Daylight Saving Time and partisan gridlock are both unattractive facts of life in the United States, something that we all assume we’ll always have to deal with.
But, on Tuesday, we were all able to enjoy a few brief moments contemplating what our lives would be like if they just went away, when the Senate unanimously voted to end the “fall back” time switch and move to a permanent DST.
And while the chance of the Senate remaining in this brief euphoric state of total agreement is quite slim, the odds we will no longer have to move our clocks back anymore are seemingly high.
With no clear partisan divide on the issue, we can reasonably conclude that the House will vote in a similar fashion, unless some of the typical ne’er do wells on the fringes of each party decide to make a Q-Anon DST connection.
Most people, when initially told that it could be brighter outside at night time in the winter, are pretty excited. A majority of Americans, 63%, want to end DST, so it makes sense why our representatives in Congress would throw their support behind such a popular issue.
But, although at the surface level eliminating daylight saving seems like a no-brainer and a harmless measure, when you dig in deeper to some of the implications of the change it becomes a much larger complicated issue.
The move has the potential to upend the daylight situation in a large portion of the country. The change would not affect those living in major cities like New York, Los Angeles,or here in Boston but in places like Texas, Indiana and Florida the sunrise/sunset schedule would become incredibly strange and potentially destructive to the work schedules of many Americans.
In Indiana for example, if DST was to become the standard time setting, the sun would not rise until 9 a.m. in the winter.
This would be true for much of the midwest stretching, Texas, parts of the Pacific Northwest, in Florida and elsewhere where the days with sunrises past 7 a.m. would increase drastically.
Sacrificing early morning brightness for late day brightness may be popular for some, particularly college students, but many workers would see their morning commutes suddenly far darker than before. This could have an impact, too, on states with large snowfalls where dark morning commutes with groggy and tired drives could become dangerous.
Many health experts also warn against this legislation saying that the dark winter mornings would interrupt our natural circadian rhythms which could lead to sleep problems.
Many residents of the westernmost portions of time zones, where sunrises are already later than the average, have experienced negative health effects. A 2017 study found that many of these people had higher rates of a variety of cancers than the average as well as other conditions like diabetes, sleeping problems and mental health issues.
These are many of the reasons that have kept DST a thing despite the broad disapproval of it.
The permanent daylight saving switch has been put in place three times throughout U.S. history, during the World Wars and then again in the energy crisis of the 1970s. None of these were an elected choice, though. All three were made to either increase wartime production or to decrease energy use.
Given the myriad of issues that the permanent DST switch could create, it makes you wonder why the Senate unanimously approved the bill, and whether it’s another example of the Senate abdicating their legislative duties, searching for the path of least resistance and chasing favorable poll numbers.
And while that may be a pretty broad extrapolation, the situation Congress has potentially put us in could lead to a lot of headaches for Washington.