Time to reconsider daylight saving time?

After “falling back” an hour over the past weekend, we’re all blearily adjusting to the time shift imposed on us by the end of daylight saving time. The pros and cons of artificially manipulating time twice a year get lots of attention every time we go through this ritual—especially in the spring, when “springing forward” results in very dark morning wakeup times for schoolchildren. By the way, while we have standardized the practice, we still don’t know if it’s “daylight savings time, with an s at the end, or just daylight saving time, sans s. Also, my inner grammarian wants to pick this nit: Shouldn’t this compound adjective be hyphenated to read “daylight-saving[s] time?” But I digress.

 Of course, it wouldn’t be completely accurate to say that we’ve standardized daylight-saving[s] time. There’s still a pastiche of states and counties that operate by their own rules. And a few years ago, Congress itself time warped the time warp, declaring that daylight-saving[s] time should end a week later in November–thereby making Trick or Treating a less spooky experience for the kiddies–or some such rationale.

This weekend, after adjusting all of the timepieces in my house and car, I happened on a quote about daylight-saving[s] time. [Full disclosure: I had to piece the quote together letter by letter, because it was the solution to the New York Times Sunday acrostic puzzle.] It yields an interesting context for the history of our time-honored, time tripping tradition:

Lobbying for daylight saving time started about one hundred years ago, just eighty years after time was standardized. Before trains traversed the continent, it didn’t matter that time was different in different towns.     -Seth Godin, Small is the New Big

It matters now. And this year, using the bully [or sometimes bullshit] pulpit of the White House’s on-line petition site, someone has proposed a novel idea: “Permanently retire daylight savings time and change from four time zones in the continental United States to two.”

Here’s the wording of the petition, which spells out the idea, the rationale, and the methodology. What do you think?

We petition the Obama Administration to: Permanently retire daylight savings time and change from four time zones in the continental United States to two.

Daylight savings time became popular in the 1970s with the intent of conserving energy however the actual energy savings are minimal, if they exist at all. Frequent and uncoordinated time changes cause confusion, undermining economic efficiency. There’s evidence that regularly changing sleep cycles, associated with daylight saving, lowers productivity and increases heart attacks. Being out of sync with European time changes was projected to cost the airline industry $147 million annually.

End Daylight Saving, but also take it one step further – Americans on Eastern Time should set their clocks back one hour (like normal), Americans on Central and Rocky Mountain time do nothing, and Americans on Pacific time should set their clocks forward one hour. This will result in just two time zones.

Created: Nov 01, 2013 Issues: Economy, Technology and Telecommunications, Urban Policy

Signatures needed by December 01, 2013 to reach goal of 100,000 99,801

So far, 359 people have signed the petition.


Hat tip to Michael Bersin at ShowMeProgress