Photo — The Associated Press
Opinion: Changing the Clocks is a Tired Tradition That Should End
Well, here we go again.
Tonight we’ll go around the house before bedtime and “spring ahead” by setting the clocks forward one hour. If you’re like me, it will probably be a few weeks before you bother to figure out how to fix the clock in your car — that is unless it’s now correct because you never got around to fixing it last November.
That’s right folks, it’s the literal waste of time known as daylight saving time. Every spring we torture ourselves by keeping up with this antiquated habit, but the time has come to put a stop to it once and for all.
"Spring ahead” sounds lovely, doesn’t it? It brings to mind images of rising earlier, getting a jump start on the day and being more productive. In reality, it means we’re all going to be groggy and dealing with the many headaches that come with a biannual time change. Go ahead and take that literally — studies show cluster headaches are one of the many negative effects that time changes have on your health. You don’t need to be an expert on circadian rhythm to know that people feel a little off after changing the clocks. Human bodies are finely tuned machines, and taking them off schedule messes with our mojo. We feel lingering exhaustion through these transitions. Our mental functions take a hit, depression becomes more prevalent, traffic accidents and workplace injuries increase, even heart attack and stroke rates go up. We're basically giving ourselves unnecessary jet lag and forcing our bodies to figure it out.
Why are we doing this to ourselves? Changing the clocks twice a year is still a relatively new practice in New Hampshire, dating back to 1970, so it’s not like we can’t imagine a world where we don’t do this nonsense.
I for one would like to see an end to all this springing ahead and falling back. Based on the research, I’m far from alone.
Numerous polls indicate that as few as 25 percent of Americans care to see this ridiculous tradition continue. That number has only been decreasing in recent years. In several New England states, including New Hampshire, legislation has been proposed (though unfortunately shot down) suggesting that we change time zones all together and move to Atlantic Standard Time.
A move to Atlantic Time would basically be the same as "springing ahead" but then never switching back in the winter. People, we need to get behind this movement and make it happen! Doesn’t that sound great when you think about it? People are happier and life is better when the days are longer. No more back and forth wreaking havoc on our minds and bodies. No more winter nights that start at 4 o’clock. It just makes sense.
The Eastern Time Zone is disproportionately large and New England sticks out further east than many of the maps we grew up with let on. By the time the sun sets on Western Michigan, daylight is a distant memory for people in Portsmouth. Yet, for some reason, we feel obligated to pretend it’s the same time in these two places? Spare me.
So what’s keeping this from moving forward? First of all, proposals in New Hampshire and Maine have been contingent upon Massachusetts’ agreement — so we aren’t going anywhere unless Boston goes with us.
As long as the region’s major metropolis refuses to cowboy up, we’re going to be stuck on the see-saw. Opponents to ending the time changes cite all sorts of old-fashion arguments. Let’s shoot these arguments down one by one, shall we?
1. It’s good for the farmers!: Yeah, not so much. Farmers were actually against daylight saving time from the beginning and cows don’t change their milking schedule for us.
2. The extra hour of sleep in November is awesome!: Please. That one hour of bonus sleep doesn’t compare to the negative health effects of time changes.
3. It saves energy!: If it does, it’s not by much. A 2008 U.S. Department of Energy study reported that daylight saving time only reduces annual energy use by about 0.03 percent. Some more recent studies indicate that it may actually increase energy usage.
4. It saves money!: Actually, according to the Lost-Hour Economic Index, moving the clocks costs the U.S. economy $434 million a year due to health issues, decreased productivity and workplace injuries.
5. But what about the children?: Opponents point out that if we don’t push the clocks back in the winter, kids will be going to school in the dark. Of course they ignore the fact that we could do these kids a solid and also move back the start of the school day, a move that pediatricians say would be beneficial for the kids anyway.
Some of the arguments against adopting Atlantic Time are flat out embarrassing.
For example, concerns about shipping and delivery delays caused by confusion over the difference in time between New England and neighboring states. Really? I’m supposed to believe that Amazon can put a robot on my kitchen table that can automatically ship me tide pods before I realize I am running out, but they won’t be able to figure out how to deliver them to me if I’m in a different time zone? I wonder if these people realize there are already six time zones in the U.S. and amazingly they all get on-time deliveries!
Others believe a shift in time zone would be absolute chaos for people living on the western borders of New England states. After all, how could those people navigate traveling between different time zones on a regular basis? Man that’s a good one. Maybe they can do it the same way people do it at time zone borders all over the country? There are 14 states with multiple time zones within them, plenty of others that border states in different time zones, and yet somehow they are all getting by.
No, none of those traditional arguments hold water.
If any objection makes sense, it’s on behalf of the financial sector. The American business day starts when Wall Street opens, and for many in the investment world, having the markets in Boston ahead of New York is either an early hour wasted or a potential financial mess. But let’s face it, today’s world is a 24/7, modern global economy. Business gets done all across the country and all around the world every single day; I’m sure we would figure it out.
Sometimes it takes a little push to get things moving.
This week, the quest to end time changes in New England may have received a big assist from an unlikely source. The Florida Senate and House agreed to a bill that would adopt year-round daylight saving time statewide.
The "Sunshine Protection Act" passed with bi-partisan support, seeking to maximize daylight hours and increase winter tourism dollars. It’s not clear if Gov. Rick Scott will sign the bill as he’s facing stiff opposition from the PTA. Even if he does sign it, the bill would need congressional approval.
However, Sen. Marco Rubio says he will introduce legislation that would allow the change, so get your grapefruits ready, this change may really be happening. If Florida can get it done, it won’t be long before other states on the east coast see that a brighter future (pun fully intended) is indeed possible. From there, the dominos will fall. It is going to happen. It makes too much sense not to.
It’s just a matter of time.