OLYMPIA – It’s time to spring forward again – but is it really necessary?
Not if you ask some legislators, who would rather get rid of the semiannual tradition.
Aside from the hassle of changing clocks on walls, kitchen appliances and car radios, Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, said abolishing daylight saving time would benefit the public by reducing negative health impacts associated with the annual “spring forward.”
Some research indicates the tradition is responsible for increased traffic accidents attributed to a lack of sleep and lower school and work performance. Other research suggests changing the clock disrupts natural sleep patterns.
“There are health problems generally within the week of switching times back and forth,” Honeyford said.
Honeyford introduced a bill this year that would have kept Washington on Pacific Standard Time year-round. He pulled the legislation after hearing from constituents who told him they like the extra daylight hours when they get home from work.
But some Washingtonians would rather get rid of daylight saving time. In a recent poll by PEMCO Insurance, 66 percent of Washington and Oregon residents said they would vote for an initiative to stay on the same time year-round. They were more likely to say they’d rather stay on standard time.
Many reasons to keep daylight saving time are also unfounded, said Margaret O’Mara, a history professor at the University of Washington.
The tradition of shifting-of-the-clocks originated as a wartime measure in World War I, then disappeared for several years. The first standardized daylight saving time during peacetime was implemented with the Uniform Time Act of 1966.
Until then, states were free to decide when they would implement daylight saving time, or forgo it altogether.
“The idea of altering the clocks so that we had more daylight made more sense when we were an agrarian nation, particularly in rural areas,” she said.
The practice made more sense when access to electricity wasn’t as widespread, she said.
Even then, many reasons given for daylight saving time – such as energy saving, increased productivity or that it benefits farmers – are incorrect, she said.
Although it was touted as an energy-saving measure in the 1970s, O’Mara said there isn’t a lot of research to back up this position.
A 2008 study by the U.S. Department of Energy showed daylight saving time only reduced energy use by roughly .03 percent over a year.
While daylight saving time is supposed to increase productivity, there is evidence to support it decreases the Monday after the switch.
“Everyone’s got electricity and air conditioning, and we’re working on computers. In terms of productivity and energy savings, none of those things really compute,” she said.
Another misconception about the clock change is that it helps farmers. But they don’t want it either, said Honeyford, who has been a farmer for years. The cows don’t care what time it is.
Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, said he thinks the practice is outdated. He introduced a resolution two years ago for the Legislature to ask Congress to permanently adopt daylight saving year-round, which would end the semiannual clock changes.
“We need to have a conversation about whether that’s still necessary,” he said. “There’s quite a bit of research that shows the more daylight you’re exposed to, the better health you’ll have.”
Arizona and Hawaii already forgo daylight saving time. Florida legislators just approved a bill to keep the state on year-round daylight saving time.
For now, Washington residents will have to keep switching their clocks. Honeyford proposed two bills over the last two years to keep the state on standard time. One got a hearing, the other didn’t. Both died Thursday when the Legislature adjourned.
But since legislators in several other states including California, Oregon and Idaho also have proposed laws concerning daylight saving time, it seems more states might be ready to abandon the clock switch.
Until then, Washingtonians can try to make the most of the early start on Sunday.
“I, for one, am always happy in spring when we get an extra hour of sunlight,” O’Mara said.