During our semi-annual switch on and off daylight saving time (DST), there are always flurries of articles that come out extolling the benefits of making DST permanent. Supporters point to fewer car accidents, less crime (apparently burglars aren’t early risers), an increase in economic activity, and perhaps most significantly for us here in the Pacific Northwest, less seasonal depression. Additionally, the “Spring Forward” time switch in particular disrupts people’s circadian rhythms and is associated with a variety of hazards, including more workplace injuries, car accidents, strokes and heart attacks.
In recent years, the chorus for year-round DST has grown louder. Washington, Oregon, and California all have legislation in the works that would make a permanent switch to DST. If this legislation passes at the state level, it still requires a passage in congress and a presidential signature, but given that Trump recently tweeted in support of year-round DST, I don’t see why any sort of legislation would die in D.C.
DST was first used by Germany during World War I to conserve fuel, and it was used sporadically throughout the U.S. until the “Uniform Time Act of 1966” established DST beginning at 2 AM on the last Sunday in April and ending at 2 AM on the last Sunday of October, effective 1967. The Uniform Time Act was amended in 1986 to extended DST, and DST was again extended with the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to where it currently is today: the second of Sunday of March to the first Sunday of November.
During World Wars I and II, the switch to DST saved energy by decreasing the amount of lighting people used in the evenings. However, recent studies have found that the decrease in lighting is offset by an increase in heating/air conditioning, and some studies show that DST may even increase energy usage. With LED light bulbs and HVAC systems becoming ubiquitous, it seems intuitive that this would be the case. But with the host of other benefits that come with DST, is it worth a permanent switch? This writer thinks so.
However, the U.S. has had year-round DST before, namely during 1942-1945 (WWII) and 1974-1975 (the energy crisis). In both cases, we shifted back to having seasonal DST due to concerns about children going to school in the dark. Will public attitudes be different this time around? Only time will tell.
Charlie Phillips, a Madrona resident, received his B.S. in atmospheric sciences from the University of Washington and works in Portland as a meteorologist. Check out his weather website at to charlie.weathertogether.net.