a few reasons that made sense at some point but have little resonance today. (There aren’t that many small farmers left, and they don’t all agree that the current scheme is a good idea anyway.) As for springing forward, we’d be pleased to see the end of this productivity-sapping, heart-attack-increasing ritual.
Since Congress lengthened daylight saving time to about eight months beginning in 2007, the period affected by this change would be short: early November to early March. In Florida, supporters see more time for tourism and leisure activities; the golf industry has historically supported longer stretches of afternoon light.
What would permanent daylight saving time look like in Chicago? On Jan. 1, the middle of our darkness season, the shift forward would mean sunrise at 8:18 a.m. and sunset at 5:30 p.m. The pitiful length of daylight overall, nine hours, 11 minutes, would of course remain unchanged. Mother Nature still has her say.
In 1936, Chicago effectively sprang forward for an entire year by shifting to Eastern Daylight Time. Spotty adoption doomed the move, but the Tribune extolled these advantages on the front page:
“Today that extra hour of daylight in the afternoon will mean chiefly that you and your family will have that much more time to be out-of-doors. Tomorrow it will mean, in addition to the extra hour outside, if you so desire, that you will leave work while there is plenty of light and fewer hazards in the evening traffic rush. Your children will have an extra hour for play when they have left their school classrooms. You will use less light during the evening hours, turning the lights on an hour later.”
Today, the arguments are much the same, though there’s not a convincing case the change would save energy. Extended evening daylight year-round would allow more light after a typical school day and 9-to-5 job schedule. A commute home under lighter skies would be safer.
The National Parent Teacher Association worries about less light in the morning for children traveling to school. The 7-to-8 a.m. hour would certainly be darker, though the sky lightens before official sunrise and many Chicago schools start at 9. In the suburbs and nationally, too, schools are adopting later start times that fit young body clocks better. The American Academy of Pediatrics has called for an 8:30 a.m. or later start time for middle and high schools.
Studies have shown that lighter evenings mean people sit in front of the TV less and walk outside and shop more. Some types of crime are reduced as evening darkness shifts to morning. Granted, we’ll need to find a reliable new reminder of when to change the batteries in our smoke detectors. But we’re persuaded that it’s time to make the biannual clock change a thing of the past, shorten our period of scurrying home and hibernating, and live a little in the evening all year long.
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