Time to change the time

The clock tower in San Juan Capistrano is just one of the many clocks that will need to be changed when Daylight Saving Time ends on Nov. 1. Heather Wieshlow/Lariat

It is that time of year when we turn our clocks back an hour which gives us an extra hour of sleep but leaves us feeling disoriented in our daily schedules. On Sunday, Nov. 1 at 2 a.m., Daylight Saving Time is officially over for the year, and we go back to Standard Time, corresponding with the phrase “spring forward, fall backward.”

Californians may wonder why they are still resetting their clocks after Proposition 7 passed with an overwhelming majority in November 2018. The proposition authorized the state Legislature to end the biannual time switch and shift to Daylight Saving Time permanently— the current time we observe from mid-March until early November. However, there are two more major legislative hurdles that still need to occur before the proposition can be enacted.

The author of Proposition 7 is Kansen Chu, a Democrat representative for the 25th California Assembly District, who is serving his term through Dec. 6, 2020. After the proposition passed, he introduced AB 7, the Daylight Saving Time bill. This would allow the time change to be approved with a two-thirds vote by the California Legislature.

However, the bill was put on hold over concerns that trade in Mexico would be in a different time zone. Even if Chu’s bill did advance through the legislature, California would still need to wait for federal approval to adopt permanent daylight saving time because it amends the federal Uniform Time Act of 1966.

Since 2015, more than 200 bills and resolutions have been introduced in almost every state to either stay on standard time or convert to full-time Daylight Saving Time. So far, in 2020, 32 states have proposed legislation to make daylight saving permanent. Currently, there are four bills awaiting action that would allow the country to be on permanent daylight saving time–- Congress has until December 2020 to act on these bills.

In September of this year, Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott cited the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and proposed legislation that would skip the upcoming time change and keep the country on daylight saving time through November 2021. If passed, this could be a foray into a more permanent time change.

#LockTheClock is the official site for the movement to quit changing clocks back and forth and is run by Scott Yates, known as the Time Wizard. He points out on his website that the country started the practice of changing to standard time during the 1918 pandemic, so perhaps there could be a change during this pandemic.

However, Yates says in an email that he doesn’t think anything will change regarding Daylight Saving Time this year because of the slowdown in the Senate.

“While I think fixing Daylight Saving Time is important, I don’t think it is as important as the election, COVID, etc., so it’s OK with me,” Yates said. “I’ve been working on this for six years now, and things are getting closer and closer to a change, but it’s not going to happen this year.”

Approximately 70 countries around the world observe daylight saving time, though many countries near the equator do not adjust their clocks. In the European Union, Parliament voted two years ago to scrap the practice of moving their clocks back and forth and allow individual countries to decide if they want to remain on Daylight Saving Time by 2021.

Effects of the time change

Numerous studies have shown the effects the biannual time change has on business, health, crime, energy, the environment, traffic and children’s wellbeing.

One significant effect is how the time change affects a person’s circadian rhythm or biological clock. This, in turn, affects everything from an individual’s sleep patterns to their hormone levels. It also can affect those with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) when the darker hours of winter kick-in and impacts those with depression.

“It throws your whole system off and it gets dark too early,” said Ralph Behrisin, a Laguna Niguel resident. “Especially when you are working and you go home in the dark and come home in the dark.”

Lance Kriegsfeld, an associate professor in psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, says in an article by NPR that when adjusting to the new time, we experience sleep disturbances, irritability, difficulty concentrating at work and even a modest increased likelihood of heart attack in at-risk individuals. This is even more pronounced in the spring when we lose an hour.

Other issues include more car accidents, an increase in workplace injuries and less productivity, as well as a rise in crime during Standard Time and even harsher sentences from judges. It is also questionable that Daylight Saving Time saves energy since there has been a widespread shift to other forms of power.

Throughout the last 100 years, there have been proponents for having Daylight Saving Time year-round as well as those who prefer Standard Time year-round.

Agriculture groups were behind the effort to repeal the original act of 1918 because they would lose an hour of time to work in the morning. The golf industry and manufacturers of barbecue equipment like Daylight Saving Time because customers can use their products longer with more daylight hours. However, many entertainment industries have been in favor of having it get darker earlier so that customers would frequent their establishments earlier.

Another Laguna Niguel resident, Rebecca Wycoff has two children and doesn’t like the time change either.

“I would love to stay on Daylight Saving Time year-round so that it “keeps light longer and for more outdoor activities,” Wycooff said.

History of Daylight-Saving Time

In America, Daylight Saving Time first became official on March 19, 1918, when the Standard Time Act was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson and established the five time zones that we are familiar with.

Congress repealed the law after World War I, but it came to prominence again when the United States was looking for ways to conserve fuel during World War II. President Franklin Roosevelt instituted year-round Daylight Saving Time from 1942 to 1945, which was also known as war time, and was implemented to promote national security and defense.

From 1945 to 1966, there was no federal law regarding Daylight Saving Time, so states and localities were free to choose whether they wanted to observe Daylight Saving Time, deciding when it began and ended. This created a complicated patchwork of time zones or what was called the “chaos of the clocks” across the United States and caused major confusion for various industries, especially those involved in transportation and broadcasting.

In 1949, California established a law, adopting Daylight Saving Time half of the year. Several years later, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Uniform Time Act of 1966, establishing a uniform period of six months of Daylight Saving Time and six months of Standard Time, and was overseen by the Department of Transportation.

This law required states throughout the United States to either adopt Daylight Saving Time or opt-out. States that did not want to participate in Daylight Saving Time could pass a state law that would exempt them, which most of Arizona and the state of Hawaii did, as well as several US territories.

Since then, the date that Daylight Saving Time starts and ends has changed, with the last change being with The Energy Policy Act of 2005. It extended Daylight Saving Time an additional four weeks and corresponds to the current process of changing the clocks on the first Sunday in November.