Standard Time vs. Daylight Time

Bottom Line at the Top:

All research and scientists agree that changing the clock twice a year is deadly, especially in the spring when we rob an hour of sleep from the entire population, other than those lucky ducks in Arizona, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

If we decide to #LockTheClock for everyone, which time zone should we lock into? There’s legitimate science that backs either position for health reasons. It tips toward permanent Standard Time for sleep reasons, especially for those states on the western edge of their respective time zones. For other states, the health social, business, educational and other benefits are on the side of permanent Daylight Time.

Here is a guide so you can decide for yourself which time zone would be better for you and your state.

Issue Permanent Standard Time Permanent Daylight Time
Deaths from cancer, other causes Deaths go down in DST, up in ST.
Mental Health SAD is treated more effectively with more morning light. Despair overall would improve with more evening light.
Exercise More evening light means more exercise.
Sleep Studies show people get more and better sleep in permanent standard time. Other studies say the benefit is relatively small, and the question is too complex to be boiled down to a single recommendation.
Schools Students do better with more sleep, so if school start times are not adjusted, this is better. No increase in accidents, so if the start times are adjusted, this is not an issue.
Traffic Improvement in safety.
Pedestrians Big improvement in safety.
Environment Smog decreased if afternoon rush hour is in the sun.
Crime Goes down in DST.
Business Retail sales improve.
Wildlife More daytime driving saves wildlife and reduces fatal deer-auto crashes.

If you are a state legislator trying to figure out what is the best time zone for your state to land in, you might want to look at this guide.

Play around with the sunrise and sunset times under the different scenarios. You may be surprised.

Right now the trend in every state that has taken this up is to want to adopt permanent Daylight Time. I even testified in Michigan, Nebraska and Kansas, supporting the sponsors there because I support any bill that makes a move toward getting rid of the clock changing and locking into one time zone year round.

That said, I think all three of those states would do well to look at permanent Standard Time. The sun would come up awfully late in those two states in the winter. Going to permanent Standard Time would also give them an opportunity to get rid of that line that goes through the middle of those states, cutting them into two different time zones, something that would be approved of by the Department of Transportation under the Uniform Time Act of 1966. I brought that up in one-on-one conversations with the sponsors in all three states, and they were all clear that the citizens want Permanent DST. Once I was clear on the fact that they understood the dynamics, I told them I would help them however I could.

It may just be that they have to go into Permanent DST to discover that the sun coming up after 8 a.m. in the winter is just too late, and they will want to do what Arizona does, and go to permanent Standard Time. Either way is fine, of course, as long as they end the barbarism of changing the clock twice a year.

Up in New England, there’s just no question that forcing states that have such short days in the winter that the solution that works for Arkansas or Nevada is the exact same solution that is going to work for them is just ludicrous.

And I’ve written about Indiana before, but really, there is just no sense in that state being in the Eastern Time Zone. They could also unify that state around a single time zone already in use in the northwest and southwest corners of the state.

It’s a similar story in Kentucky, where lots of residents have to change time zones daily just crossing a county line like this one:

Wayne’s World is Confusing!

Of course, I could be totally wrong, here. It may be that the people of, say, Michigan, are fine with a couple of months in the winter where it doesn’t get light until 8:30 a.m. because it means that no matter what they will get at least some sunshine after work/school all year long. That is a legitimate trade-off, and is certainly a legitimate choice for the people of Michigan to make.

Same goes for Texas, which may be putting this question to a very real test.

A legislator there is proposing to ask voters which time zone the Lone Star State should go to permanently. Every other poll I’ve seen muddies the question. This would be crystal clear, and would be really helpful if there is a federal law that moves all states into Permanent DST, which seems more than possible.

The people of Texas can then use a tool that looks at sunrise times, etc., and decide for themselves. Do you want more sun before work in the winter, or do you want to eat Texas barbecue with the sun still shining until later at night all year long?

(My prediction is that Permanent DST will get between 65 and 75 percent of the vote, but I’ve been wrong before about election outcomes in Texas!)

Which is the correct choice?

There is, of course, no single “right” answer here.

The very concept of time is simply an agreement among people. In our modern world we need to have time as an agreement to coordinate so much of what we do.

My view is that the time agreement has a bug, and the bug makes us change the clocks twice a year. One of those changes, the one in the spring, kills people every time, and injures lots of others.

Once we get rid of that bug, what is the best time zone for us to land in? I really don’t think there is a perfect answer for any place, and the answer is a bit different in every place.

Anyone who says there is only one correct answer has some other agenda that they are not telling you about.