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Clock ticking for daylight savings

Old silver pocket watches telling different times. (Photo: Phichet Chaiyabin)

Will the sun set on daylight savings?

California voters will decide in November if they want to set their clocks twice a year to save daylight hours.

The ballot measure would overturn California’s 1949 voter-approved initiative called the Daylight Savings Time Act, which established Standard Pacific Time in California. The new measure, if approved, would keep DST all year round.

Chu believes abolishing the time change will promote neighborhood businesses by allowing more daylight hours for individuals to shop.

Assemblymember Kansen Chu, D- San Jose, hopes voters reconsider setting their clocks.

“My stance is very clear,” Chu said during an interview Tuesday, explaining he wants the clocks fixed one hour ahead. “I would like to give the voters a chance to weigh in on this decades-old practice,” he said, adding that he believes changing the clocks creates crime hazards for the country.

“Crime rates are increased after 5 p.m., so adding more daylight hours will reduce crime,” he added.

The simple act of adjusting one’s clock backward or forward during the year appears straightforward. In fact, it is nuanced, complex and politically charged. Currently, Daylight Savings Time, or DST, runs from March 5 to Nov. 4, forcing most Americans to set their clocks ahead one hour in the spring and then turn them back an hour in the fall.

For example, nearly 29 percent of violent crimes committed by juvenile offenders take place between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., according to a 2014 study by the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data. If you change the time can you cut the crime?

Chu also said he believes abolishing the time change will promote neighborhood businesses by allowing more daylight hours for individuals to shop.

“We are no longer saving energy, and studies have shown this practice increases risk of heart attacks, traffic accidents and crimes. It is time that we as a state reconsider whether this is still beneficial to our residents,” Chu said last month.

Benjamin Franklin was an early supporter of saving daylight, joking that those who slept past sunrise wasted more candles later in the evening

State Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Tehama, believes Chu’s initiative is a waste of time.

“It’s fixing something that is not broken. Our society has acculturated itself to Daylight Savings Time. I think it would create too much confusion to change it,” he said in June.

Some researchers have found a rise in heart attacks the Monday after the time shift, linking this to the change in the sleep-wake cycle and stress about the new workweek ahead. This higher risk drops off Tuesday, WebMD reported.

By contrast, heart attack risk fell 21 percent later in the year, on the Tuesday after the clock was returned to standard time in 2014, according to the American College of Cardiology.

Benjamin Franklin was an early supporter of saving daylight, joking that those who slept past sunrise wasted more candles later in the evening. He also suggested encouraging energy conservation by firing cannons at dawn as public alarm clocks, and fining homeowners who put up window shutters.

Saving daylight increases physical fitness, said the Journal of Environment Psychology, which found that  DST increased pedestrian activity by 62%.

But research shows saving daylight does not necessarily translate into saving energy.

Matthew Kitchen, a Yale economist who co-authored an electricity study, found that Daylight Saving Time actually increased residential electricity demand in Indiana by 1 to 4 percent annually back in the early 2000s. The largest effects occurred in the summer, stating setting the clock forward aligns resident’s lives with the hottest part of the day, causing air conditioners to be run more. In late fall, we wake up in a cold home and use more heating.

According to a rundown in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, DST also:

–Reduces car crashes and car wrecks involving pedestrians because the additional sunlight increased visibility, according to the American Journal of Public Health and the Journal of Safety Research.

–Reduces childhood obesity, according to studies published by the International Journal Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity and the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, which found that children have more hours of physical activity during DST.

Over the years, various other states – including Michigan, Indiana, Washington and Nevada – have toyed with changing DST.

–Increases physical fitness, according to the Journal of Environment Psychology, which found that daylight saving time increased pedestrian activity by 62% and cyclists activity by 38% because of additional daylight.

–Has a positive impact on wildlife conservation, according to a collaboration of 16 experts who studied DST’s impact on wildlife across the United States, Europe and parts of Australia concluded that DST reduces the number of vehicle collisions with wildlife by 8% to 11% by shifting normal traffic patterns to an hour off from nocturnal wildlife’s behavior.

Both Hawaii and most of Arizona have chosen to not adhere to DST. In Arizona, the Navajo Nation follows DST, while the rest of the state doesn’t. Because of Arizona’s heat, residents opted to savor the cool evening temperatures instead of more daylight hours.

Hawaii, meanwhile, abandoned saving daylight hours in 1967 because of the state’s proximity to the equator. Residents noted that the sun rises and sets around the same time each year, making it largely meaningless to “fall back” and “spring forward.” Over the years, various other states – including Michigan, Indiana, Washington and Nevada – have toyed with changing DST.

Nationally, DST emerged a century ago during World War I as a way of cutting back on coal-fired electricity in the evening hours to allow energy to be diverted to the military. Similar rules were adopted in World War II. The national law lapsed after the war, but many states liked DST and retained it, while others didn’t. The result was a patchwork of time zones that ultimately led to the Uniform Time Act in the 1960s.

If California voters approve Chu’s measure in November, they will authorize the Legislature to take action to eliminate the time switch and potentially move to Daylight Saving Time all year.

But there’s a caveat: To switch to Daylight Saving Time all year, California will need federal authorization.

That actually might happen: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican, authored legislation in May to make daylight saving time permanent across the country.


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