UNDER ONE of America's more benighted federal laws — the Uniform Time Act of 1966, as amended by the even more benighted Energy Policy Act of 2005 — daylight saving time ends on the first Sunday of each November. That means clocks will be moved back an hour this coming Saturday night. As regular readers may know, I am firmly of the view that daylight saving time stinks. It is an anachronism that never lived up to the claims made by its promoters. It does not save energy or reduce the demand for electricity. It is opposed by a majority of the American public. In most of the world it is nonexistent. Worst of all, it is bad for human health.
Daylight saving time "generates a slew of harms," I noted last year. "In the days following the onset of daylight time each March, there is a measurable increase in suicides, atrial fibrillation, strokes, and heart attacks. Workplace injuries climb. So do fatal car crashes and emergency room visits. There is even evidence that judges hand down harsher sentences."
It isn't hard to understand why a growing chorus of scientists has lately been making the case for ending daylight saving time. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that "seasonal time changes should be abolished in favor of a fixed, national, year-round standard time." Its position has been echoed by other scientific organizations, among them the Society for Research on Biological Rhythms and the European Sleep Research Society.
In a few clear-thinking parts of the American commonwealth, daylight saving time doesn't exist. Those fortunate jurisdictions include Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and most of Arizona. May we all merit one day soon to see its demise in every other part of the United States.
Just as it has now been done away with by our neighbor to the south.
Both houses of the Mexican Congress voted in recent days to approve a new "Ley de los Husos Horarios," or Time Zones Act, which will eliminate daylight saving time throughout the country except in cities that border the United States. With President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's signature on the bill, most Mexicans will henceforth be free of the maddening semiannual "spring forward, fall back" ritual. Now if only America would follow suit.
Though firmly in the pro-standard time camp, I am not inflexible on the subject. I know that a substantial minority of Americans prefer later sunsets and relish daylight saving time. Maybe not quite as many as the tens of millions of us who would rather see daylight earlier in the morning than prolong it later into the evening, but a lot. Some controversies are zero-sum, but surely this is one dispute that lends itself to a peaceful compromise. Why not split the difference?
All we have to do is shift the clock by 30 minutes, and leave it there for good. We can bring the harmful, costly, unhealthy, exasperating ritual of rejiggering our clocks to an end. We can stop springing forward and falling back. A single, simple compromise, a 30-minute adjustment, and it's done. Let pro-daylight and pro-standard Americans meet each other halfway in peace, harmony, and goodwill and lay this particular debate to rest.
Meanwhile, ¡Viva México!
(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe).
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