Californians ticked off about daylight saving time may get relief

Broken clocks
Frank Bienewald | Getty Images

Daylight saving time has outlived its usefulness, and the twice-yearly shift in time is a health hazard and hardship for people as well as bad for business, according to a California lawmaker who wants to put the issue before state voters.

"We looked into this daylight saving time issue and found there's an increase in industrial-related accidents, heart attack rates and also other health hazards," said Democratic state Assemblymember Kansen Chu of San Jose in an interview Friday.

Chu sponsored Assembly Bill 385 in an attempt to let Californians decide whether to "spring ahead" or stay on standard time year-round like residents in Hawaii and much of Arizona. The bill advanced in a state Senate committee Thursday and could get voted on by the full Senate floor as early as this week.

Time hangover

The lawmaker said he heard from ticked-off people of all ages who did not like the time changing and its effects. For example, Chu said older constituents said it "took days for them to be able to adjust to the new time schedule," while young parents said it was "a little bit of a hardship on them to put their kids to bed an hour earlier."

On Thursday, the United States Senate Committee on Appropriations advanced the measure in a vote of 6-to-1. The measure still must get approved by the Assembly and the governor to get on the statewide ballot.

Governor Jerry Brown's office declined comment for this story.

Daylight saving time was adopted in the Golden State after voters passed an initiative in 1949. The U.S. originally adopted the practice during World War I as part of a national effort to conserve fuel, and then Congress resumed it during World War II.

'Out of sync' with business

"I felt it's about time to review this policy, or this practice, and let current Californians weigh in on this 70-year-old policy," said Chu. "Hawaii doesn't have the switching back and forth. Neither does Arizona."

Chu, whose district includes portions of Silicon Valley, said the time shift has global business implications, as well. "Being the United States gateway to many of the Asian countries, switching back and forth actually puts us out of sync with a lot of our business partners across the Pacific," he said.

In recent years, lawmakers in at least a dozen states have looked to shift their time zones or leave daylight saving time, which is part of the national Uniform Time Act of 1966. As of 2007, daylight saving time begins on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November.

Wasted energy

Proponents usually argue that the time change conserves energy by minimizing the need for residents to use electrical lighting at home, because the sun sets one hour later in the evenings. But those on the opposite side of the debate say the practice wastes energy.

"Patterns of energy consumption today versus 70 years ago are so different," said Chu.

In 2008, the National Bureau of Economic Research concluded that daylight saving time actually increases residential electricity demand by about 1 percent, and between 2 percent and 4 percent in the fall. The researchers studied three years' worth of residential electricity consumption data from Indiana households and also concluded that there was a social cost of increased pollution emissions.

States and territories of the U.S. can opt to exempt themselves from observing daylight saving time as is the case with Hawaii, Arizona, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. In the case of Arizona, most of the state, with the exception of the Navajo Nation, observes Mountain Standard Time year-round.

Another argument for resetting all our clocks — or relying on smartphones to do it for us — is it can save lives and prevent traffic injuries when people are doing errands or traveling to and from work or school during the daylight hours. Additionally, they suggest it can reduce crime since people are out and about during the daytime when there's less crime.

Yet, there may be a health risk associated with the time change. There is a 25 percent jump in the number of heart attacks on the Monday after the time change compared to other Mondays during the year, according to a study presented in 2014 to American College of Cardiology.

A national Rasmussen Reports survey released in 2014 also found that 43 percent of respondents believe there's no need for daylight saving time.