‘Darkness kills,’ permanent DST advocates tell Congress

Days before most Americans are due to reset their clocks, a congressional committee is considering changes to Summer time.

The House Energy Subcommittee on Consumer Protection heard testimony Wednesday from health experts, some of whom urged Congress to pass a new law keeping daylight saving time in effect so permed.

Bi-annual clock shifting was originally implemented in the United States to conserve energy and resources in the early 20th century, requiring most Americans to set clocks one hour ahead of standard time between the start of spring and late fall. In 2007, Congress extended DST an additional four weeks each year.

But the DST system is unpopular with many Americans and has inspired a series of new state and federal legislative proposals to change or eliminate the program.

“DST has both benefits and costs. Growing public interest in this topic and state-level action brings us here today,” said subcommittee chairperson, the Representative Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois. “Some argue as we drive along, and losing an hour of sunshine in the morning has an impact on our health, school children getting to school and even road safety.”

Some versions of the new legislation would require DST to be kept in effect year-round. Others would give states more leeway to opt out of the system.

University of Washington professor Steve P. Calandrillo testified that Americans face fewer security risks when sunset is pushed back later in the afternoon or evening.

“Put simply, darkness kills. And evening darkness is far deadlier than morning darkness,” Calandrillo told the committee, “Evening rush hour is twice as deadly as morning for a variety of reasons – many more people are on the road, there is more alcohol in drivers’ blood, people are rushing home, and more children are playing unsupervised outdoor games .”

American Academy of Sleep Medicine researcher Dr. Beth Marlow told the panel that her organization’s survey of Americans found 63% support for eliminating seasonal time changes. She cited a review published in a 2020 commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association showing an increase in strokes, heart attacks and sleep deprivation in adolescents during time transitions.

Members of the House subcommittee said the issue was a common source of criticism from voters. “It’s a topic that I keep hearing from my constituents,” said Rep. Gus Bilirakis, a Republican from Florida. “While this transition may be easy for devices, it’s not so much for our bodies. Humans aren’t as simple as winding a watch backwards,” he said. “The toll on our body can be severe.”

Rep. Fred Upton, a Republican from Michigan, who previously headed the House Energy Committee that approved an extension to daylight saving time more than a decade ago, said he supports giving states the right to accept or refuse seasonal time changes. Upton said the system “saves lives”, pointing out that on Halloween there is more daylight for children on and near the streets. At a minimum, Upton said he would prefer to adjust the timing of clock changes from the first Sundays to the first Saturday mornings of each year.

CBS News reviewed several pending legislative proposals to overhaul or adjust the system. There are several proposals with similar language to make DST a year-round system. A proposal by GOP Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina would require the Government Accountability Office to produce a study on the results of a year-round change to daylight saving time, if such a law is enacted.

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