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Daylight Savings Debates Start Again with No Conclusion

Sunrise over Bellingham Bay photographed by Robert Bales

It’s that time of year again. A week ago, Western Washingtonians rising before 7 a.m. awoke to darkness. But now, the first light will shine earlier in the morning thanks to daylight savings.

Every year, proponents and critics alike debate daylight savings’ usefulness in the modern world. Some enjoy lighter evenings in the summer months which helps promote safer and more active lifestyles, while also preferring lighter mornings in the winter months for increased productivity in the early hours. They also argue that daylight savings helps lower the cost of energy, the reason for its initial implementation. However, many also see its significant downsides.

The most recent federal policy concerning daylight savings is The Uniform Time Act, passed in 1966. It mandates that all the states either remain on standard time always, or only observe daylight savings time during federally mandated dates. However, states do not currently have the authority to observe daylight savings time all year. Several states pass bills every year, urging congress for a standardized time across all the states, without daylight savings. Nearly 100 bills have already been proposed this year alone from more than half of the states. All these bills have either failed or are pending. Clearly, many of our representatives are not in favor of the changing clocks.

It’s easy to see why so many people are against daylight savings. Daylight savings causes significant health risks including interference with sleep schedules and our internal clocks, heart problems, and increased car crashes. During the week after the time shift, studies also show correlation between the changing clocks and cardiovascular disease (24% higher risk of heart attack), smoking rates (8% increase), and mental health deterioration (11% increase in depressive episodes). What’s more, modern day research shows that daylight savings’ lower cost to energy bills is negligible at best, and even can increase energy costs by 1% in some cases.

Though it may seem obvious that congress should just abolish The Uniform Time Act, especially since 6 in 10 Americans are in favor of keeping a consistent time, it’s not that easy. Almost every year, new legislation hits congress, but never seems to go any further.

One source for this problem is that many just don’t find it a priority among more important topics. The chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Representative Frank Pallone Jr said in 2022 that, “I can’t say it’s a priority.” He is not the only representative who feels this way. Representative Jan Schakowsky, the chairwoman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce, also said last year that “It just does not seem as the kind of urgent priority right now. That’s all. So, you know, how much focus is on it, how much attention, little.”

There is also debate on how the abolition of daylight savings would be implemented. In 2022, Representative John Yarmouth said that “Now what will happen is you’ll get all of this outpouring of studies and people say, ‘Yeah, we agree you shouldn’t change twice a year, but what is it, standard time or daylight time?’” Though most would agree to stop the change in clocks, there is not a strong consensus on what time we would standardize to. Those in tourism are in favor of keeping daylight savings time year-round, though those in farming communities would prefer standard time. There are also religious concerns. There have previously been pushbacks by the Yeshivas, who are worried that the new time system would conflict with morning prayers.

Lack of priority in congress and strong debate on which time we would adopt will likely keep daylight savings a long-lasting issue. It is likely that we will all be continuing to change our clocks for a long time without more momentum and a stronger consensus on the issue.

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About the Contributor
Skyla Otto
Skyla Otto, Editor in Chief
Skyla Otto is one of the founders of Bellingham High School's student run newspaper, the Bayhawk Bearer. She and Jones Walther began planning for the paper in 2021 during their Sophomore year, and when it took off in their Junior year, both of them took up the mantle of Co-Editor in Chief. Along with her avid participation on the Bayhawk Bearer team, she was also a Co-Editor in Chief for the yearbook for two years.