Brad & Beth McGarr

of Shakopee, Minnesota, USA

Hold up: Full Time DST is a Problem

While the topic of stopping the seasonal time switch surfaces every year around this time, for some reason it’s switched from “Year-Round Standard Time” to “Year-Round DST”. It’s gaining some support, too.

However, I want folks who are jumping on the “Year-Round DST” bandwagon to stop for a moment, back that train up, and think about it more in-depth. If you do, you’ll find that year-round DST is actually not a good idea. Why? We’ll, let me go over the reasons, but first, a little primer on what “Daylight Saving Time”, or “DST” is.

Daylight Saving Time, or DST, also known as Summer Time elsewhere in the world that uses a seasonal shift, is the “practice of advancing clocks during summer months so that evening daylight lasts longer, while sacrificing normal sunrise times.”1

It does not improve the amount of light in the winter. DST has no effect in the winter months, when we’re on Standard Time.

So, why not “year-round DST”?

No benefit to winter sunlight.

On December 21st, 2018, sunrise was 7:48 AM and sunset was 4:36 PM, in Shakopee, Minnesota. With year-round DST those times would have been 8:48 AM and 5:36 PM, respectively. Putting sunset right during the evening rush hour, blinding drivers heading westbound on sunny winter days, while ensuring kids standing out for the bus in the morning will be in the dark. No benefits there for the winter time, which is why we don’t have any daylight saving time during the winter.

Negative effects during the summer.

The summer solstice this year will be on June 21st, with sunrise happening at 5:28 AM CDT and sunset happening at 9:03 PM CDT. While DST has a benefit here over standard time by shifting the sunrise and sunset times from 4:28 AM CST and 8:03 PM CST, that benefit is hardly usable by a large portion of the population: families with children are still putting their children in bed by 7:30 PM or 8:00 PM, only instead of more dusk skies close to bedtime, children go to bed with full on sunlight for another hour, making it harder to sleep. That’s also true for anyone else who needs to be in bed by a decent hour during the summer.

Permanent DST is effectively changing timezones.

Each state that adopts permanent DST effectively moves one timezone to their east. Minnesota would actually become Eastern Standard Time. Washington would be Mountain Standard Time. Florida would be Atlantic Standard Time.

If states don’t do this in a coordinated pattern, you create some really odd patchwork situations, which could play havoc with air, train, and bus travel. That’s on top of just it being odd to move an entire timezone east.

Changing the clocks twice a year sucks, so what’s the solution?

We’re on the right track with wanting to adopt a single time for the entire year, but that should be Standard Time, not DST, and it should be abolished at the Federal Level. Moving all states simultaneously to standard time would eliminate the odd patchwork issues, put everyone on a coherent time standard, and do so with a time that not only makes sense for the longitude, but reduces the negative effects DST in winter time.

We shouldn’t continue the trend of trying to fix the time issue on a state level, and we absolutely should not entertain the idea of year-round DST. There’s no benefit to year-round DST, while there are benefits to year-round Standard Time. Having lived in Arizona, where we observed Standard Time year-round, not having to change the time twice a year was a blessing in itself, but also the sunrise and sunset just happened. There wasn’t any attempt to eek out artificially a bit more daylight a few days a year. While Arizona has environmental concerns to abandoning DST a long time ago, it’s also a very practical example of the benefits of just sticking with Standard Time.

States can already opt out of daylight saving time any time they choose. The more states that opt to stick with their standard time zone, states can effectively end DST nationwide. Although this method still potentially creates the patchwork problem, it’s a method that can already be done in every state legislature from coast-to-coast, so a coordinated campaign can make the change quite quickly.

So, we should absolutely get rid of the twice-year clock change ritual. However, we need to be smart in doing it, and deliberate in what we want to accomplish. Standard time at the federal level would do just that, with a coordinated nationwide standard-time campaign being a second possibility.

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