FOR THE WEEK OF MAR. 21, 2022
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A national ritual may end next year as Congress moves toward dropping the biannual springing ahead and falling back that frustrates many Americans. Senators unanimously passed legislation last week to make Daylight Saving Time permanent, instead of lasting eight months as it does now (March to November). If the House agrees and President Biden signs the Sunshine Protection Act, it would take effect in November 2023 and there would be no more 5 p.m. sunsets from November to February. The White House hasn't publicly shared its position.
Americans alternate between standard time and Daylight Savings, which began in 1918 to save energy during World War I. And during four winter months when less sunshine reaches Earth, the thinking goes, we need another hour of scarcer daylight shifted back to mornings. The latest change was March 13, when clocks were set an hour ahead. Backers of year-long time consistency say people will benefit from more months of evening light for biking, barbecuing, walking and other outdoor fun. They also argue that lighter evenings would reduce vehicle crashes, street crime and break-ins. Plus, studies show an uptick in traffic crashes, workplace injuries and productivity loss when clocks change.
On the other side, critics of the proposed shift say more months of early morning darkness – with sunrise in some areas as late as 8 or 9 a.m. in January -- could endanger students walking to school or waiting for buses while work commuters are on the road. In addition, health specialists note that when it's too light at night, it can be hard to fall asleep, and when it's dark in the morning, it can be tough to awaken alertly. Daylight Saving Time "does not 'save' evening light at all," says David Neubauer, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. "It simply steals it from the morning when it is necessary to maintain our healthy biological rhythms."In Congress, the Sunshine Protection Act's co-sponsor -- Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. – said on the floor last week: "The majority of the American people's preference is just to stop the back-and-forth changing." Rep. Frank Pallone, a Democrat from New Jersey who chaired a recent hearing on the bill, counts on House passage next: "I'm pleased to see momentum building after our hearing. . . I'm hopeful that we can end the silliness of the current system soon."
Senator says: "We desperately want our kids outside, playing, doing sports, not just to sit in front of a TV playing video games all day. It gets tough in many parts of the country to be able to do that. What ends up happening [now] is for 16 weeks of the year, if you don’t have a park or outdoor facility with lights, you’re basically shut down at 5 p.m., in some cases 4 p.m." – Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
Brain researcher says: "Daylight Saving Time, in terms of the medical and health consequences, is the worst choice. It leaves us permanently out of sync with the natural environment." – Joseph Takahashi, neuroscience chair at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
No impact in 2 states: A 1966 law passed by Congress, the Uniform Time Act, made Daylight Saving Time (DST) the law of the land – with an option for states to keep Standard Time. Hawaii and Arizona currently don't follow DST.
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