Protect sunlight, protect lives

Summer Merkle | Cartoonist

Springing forward after a long winter brought much-needed light to these dark times, so why should we ever have to go back? The Senate is considering The Sunshine Protection Act, which proposes a year-round daylight saving time that would eliminate changing the clock back and forth during the year. If this bill is passed, not only would it make for more consistent, brighter days, but it would save lives.

The United States first began changing the clock in 1918 after other countries did so to conserve energy during World War I. The practice disappeared until World War II, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt implemented a year-round daylight saving time that lasted until 1945. When the 1970s energy crisis hit, the United States tried a year-round daylight saving time again but stopped, because dark winter mornings were unpopular.

Since then, the clock reverts to standard time from November to March before shifting back to daylight saving time. Hawaii and Arizona do not use daylight saving time, and 16 other states including Florida, Tennessee and California have previously passed bills to eliminate the shift but cannot make changes without an act of Congress.

Not only do many states agree, but the bill presented to Senate was proposed by five Republican and three Democratic senators, including Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Democratic Sen. Ed Markey. The unity of support backing this bill makes it a non-partisan issue — this is simply a fight against an old system.

“The call to end the antiquated practice of clock changing is gaining momentum throughout the nation,” Rubio said in a press release.

Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse agreed and in the same press release said, “Americans’ lifestyles are very different than they were when daylight saving time began more than a century ago. Making daylight saving time permanent will end the biannual disruptions to daily life and give families more daylight hours to enjoy after work and school.”

While the bill itself disclaims that switching to daylight saving time does not literally extend the amount of sunlight the earth receives each season, it does shift one hour of sunlight from the morning to the evening, making the days seem longer, as the “winter sun” sets earlier than the “summer sun.”

Studies have shown changing the clocks makes a difference in the number of lives lost each day.

Fatal car accidents spike every year on the day the clocks spring forward, increasing by up to 6 percent the week after the switch to daylight saving time as people experience the “mini jetlag” from the lost hour of sleep. Cardiovascular issues, including heart attacks, also increase the day after due to the abrupt shift in morning activity.

These risks all come from the abrupt time change, not daylight saving time itself. During daylight saving time, dangers of seasonal depression and the risk of suicide decrease because of the lighter evenings. There are also theories that robberies decrease, the economy is boosted and childhood obesity rates are lowered when linked to later hours of daylight.

If it has been proven that more deaths occur after switching the clock and people are generally happier when it is lighter outside later, why is this something we are still holding onto? We aren’t in an energy crisis, nor are we in a time of war. It is time to make the switch, protect lives and protect the sunlight until it is here to stay.