It’s fairly safe to say that Americans have never been as worked up about daylight saving time as they have this week — well, except maybe back in 1973, the last time the country experimented with making the practice permanent. That time it didn’t go so well.
The current hubbub comes in the wake of Tuesday’s unanimous Senate vote approving the “Sunshine Protection Act,” a bipartisan bill to standardize DST, introduced by Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey. Given the enthusiasm in Congress, the apparent assumption is that the idea is a slam dunk, despite the fact that 1973’s pitch-dark mornings (and concerns about run-over children) resulted in a quick reversal, energy crisis be darned.
But the Senate vote has raised consternation among those who haven’t forgotten those late sunrises, as well as some in the medical community who say if anything, we should be shifting to permanent standard time, not daylight saving time, which they say could mess up our internal clocks.
“I do not want to walk to work in the dark. Being a pedestrian in Boston is already dangerous enough,” noted Boston.com reader Chris from the South End, while George from Andover classified the proposal as “politicians pandering to whiners.”
Still, when it came to the more than 2,600 Boston.com readers who responded to our daylight saving survey, the naysayers were in the minority: A full 64% said they’re all for the change. “Sunset at 4 p.m. is de-energizing,” noted Charlotte from Hudson. “It feels like I’ve worked overtime when I haven’t.”
Interestingly, the second-most-numerous faction of respondents, 19%, were in favor of getting rid of the time change, but they want standard time year-round instead; and 12% think we should just leave it well enough alone, blaming the movement on such factors as lobbying from “the outdoor summer entertainment industry” (a.k.a. Big Outdoor Entertainment).
As for “other,” there were a few very intriguing suggestions, including:
- “Create Eastern Atlantic time — one hour ahead of EST for Mass., N.H. and Maine.”
- “Just split the difference, move it 1/2 hour and leave it permanently.”
- “Switch to 24-hour time. Because who doesn’t love saying ‘It’s Oh-800 hours.'”
And perhaps the most interesting suggestion came from Greg in Berlin, who said we should abolish time zones altogether and switch to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) worldwide. “By moving to a single global time zone we can eliminate the pretense that the sun bears any relation to the clock and empower people to act in their own interests,” he said. So there!
Here’s a sampling of what Boston.com readers had to say on the matter:
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Yes, make it permanent:
“Because it being dark at 4:00 in December is just the worst.”
“It takes me two weeks to ‘normalize’ my sleep every time change. This goes a long way to helping that.” — Stephen, Sudbury
“I used to live in Honolulu and didn’t notice how difficult and unhealthy changing the clocks was till I returned to Boston. I also had a new appreciation for how important sunlight is for our well being. Having an extra hour of light in those late winter afternoons will be such an incredible gift.” — Thomas, Brighton
“A later sunset would benefit most of us, as more living gets done after working hours than before: singles and couples who get together after work; kids who have sports practice and/or games after school; parents who have errands to run on the way home from work.”
“I’m not concerned for those early-bird/morning people who want sunlight with their morning coffee; those who ‘worry’ about kids going to school in the dark when they don’t worry about kids coming home from school activities in the dark; those who don’t want to commute in the dark. These are all personal preferences that have to take a back seat to tangible benefits for the majority.” — Mary, Quincy
“I feel better about life with an extra hour of sunlight. This positively affects people with immunosuppressive diseases, fibromyalgia, depression, etc.” — Lindsy, North Easton
“Extra daylight during waking hours is a psychological benefit. The argument about kids at bus stops on dark mornings is not as legitimate now because fewer kids are bused anymore, and safeguards have been put in place to make bus stops safer.” — S., Brewster
“This change should have been made a long time ago. And for those who worry about children going to school in the dark … you’re right! School start times are too early and should be pushed back as well! A win-win.” — Patrick, Fall River
“We can change the hour at which students are to report to school, twice per year, not the flow of time itself.” — Cee, Pittsfield
“I’m done whether this passes or not. I’m retired and will no longer disrupt my life twice per year for this nonsense.” — Cliff, Clermont, Florida
“We literally need to move out of the dark ages. It’s hilarious this still exists.” — Josh, Boston
Leave it as it is:
“I have other, bigger priorities I wish the government would tackle instead. This feels like a distraction from bigger issues and, frankly, a waste of time (pun intended).” — Katherine, Fenway
“For me, a dark early evening is a traditional part of the ambiance of winter.” — Andrew, Harwich
“I hate to be harsh, but those who complain about trouble adjusting to the one-hour time change when it happens have never had to deal with real-world problems. It is really not a big deal.” — Nick, Westfield
“It makes life impossible for religious Muslims and Jews. Our representatives should do more research before making discriminatory changes.”
“Seasons change. Time changes. That’s our life. Pros and cons on both sides so why pick one side? Leave it alone. Plus who wants Christmas Eve and Halloween in broad daylight?”
“The spring forward gives me the sense of a new beginning and that the warm weather is coming. Winters are long in N.H. and to me it’s excitement that the countdown to summer has started.” — Cheryl, Allenstown
“If we stop changing the clocks what will everyone have to complain about then?”
“I thoroughly enjoy changing the clocks twice a year; always have! I have never been inconvenienced by doing! I think of it as part of spring/summer and fall/winter!” — Gordon, Reading
“What’s the big deal? Personally, I like bright early mornings, as it motivates me to get my day started. I also don’t mind dark nights in the dead of winter when all I want to do after work is go home and snuggle in my pajamas. Who are these snowflakes that can’t handle a one-hour time shift twice a year?” — Shawna, Chatham
“If people are so functionally disoriented because they lost an hour of sleep on one night then they have other more important problems they should focus on.”
“There are so many other problems in the world more worthy of our time. The fact that people think the government has to protect them from being sleepy is ridiculous.”
“As a kid in the 70’s I recall that we did this at one point … all the kids had to wear reflective stickers on their snorkel coats because they were waiting for the bus in pitch dark. Let’s also consider that the rest of the world will not necessarily follow us so we’ll have inconsistencies in synchronizing our time zones which matters in international business.” — Mark, Lakeville
Start it earlier and end it later:
“I prefer to start DST around Feb. 10.”
“Begin it the first Saturday in March. Great usage of daylight for extracurricular activities after school.” — Joseph, Exeter, New Hampshire
Make standard time permanent instead:
“People keep talking about it as if we have somehow magically been able to change the number of hours of sunlight. We are just swapping it out. For anyone who actually gets out of bed by 7 to go to work it is beyond depressing to wake up in the dark.”
“It’s ridiculous to keep suggesting that we get more daylight — it’s a false narrative. Wait till it’s dark at 8:30 a.m. in December!” — Colleen, New Bedford
“It would make far more sense to just move bank/business/school time an hour earlier. Wake up earlier. Eat lunch at 11 instead of noon. Prime time TV at 7 instead of 8.”
“There is no reason to have daylight savings year-round. We get enough sun as is during the spring and summer. Not everyone enjoys the sun pounding on their head. Also, for those of us that have already had several moles removed, it means having to be even more careful and limiting the amount of time spent outdoors in the blazing sun.” — Kristine, Boston
“Buses and traffic and kids in the dark! Oh my! Sounds like a bad idea.” — Gregory, Framingham
“I lived in The Netherlands for a decade, where it is dark until about 9 a.m. through much of winter, and it was difficult.” — David, Uxbridge
“Based on the science, I believe our bodies align better with our environment on standard time.” — Gretchen, Walpole
“Winter mornings are way too dark for kids to be waiting at bus stops. Even 7 a.m., which would be 8 a.m. if daylight saving is made permanent, is pretty dark December through late February. Although during standard time it gets darker earlier in the evening, the kids are already home before it gets dark. Unless changes are made to school schedules, say to start an hour later, we should not go there.” — Raquel, North Virginia
Whichever way we go, you can thank/blame Ed Markey:
“Markey has been in government for 45 years and the only damn thing he has ever succeeded in is screwing with the clocks.”
“I’ve been wanting permanent daylight savings for most of my life. I have a November birthday and the day is marred by the darkness that descends an hour earlier. Thank you Ed Markey!” — KMF, Everett
“This is the first thing I have agreed with Ed Markey on, I must be softening.” — Jim, Methuen
Boston.com occasionally interacts with readers by conducting informal polls and surveys. These results should be read as an unscientific gauge of readers’ opinion.