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Why, Oh Why, Is Daylight Savings Time Still a Thing?

a sunset over a field

Jonathan Petersson via Pexels

Sunday at 2:00 A.M., we’re supposed to set our clocks forward. No one actually does this at 2 in the morning, we either do it the night before or, more likely, slowly reset our microwaves and cars clocks in the days following after our phones reset themselves. It’s a hassle and we lose an hour of our precious time and every year we have to ask: why is daylight savings time still a thing???

There’s debate as to who “first” thought of the idea. Benjamin Franklin proposed setting clocks forward all the way back in 1785, while New Zealander Entomologist George Hudson proposed it in 1895, and then Englishman William Willet in 1907.

The idea that daylight was being “wasted” by not moving sunset an hour later was popular, especially in terms of agriculture. And “summertime” or “daylight savings time” was codified in various countries in the early twentieth century. Here in the US, we were actually slow to adopt, making it the law of the land in 1918, after Canada and some European countries.

Keeping the light around longer is a fine idea. Time measured by hours and dates is an arbitrary human construct, so who cares when we say it’s “noon.” What’s a drag however is the going back and forth and not making Daylight Savings Time permanent.

It’s not just that DST is annoying though, there’s a real cost to people losing an hour of sleep and an entire country having to adjust their routines and circadian rhythms twice a year. That cost is quite literal. A 2014 piece in the New York Times cited a 6% jump in workplace injuries in mining companies following the spring shift into Daylight Savings Time, which translates to work and money lost the economy. There are all sorts of costs to the country by making people tired and confused for a week.

Various states are standing up to the tyranny of changing the clock. Washington voted to make it permanent. So did California. And Oregon. Maryland has legislation in the works. And many more states are joining. So why aren’t we setting the clocks forward this weekend and keeping them forward? Because of that perennial annoyance, federal law, which currently allows states to opt-out and stay on standard time, or to do the switching thing. Boo.

It makes sense, I guess, that making Daylight Savings Time permanent would need to be a federal decision because having states in the same time zone not matching in their timekeeping would be very confusing and annoying.  Marco Rubio of all people has proposed a bill to make DST permanent and “lock the clock,” but as with most things in Congress, it’s stalled.

But it shouldn’t be. Making DST permanent might be one of the few things both sides of the aisle can agree on, so here’s hoping that the bill gets more attention and movement as we go back to daylight savings time this weekend. Hopefully, we won’t have to fall back again.

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.