Clarence Fanto | The Bottom Line: On balance, Daylight Saving Time best left alone
LENOX — If you forgot to reset your timepieces on Saturday night, woe is you — an hour late for everything on Sunday.
Every six months, with the "spring forward" changeover to Daylight Saving Time and the "fall back" return to Standard Time, we're subjected to bizarre health alerts and well-meaning but misguided proposals either to abolish daylight time or keep it all year.
Another year, another scientific study — now we learn that the risk of stroke goes up by 8 percent during the two days after the time switchover — 20 percent for those over 65.
According to the research from the University of Turku in Finland, the "disturbed sleep cycle" heightens the stroke danger, even though it's a minor one-hour alteration — like flying to Massachusetts from Chicago.
A 2012 study from the University of Alabama depicted a 10 percent increase in heart attacks on the Monday and Tuesday after Daylight Saving Time (DST) returns.
Let common sense prevail, people. Going to bed an hour earlier solves the problem, and many of you have probably figured this out by resetting your clocks and watches on Saturday night.
But tinkering with time keeps marching on — witness the recent proposal by a Rhode Island lawmaker to move New England to Atlantic Standard Time, the same zone as Nova Scotia. That's a stealth suggestion that equates to DST year-round.
A moving target
We have Benjamin Franklin to thank for proposing daylight time in 1784. Since it was first adopted in the U.S. during World War I, it has been a moving target, eliminated, then reinstated in fits and starts until 1966, when it was "standardized" nationally, with a couple of exceptions.
In 2007, the most recent modification, DST became an even longer presence, beginning on the second Sunday of March and ending on the Sunday after Halloween — though Arizona and Hawaii remain on standard time year-round.
The notion of remaining on daylight time is especially appealing to folks in eastern New England who are dismayed after the switch in early November as darkness falls by 4 for week after week in mid-winter.
A decade ago, Sen. Edward Markey co-sponsored the modifications that extended DST. "In addition to the benefits of energy savings, fewer traffic fatalities, more recreation time and increased economic activity, Daylight Saving Time helps clear away the winter blues a little earlier," the Massachusetts Democrat told reporters.
It's worth recalling that the United States was on daylight time, known in our zone as Eastern War Time, from 1942-45 to save energy during World War II. The Arab oil embargo triggered another full-year DST experience in 1974.
In most cases, the federal government has to approve major changes such as the highly unlikely proposition of converting Massachusetts and other New England states to Atlantic Time, one hour later year-round.
Tufts University Professor Michael Downing, author of the book "Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time," has cited the economic advantages to certain industries such as home repair, as well as sports and outdoor recreation, when darkness descends an hour later.
He also has pointed to crazy-quilt patterns before 1966, when the U.S. adopted the Uniform Time Act. Until then, individual states and cities chose their own time standards. In Minnesota, for example, the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul were an hour apart.
Even thereafter, some counties in Indiana adopted daylight time, while others didn't. Since 2006, Indiana has been in sync with DST, but 12 of the state's 92 northwest and southwest counties remain in the Central time zone, while the rest are on Eastern time.
Arizona continues to go its own way, avoiding Daylight Saving Time, except for the Navajo Nation's reservation. "The last thing Arizona needs to save is daylight," the Arizona Republic newspaper explained.
There's no way we're going to go back to each state for itself. Here in Massachusetts, the strongest argument against year-round DST is that for eight weeks in mid-winter, sunrise would be close to 8:30 a.m., requiring driving to high school and to work in full darkness.
The bottom line: We're getting close to eight months a year of daylight time anyway. Maybe not well enough for some, but best to leave it alone.
Contact Clarence Fanto at firstname.lastname@example.org
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