SALT LAKE CITY — This weekend, millions of people across North America will be following through on the yearly ritual of turning their household clocks forward.
Most of the United States and Canada observes daylight saving time from the beginning of March through November, and standard time from November through the beginning of March. This year's change to daylight saving time comes Sunday at 2 a.m., meaning you'll be short an hour of sleep but have an extra hour of daylight in the evening.
The logic of turning back (“fall back”) and turning forward (“spring forward”) the time on a clock can get a bit confusing.
Standard time in the Northern Hemisphere goes from November to March, while daylight saving occurs the rest of the year (reversed in countries in the Southern Hemisphere when November through March during their summer). Things get even crazier as this practice is not observed everywhere in the world. In the United States alone, Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands do not follow daylight saving time. Arizona is also exempt from following, but Navajo Nation lands observe the time standard.
The whole concept behind daylight saving time is to use daylight more efficiently. Proponents argue it gives people an extra hour of daylight in the evenings with the perk of less energy use.
But there are those, including Utah Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo, pushing for bi-annual time change ritual to come to a screeching halt.
“Changing the clocks in the spring and fall has real impacts on physical and emotional health and productivity,” Thurston said. “The people who are affected by the changing clocks really have a hard time, and they make their voice heard.”
If Thurston has his way, his legislation would bring a proposition in front of Utah voters asking them to choose to end the state's participation in daylight saving time or continue the time switch.
Earlier this year, another legislative proposal sponsored by Rep. Fred Cox, R-West Valley City, which would have kept Utah on Mountain Standard Time year round, was voted down by lawmakers.
The bill was motivated by surveys and polls that show many Utahns favor staying on a single time schedule, Cox told KSL News at the time. By remaining on standard time, mornings would have an extra hour of light, benefiting farmers and parents of school-age children, the lawmaker said.
A similar bill was proposed last spring in California by Assemblyman Kansen Chu, D-San Jose, as reported by the Mercury News. Chu told the paper daylight saving time is left over from when natural light had major impact on peoples' livelihoods and was originally proposed by Benjamin Franklin to conserve candles and lamp oil.
In the same article, a legislative aide to Chu, Robert Mason, said, “It doesn’t matter how late you’ve got the lights on if you have an air conditioner or heating running the whole time along with your iPad.”
Mason cited a recent study showing energy use in Indiana rose by 1 percent after the state changed to daylight saving time in 2006.
“There’s documented evidence of several co-related effects: Lower workplace productivity, increase in reported heart attacks, an increase in workplace injuries, and an increase in traffic accidents,” Mason said.
On the flip side of the issue, David Prerau, Ph.D., author of “Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time,” said the extra afternoon daylight reduces crime and nighttime traffic accidents.
“Some people are negatively affected for a day or two, but you can’t compare that to eight months of benefits,” Prerau told Mercury News.
In addition to his book, Prerau has co-authored three major U.S. government reports to Congress on the effects of daylight saving time and has been a consultant to the British Parliament on this subject. He says too often politicians, when slogging through this subject, pay attention to only how time change affects their state rather than consider the effect on all states.
Sheila Danzig, a Florida public relations executive, has diligently worked for the past 20 years through her website, StandardTime.com, asking visitors to sign a petition for the U.S. to uniformly stay on standard time.
“Some prefer light in the morning, and some in the evening,” Danzig said. “Everybody wants a change, but everybody’s got to pick one."
A patchwork of states and cities ended up adopting different time rules, causing confusion on public transportation schedules, which led the U.S. Congress to pass a bill in 1966 called “The Uniform Time Act." This legislation gave states the option to opt-in and opt-out of daylight saving time. On her website, Danzig promotes the idea that the country should uniformly stay on one single time standard or another.
“If the whole country starts randomly scattering which one they use, it will make everyone go crazy,” she said.
The last time the federal government tinkered with the time frame, in regards to when standard should be followed, was in 2005, when President George W. Bush signed legislation that extended the period daylight saving time is observed by one month.
Paul Kruze is a San Diego-based multiple award-winning multimedia journalist who has covered politics, technology, multicultural and other stories. He is also a professional musician. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @PaulKruzeNews