When you wake up Sunday morning and it dawns there’s an extra hour to sleep in, this business of falling back from daylight saving time to standard time will seem perfectly wonderful.
But when it’s pitch dark at 5 p.m. and you’re stuck in the house feeling sluggish and sleepy, like time pulled the rug out from beneath your feet, you might start to question the wisdom. Such as: “Why do we go through the pointless ritual twice a year of setting our clocks forward and backward, and what can I do to change it?”
California voters can do plenty.
Of all the initiatives on Tuesday’s ballot, only one doesn’t have an organized campaign associated with it, for or against. There are no contributions to report, money trail to follow, TV commercials to mute or mailers to recycle. And if it passes, citizens don’t have to pony up a dime.
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Yet Proposition 7 would benefit nearly all 40 million people living in California. Which is why I’ll be voting yes – provided Sunday’s time change doesn’t make me groggy and cause me to fill in the wrong bubble.
Switching from standard time to daylight saving time in the spring, and back again in the fall, isn’t something our founding fathers etched into the Bill of Rights. The practice began in Germany during World War I, designed as an energy-savings measure, and other countries including the United States soon followed suit.
Over the decades we’ve standardized daylight saving time, extended it from six to seven months and even made it year-round – temporarily – in 1974 when OPEC embargoed all oil exports to the U.S. But each time we dutifully switch back in the fall, regardless of the confusion it causes between our internal body clocks and our brains.
The twice-a-year ritual isn’t just confusing, it’s hazardous to our health. Studies have shown a 10 percent increase in the risk of heart attacks and an 8 percent increase in strokes during the two days following a time change. All because we disrupt our sleep patterns.
And every parent knows first hand how tough it is to roust their kids out of bed when 6 a.m. suddenly feels like 5.
Even the energy-savings theory doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. People may not turn on their lights till later in the day, but they run their air conditioning longer.
Proposition 7 won’t immediately put an end to the needless ceremony of clock switching. Unfortunately, voters in this state don’t wield that power. But approval of the measure makes the change possible by repealing parts of a 70-year-old law and authorizing the state legislature to put us on permanent daylight saving time by a two-thirds majority vote.
Even then, California would need permission from Congress to make the switch. For some reason, federal law allows states to stop observing daylight saving time (like Arizona and Hawaii already do) but not to make it year round.
Gov. Jerry Brown called it “a circuitous path,” but even a circuitous path is better than no path.
One of the often-made arguments against permanent daylight saving time is that it would put California out of sync with other states. Well, yes and no. Florida has already passed its version of a permanent daylight saving time bill, becoming the first of more than a dozen states considering a measure.
Like auto emissions standards and medical marijuana, California typically leads. If we clear the way for year-round daylight saving time, other western states will surely follow.
The other main counter argument revolves around school children. If we don’t “fall back” on the first Sunday of November, then sunrise in Fresno wouldn’t occur until after 8 a.m. during the entire month of January. Which would mean kids having to walk, ride their bikes or wait for the bus in the dark, or at least the predawn.
I’ll admit this isn’t ideal, and critics say it would lead to more accidents (without any supporting evidence). But those same kids would benefit from more daylight in the evening, more time to play outside or do extracurricular activities when it’s still light out.
Perhaps permanent daylight saving time would finally provide the impetus for schools to finally do away with draconian schedules. Instead of starting at 8 a.m. and letting out at 2:30 p.m., why not push that back an hour? After all, expert after expert contend that kids need more sleep.
Compared to other propositions on Tuesday’s ballot, Proposition 7 is not of vital importance. It won’t fund assistance programs for low-income residents or those with mental illness. It won’t authorize more water projects, build more hospitals or eliminate taxes designed to repair our roads.
From that viewpoint, making daylight saving time permanent may seem like a frivolous exercise. But come Sunday evening, when it’s 5 p.m. and too dark to go outside, you might see the light.