We go back and forth between being time's master and its victim.
- James Gleick, science historian
Stop teasing us, Congress.
Floridians are outdoorsy people, and we want our sunshine. Give it back.
The current method of trying to bend Mother Nature to human purposes by observing part of the year in daylight saving time and the rest in standard time succeeds only in leaving everybody sleep-deprived, late for church and generally grouchy.
Florida's senior Sen. Marco Rubio, along with U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, whose district takes in the stunning beaches of Sarasota and Manatee counties, are trying to move the federal lawmaking body to give Florida permission to operate year round on daylight saving time.
That would be bliss.
Exactly how goofy is the current system? Consider the dilemma of your columnist and her daughter while driving around Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah this summer.
Arizona doesn't observe daylight saving time, but the Navajo Nation does. The Nation is not a small place - it is 27,000 square miles and is close in size to the state of West Virginia. That said, it's not a solid block of property. Rather, it's got little enclaves and fingers and pieces that aren't even connected. A donut hole in the middle is the Hopi Reservation which, as you might guess, does not observe DST. Of course not.
Figuring out the time the museum opens in the city where a traveler was bound required mind-reading, and a simple drive to the store often left the iPhone in a frenzy of flip-flopping. Inevitably, we arrived late. Or early. Or due to navigational confusion, not at all. But that's another column.
The story of daylight saving time around the world is a curious and controversial history, indeed. It has affected everything from international relations to health and has never been implemented without controversy.
Daylight saving was first tried during World War I when on April 30, 1916, the German Empire set its clocks forward in an effort to save energy, and much of Europe followed shortly afterward. After the war, however, time went returned to its usual standard setting.
In the U.S., President Franklin D. Roosevelt established it during World War II, but "War Time," as he called it, ended shortly after the war did.
It reemerged in 1967 but was controversial. Part of the problem is that places farther to the north in the U.S. want more daylight, but Arizona, for example, where temperatures easily top 100 in the summer, want less.
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A 2015 proposal by Arizona state Sen. Phil Lovas to adopt permanent DST led to such a fuss that he withdrew it three days later. The man is no fool.
Rubio and supporters of daylight saving time in a half dozen other states have come up with a variety of arguments for Congress to give the needed go-ahead.
The American Journal of Public Health and the Journal of Safety Research both say daylight saving time would make commuting safer and reduce the number of wrecks. That's because visibility would be better.
The Brookings Institution did an even more comprehensive study of safety, focusing on crime, and concluded the country could save $59 million by making the switch to permanent daylight saving time.
For example, when the nation springs forward in March, robbery rates for the day fall an average of 7% with a drop of 27% during the evening hours that gained extra sunlight. Crime doesn't go up in the mornings to compensate - apparently your average crook likes to sleep in.
Another argument is that daylight saving time could help fight obesity.
The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity looked at 23,188 children from 5 to 16 years from 15 studies in nine countries. Children's activities were measured by accelerometers, gadgets that also measured the time of sunset, daily precipitation, humidity, wind speed and temperature.
It's hardly a surprise that kids, especially boys, were more active during evenings when the sun set later. The studies showing both health and energy-saving benefits go on and on, and some even predict bad outcomes if the current back-and-forth continues.
The switch is a killer - it carries a higher risk of heart attack and more car accident fatalities. That's what happens when you mess with the human circadian rhythm, until they adjust.
Finally, a study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology revealed that pedestrian activity increased by 62% with the extra hour of evening daylight. Now there's a statistic embodied by your columnist.
Her evil herding dog Lola is a big fan of daylight saving time. After all, Lola's mornings are taken up by her early-morning, midmorning and prelunch naps. Afterward, she spends the afternoon plotting where she will sniff p-mail left by coyotes on her walk later. Once dinner is concluded, she is anxious to put her plans into action.
At this point, Lola's preference on DST is just about as valid as any other. In the end, it all comes down to what people want. Congress ought to give Florida what it declared in 2018 should be its permanent time - daylight saving. The momentum for change has been building, and here's hoping Rubio and Buchanan keep on it.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Lauren Ritchie (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel.
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