Biannual changing of the clocks could soon be a thing of the past in the US after the Senate voted unanimously to make daylight saving time permanent from 2023.
If enacted, clocks would not “fall back” in November 2023. This would see the US enjoy daylight saving time year-round, instead of just eight months in the year.
Dubbed the Sunshine Protection Act, the bill still needs to be passed by the House of Representatives, which has held a committee hearing on the issue, before it can go to President Joe Biden to be signed. It's unclear how these next steps might pan out, but it’s clear this bill has got some momentum behind it.
Most areas of the US follow daylight saving time (DST), except for the states of Arizona and Hawaii, and the overseas territories of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the US Virgin Islands. A number of state legislatures have enacted year-round daylight saving time in recent years i but a change in the federal statute is required, which this bill hopes to achieve.
The question is, why do so many states and countries continue to follow the seasonal "spring forward, fall back" clock tradition? Well, not many people really know anymore.
“Just this past weekend, we all went through that biannual ritual of changing the clock back and forth, and the disruption that comes with it. And one has to ask themselves after a while, ‘Why do we keep doing it? Why are we doing this?,” Senator Marco Rubio, one of the bill's sponsors, said in a statement.
“The call to end the antiquated practice of clock changing is gaining momentum throughout the nation,” he previously said.
Daylight saving time was rolled out in the early 20th century as a supposed energy-saving measure, reducing the need for lights on winter mornings and summer evenings. It also gave people “longer” evenings in the spring and summer. Arguably, these are the times where daylight is of most use to people: you can enjoy nice long evenings in the summer when the sun's out, while it’s not quite as dark when you wake up in winter.
However, it can be considered counterintuitive to "fall back" in Autumn, and many people prefer keeping daylight saving time all year round. While you may get nice and long sunny evenings in the summer under the current system, it means the winter evenings get darker even earlier.
A strong body of scientific evidence highlights the potential perils of these dark winter evenings. Studies have suggested that putting the clocks back in fall might increase the number of car accidents since many motorists will have much darker commutes home. Research also indicates that putting back the clocks in autumn may increase the symptoms of seasonal depression for some people. These extra dark evenings can also be linked to a spike in crime occurring when clocks “fall back” in November.
“If you look at the way we live in this country, you want to have the ability to spend more time in the evenings outdoors. Not just to enjoy the outdoors, but to make sporting and outdoor activities available for people at a time when, frankly, we're losing an hour, an hour-and-a-half in some parts of the country, because of [the time change],” added Rubio.
“I'm hoping that after today, this will go over to the House of Representatives, and they'll act quickly on it.”
Other parts of the world have also shown interest in ditching seasonal clock changes. Europe has strongly toyed with the idea of scrapping it. In 2018, the European Parliament voted to end Daylight Saving Time after a poll of 4.8 million Europeans showed overwhelming support for ditching it. The law was meant to come into effect in 2021, but it was pushed down the agenda due to COVID-19.