A defense for changing our clocks twice a year

March 6, 2020

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Sunrise in the winter, or what 8:30 a.m. will look like in December where I live if we adopt Daylight Saving Time year-round.

There seems to be gathering steam to get rid of the twice-annual changing of our clocks. People are apparently so fed up with "springing forward" and "falling back," that the majority of Americans now support getting rid of the time change altogether, in favor of either year-round Daylight Saving Time (the seemingly more popular choice) or Standard Time. The most common refrain reported in the news stories I see about this is, "I don't care which time they pick, I just want to stop changing my clocks."

I've written about this before, more than a decade ago (at a time when I apparently was positioning this blog's tone to be some kind of alter-ego irreverent jerk version of myself). I'm not tired of changing my clocks. I am tired of the twice-annual griping about this minor inconvenience. Every time Daylight Saving Time begins or ends, there's an endless torrent of stories written about how it's bad, and awful, and inconvenient, and unsafe, and blah blah blah.

No one ever seems to defend it. The conventional wisdom now seems to be: It's stupid and wrong, it was "all about the farmers" in the early 1900s or whatever, and that we shouldn't do it anymore, mainly because we're just doing it because we've always done it, and that's somehow Bad.

Allow me to defend it on some simple pragmatic terms. For one, just because we've been doing something forever doesn't mean it's automatically wrong. There seems to be this school of thought that re-evaluating old ideas simply means drawing the opposite conclusion of what currently exists — rather than entertaining the possibility there might still possibly be a good reason for doing the old thing moving forward.

Now, I realize there is data out there that is not on my side. There are more accidents and heart attacks and whatever the week following the time changes, various news stories have informed me. I'm not convinced these data points can draw a direct correlation without analysis of other potential variables, but I have a bias about this, so fine. But even if we assume the correlation, have we considered the consequences of what happens if we don't keep doing this one-hour time shift? I'm not convinced we have, or that it's as much of a no-brainer as many make it out to be.

I'll frame it in terms of a quiz with two questions:

Question 1) In late-December, which would you prefer:
(A) Have the sun rise at 7:12 a.m. and set at 4:32 p.m. OR
(B) Have the sun rise at 8:12 a.m. and set at 5:32 p.m.

Question 2) In late-June, which would you prefer:
(C) Have the sun rise at 5:25 a.m. and set at 8:30 p.m. OR
(D) Have the sun rise at 4:25 a.m. and set at 7:30 p.m.

Now, for each question above you must pick one option, and there are no other options, because that's how time zones and Daylight Saving Time (or the lack thereof) work.

If you picked A and C, you just voted for changing the clocks twice a year like we do currently.

If you picked A and D, you voted for year-round Standard Time. If you picked B and C, you voted for year-round Daylight Saving Time.

If you picked B and D, you picked something that cannot exist because it would be Daylight Saving Time in the winter and Standard Time in the summer, which makes no sense at all. You must live in bizarro world. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Granted, these times are specific to my location's latitude and longitude. Your location may change these times significantly, up to nearly an hour. And if you live outside the United States (or in Arizona or Hawaii) and don't observe Daylight Saving Time, this entire article is probably a waste of your time.

The A/C option seems reasonable to me, given the way we live, and the benefits we get for shifting the clocks an hour to align sunlight with life activities — which, not a bad thing for a minor inconvenience!

I, for one, don't want the sun coming up at almost 8:30 a.m. in the winter. My kids will have gotten on the school bus 90 minutes before sunrise if that's the case. It's madness. To all those who quote safety data for how clock-shifting is dangerous, get back to me with the accident rate increase data after we start sending kids to school in the morning for three months while it's pitch black outside.

Likewise, in the summer, I'd imagine that most people would rather have an extra hour in the evening to enjoy outdoor activities rather than having the sun come up at 4:30 a.m. I mean, sunrise at 4:30? Really? Why?

And don't even get me started about states trying to do this piecemeal without a federal law change. That's just insanity. People can't even do the simple task of calculating between four time zones in the continental U.S. today. You think they're going to be able to keep track of which states are on Standard Time versus Daylight Time in addition to the time zones after 15 or 20 states decide to legislate this on their own? Good luck with that.

I'm sure my argument is not fully airtight and there's data out there proving I'm wrong. Fine, I can accept that. But I also think the full effect of doing this has not been scrutinized by most people who are hopping on this particular bandwagon, and they are going to hate it when they see what it's actually like. There will be a backlash to the action mandated by the backlash.

Until then, put me in the apparently unpopular column of someone who doesn't mind one bit the minor inconvenience of adjusting to an hour shift in my schedule when it means months of daylight aligned to what makes sense for my day.

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27 comments on this post

    I live in Arizona. Clocks don’t change. Case closed. :)

    And I never gave it much thought until I lived in Arizona for a couple of years and got very used to not changing the clock.

    I don't really mind going round changing the clocks and the timer for the hot water and so forth, but I hate the way suddenly the switch comes in October and you lose this hour in the late afternoon, and it's like a door had slammed and Winter Is Coming.

    And it's not a matter of changing the clocks being the Good Old Way. we should stick to, and doing away with it being a modern innovation we should resist. The Good Old Way that always worked fine was not messing about with the clocks ( because there weren't any clocks anyway until a handful of centuries back), and the novelty dreamt up a few short years ago was changing the clocks back and forth.

    I think we should trust our body clocks, and get up earlier or later according to the season as we find suits our way of life. Employers and so forth would have to get used to being flexible about stuff like that, but that's what we have unions for.

    The EU seems pretty well decided to go back to the old ways. Unfortunately that won't determine things in the country I live in, but I'm hoping that we'll fall in line anyway.

    One thing I've never understood is that the twice yearly change has never been properly marked - it just sneaks up on you without any real warning it seems. I"m sure if it were treated as a kind of seasonal feast, like Beltane, it would have been a lot more popular...

    I love complaining about the clock change, so guilty as charged.

    "The A/C option seems reasonable to me, given the way we live, and the benefits we get for shifting the clocks an hour to align sunlight with life activities."
    It would be more accurate to say "shifting the clocks an hour to align life activities with sunlight." Sunlight shifts for no man.

    To be fair, the benefits and drawbacks really depend on where you live. Near the equator, changing the clocks twice a year would be ridiculous. Near the Arctic or Antarctic circle as well (when it's dark nearly 24 hours a day, you're going to be getting up in the dark no matter what). But there are some areas where I can see how it sort of makes sense.

    In Canada, DST is managed by province, at least in theory. Saskatchewan has never changed its clocks, and Yukon has just voted to stop changing them. In practice, though, I don't see Ontario and Quebec ever abolishing DST unless the US does it first because we are ultra-dependent on trade with the US. And don't talk to me about Newfoundland, which decided it was 1 1/2 hours ahead of us (now THAT is insanity).

    So I guess we'll always be stuck wondering what time it is where our cousin on the other side of the country (or world), and our apps will struggle to stay updated as various countries and states change their laws. Until one day a United Earth government imposes UTC everywhere and poverty, disease and violence will all disappear.

    I used to live in Arizona also, and it was a nightmare dealing with family and other co-workers in other locations. At work, no one in other locations ever knew what time it was in Arizona, so meetings always got screwed up the first couple of weeks after a time change.

    Our dog also hated the fall time change, because then she had to wait an extra hour to eat!

    One other comment I forgot, I worked at a company where time specific activities were scheduled at specific times. If someone accidentally used PST when they should have been using PDT, those scheduled activities got missed due to confusion on the verbiage.

    Set the clocks ahead an hour PERMANENTLY.

    Here in Minnesota, we only get 8 and a half hours of daylight in December. It'll either be dark when you go to work/ school or dark when you come home from work/ school. Shifting the clocks around doesn't change that fact. Neither is safer than the other.

    As far as aligning the clocks for farmers, we (iunlike in Ben Franklin's time) have things like timed alarms and the internet to facilitate keeping one's own schedule. The clock flip is no advantage to farmers anyways, they aren't doing much in the winter anyways.

    Worst of all is the drastic statistical uptick in deaths from things like heart attacks and car accidents in the first few days after the time shift. Other than New Year's Day, it is the most likely time for the most people to be sleep deprived. (Be safe commuting!)

    Daylight Savings is pointles and everyone hates it. To me, it's just a way for the government to demonstrate Its dominance over individuals, nothing more.

    if we want to base our society and time off the sun, then we should actually just do that. Make school and business open at sunrise, or 1 hour past sunrise, or whatever.

    So the argument boils down to “I dont want my kids to go to the school bus in the dark”. Valid and I understand your concern.

    Every one, myself included, who lives in the Northern latitudes would like to remind you that this does happen and our children aren’t dying en masse during winter when going to school.

    Wouldn't it be simpler for southern schools to start an hour later in the winter? It would also keep bus and rush hour traffic more separated.

    Doesn't that sound safer?

    I am very much an A/C person, I don't want to drive to work in the dark and also leave in the dark. I recognize that many people don't work a 9-5 schedule but having the only daylight occur during typical office hours is depressing.

    I am also very confused about people who claim their children can't handle the change. Often these are the same families that take weekend trips to Michigan (from Illinois) and frequent trips to Florida. Their kids seem to survive those just fine!!

    My only concern is my car didn't know to change the time this morning. What is the point of all these computers in cars if they can't figure it out!

    I don't have strong feelings on DST one way or the other, but I admire your fortitude Jammer. I would've thought running a Star Trek review site with an open comments section would've had you dealing with enough spiteful online vitriol already, without diving into hot-button issues like this one! 😂

    I completely agree with you, and I commend you for putting our opinion out there in a well-stated form.

    As a natural indoorophile I prefer darker evenings. Can't abide those endless summer evenings, particularly when it doesn't get dark until around 10 pm in my latitudes in June. Give me a sunset at 4pm and I'm happy.

    Earlier, lighter mornings I'm ok with; I wake up with the sunrise and can read in bed for an hour or so or just crack on with breakfast and head out to work. The world is much quieter then.

    Get rid of DST. Pick a time, and stop the shifting. That's all it is is shifting time anyway.
    I'm working night shift currently, and it's bad enough to adjust to working overnight every 4th week without moving the clocks forward or backward.

    The clocks on our computers and phones change automatically, and those are the clocks we now go by most of the time. There's no reason to change anything!

    The problem with the time changes is that they are a one-size-fits mandate that no one is allowed to opt-out of. However the nature of scheduling is that any individual or group can opt-in to adjusting their schedule in ways that make sense for them.

    If we ended time changes, your kids' local school system could change their start time to 7:30; or have different start times in different seasons; or whatever is most appropriate for your community. This can happen without forcing everyone else to go through a dangerous and unhealthy hassle.

    I completely agree. I don’t think people realize that the time the sun rises and sets will shift dramatically on its own depending on the time of year, regardless of the clock changes. The clock change is meant to make the day make sense throughout the year.

    I like the time change. So many fun memories of it suddenly being earlier or later. Society is already dumbing down and getting lazy with all the technology inventions that have surfaced.

    Really, is it that hard to change an alarm clock or such? And my dogs get used to the time change for feeding pretty quick.

    People travel all the time. Twice a year time change isn’t any different that visiting your far away pals.

    Preach it Jammer!!

    Simply put, Daylight Savings time gives us more evening daylight in the summer.

    While this doesn't affect everyone exactly the same, everyone loves summer nights.

    Nice vid here on DST: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84aWtseb2-4

    The "scheduling meetings" argument is just crap. There is this thing called "Zulu" time or "GMT". The military has been using it for, well forever, and it works just fine for scheduling events/meetings around the world.

    I'm painting a sign.... "A/C"!!!

    Year round DST courtesy of a former 80s latchkey kid who thought it was awfully weird that I was walking home from school in the frelling dark.

    Standard time has always always always felt off to me and the switch back to DST is always sucky. Well except for when I get to deny someone beer sales because the switch to DST cut off the usual beer clock. That's just a good time.

    We'll just have to build a Dyson sphere. It's the only good way to solve this. Permanent noon for everyone!

    Or get rid of timezones and use UTC everywhere. Sure, people would have to get used to waking up at 16:00 or 02:00 or whenever, but hey, those are just numbers, right?

    I live in northern latitudes and do you know how hard it is to get children to go to bed when it's day past midnight.

    Not entirely unpopular, I'm in the camp that favors time switching, but for reasons other than those just stated. There are those who favor permanent standard time and those that favor permanent daylight saving time. I feel like they both miss the one thing that would make their arguments moot: the sun doesn't CARE what policy you put in place for time changes (or lack thereof.) When it's up, it's up, and when it's down, it's down until the next day.

    As if any of the groups angry about DST or ST can control the sun or the moon. I suppose we'll have to petition Celestia and Luna to handle the time changes, it'd be far less ridiculous on paper than what we've got going on in Georgia now. I suffer from bouts of insomnia due to GAD (generalized anxiety disorder). Imagine what would happen if the moment I went to sleep under permanent DST, the sun was in my face at 3:30 AM. Some countries (though not many) had to revert back to 'shifting clocks' because the fallout was twice as bad! (Egypt for instance) Thanks for writing this!

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