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Opinion: Standard or daylight saving, just save us the trouble and stick to it
Mid-afternoon sun shines off of the sun marker in Gainesville's downtown square.

By Sunday morning, the magic time fairy will have ridden a mystical radio wave into your house in the middle of the night and created a 23-hour day by resetting the time on your automatic clocks and electrical devices, and in so doing stealing away the extra hour it added to a 25-hour day in the fall.

In other words, daylight saving time will again have begun, and, once again our bodies will be doing the biorhythm and blues dance for a day or three until they can synchronize with the reality of the sun’s schedule and the artificiality of man-made constructs of time.

You would think we would be used to this by now, but we aren’t.

The Times editorial board

Staff members

  • Norman Baggs, general manager
  • Shannon Casas, editor in chief

Community members

  • Cheryl Brown
  • David George
  • Mandy Harris
  • Brent Hoffman
  • J.C. Smith
  • Tom Vivelo

In fact, the evidence is mounting that more and more people have become weary of the annual charade of trying to make the sun shine longer by changing clock time. Georgia is one of several states looking at the possibility of eliminating the twice-annual back-and-forth between daylight saving time and “standard” time.

The state Senate last week approved a bill that would allow Georgians to vote in a nonbinding referendum on whether we should continue to switch the clocks twice a year, or settle once and for all for traditional time or daylight saving time. The measure has yet to be voted on in the state House.

A number of states are looking at similar measures, though the process for making a change is complicated in ways only the federal government can create.

As the law stands, states can refuse to recognize daylight saving time and remain on standard time year-round, which Hawaii and Arizona do now, but they cannot do the reverse, adopting DST as permanent and abandoning standard time. If that seems illogical, just remember Congress was involved.

If at some future point Georgia lawmakers decide they prefer to abandon DST, they can do so. But they cannot make DST permanent without Congress changing the federal law to allow it.

As a nation, the question of how to keep track of time is one we have wrestled with before. We observed daylight saving time for part of World War I and again during World War II, then it went away from 1945 to 1966, before Congress passed the Uniform Time Act in 1966, resulting in pajama-clad homeowners in their slippers again moving the hands on clocks throughout the house in the days before more automated devices were available.

When DST was enacted, the rationale for doing so was energy conservation. The theory was that shifting the hands of time to have an extra hour of sunshine at the end of the day rather than early in the morning would result in less energy consumption.

But whether that is actually the case is questionable. Some studies in recent years have shown that the change may result in very minor savings of energy, while others show no savings at all or an actual increase in demand. One problem with such studies is that it has been so long since we didn’t recognize DST that there aren’t many valid points of comparison for evaluating energy consumption with and without the time change.

Lest you think this is a uniquely American experience, it’s not. Many countries also adjust their clocks to eliminate morning daylight and move it to the afternoon. In fact, Germany was the first to do so, having enacted DST in 1916 as a means of conserving energy during World War I. In Europe, what we refer to as daylight saving time is called “summer time,” and many Europeans are in favor of ending the biannual shifting of hours.

While Georgia looks at asking residents what they prefer, other states are also studying the issue and trying to decide whether to abandon DST and return to standard time, or to approve measures making DST permanent in hopes Congress will take action to make it possible. There is a congressional bill as well on the subject, though no definitive action yet.

Beyond the issue of energy conservation, there are a number of other factors in the time change debate. Studies have shown that bouncing back and forth between DST and standard time can have an impact on health, as our bodies become accustomed to set sleep and work cycles that are then disrupted twice each year.

In 2007, Congress added four more weeks to DST, so that it effectively now lasts eight months of the year. Only via the logic of the federal government would we consider the time cycle that is in place only four months out of 12 as “standard.”

Whether you prefer DST or standard time is a matter of personal preference, and debating the merits of the two provides worthy fodder for hours of debate at cocktail parties and in legislative bodies. But from our perspective, the time has come to quit bouncing back and forth between the two differentiated time zones.

Rather than having the states adopt a hodgepodge of changes on a one-by-one basis, we would like to see the Congress take action to eliminate the twice-annual time shifting ritual and settle on one or the other as a permanent solution. For our money, making DST permanent nationwide would seem to have the most appeal and make the most sense, but setting the clocks one way or the other and leaving them alone needs to be done.