The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Sunday June 4th

Column: The case against permanent daylight saving time

The Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower stands after sunset on Friday, Feb. 19, 2021.
Buy Photos The Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower stands after sunset on Friday, Feb. 19, 2021.

I’ve always hated daylight saving time. 

First off, it’s confusing. People across the U.S. forget to adjust their clocks — and the change is especially annoying when you have regular communication with folks in other countries. Second, it’s not consistent. Hawaii and Arizona don’t observe the time change, so their time is out of step from the rest of the country for half the year. There’s clearly an easier way.

But shifting clocks twice a year is not just a hassle, it has serious consequences. When an entire nation has jetlag at the same time, our collective sleepiness becomes deadly in the aggregate. In fact, fatal car crashes spike by around 6 percent every spring during the week after daylight saving time.

But the answer is not to make daylight saving time permanent, such as through a bill passed by the Senate last week would have it. The real answer is to get rid of it altogether and revert back to standard time.

In full disclosure, I like to wake up early. It’s not because I’m a morning person, but because it's the only time that nobody will bother you. No one is texting you, no one is emailing you and most importantly, anyone who isn’t asleep assumes that you are. But with permanent daylight saving times, our mornings will be thrown into darkness.

It’s very well possible that UNC would adjust its course schedules in response to the change, but for parts of the year, 8 a.m. classes will begin before the sun even rises over Chapel Hill. 

For example, this upcoming fall semester, students will likely return to post-8 a.m. sunrises. Exams that begin at that time might begin in darkness. And it won’t get any better the following Spring semester. In fact, the next sunrise to happen before 8 a.m. wouldn’t be until mid-February.

Let’s be real, students need all the help we can to attend early-morning classes, and commuting before the crack of dawn is not going to help.

If you don’t have an 8 a.m. class, and you don’t plan on ever having one, then you might think this won’t apply to you. But let’s clear some things up. 

First, even if the House also passes the law and President Joe Biden signs it, the law won’t go into effect until the fall of 2023 — two academic years from now. Second, the law would possibly stay in effect while you’re working that 9-to-5 job or sending your kids off to school during early mornings. 

It’s true that daylight saving time also means that sunset will happen later in the day as well. But the “longer days” you feel you may have been promised? That’s just the sun setting at 6 p.m. instead of an hour earlier. 

If you think that’s a fair trade, then that’s your prerogative. Just know that the last time America made that trade, it asked for a refund. In the 1970s, the U.S. established permanent daylight savings time as an attempt to save energy. But it didn’t reduce energy consumption, it just shifted what that energy was being used for.

This was so wildly unpopular that Congress repealed the law less than two years later. 

People want more daylight, but the reality is that we need it on our morning commutes just as much as we need it at any other time. So let’s ditch the clock adjusting and just stick with standard time — we can have our sunlight and enjoy it too.


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