I was ready to state my unwavering support today for keeping daylight saving time all year long, thinking it sounded like a good idea.
But when I researched how late that would make some of our sunrises in shortest days in winter, I had serious second thoughts.
Last week, when much of the country accomplished the spring shift to daylight saving time, it kicked up suggestions in many quarters—including favorable comments from the White House—on using DST all year.
It seems that much of the argument from those who want year-round DST centers on the disruption that comes along with shifting our clocks ahead an hour in March and back that same hour in November.
People talk about being dazed and confused for several days after the time shift, and talk about a rise in accidents and feeling unwell in the period immediately following the clock shifts. Year-round DST would get rid of the shifts ahead in spring and back in fall.
Add that to the way DST gives us an extra hour of sunshine in the parts of the year when we enjoy getting out and about, and year-round DST has appeal.
Most people I talk to have little nice to say about how early the sun sets in the coldest, dampest and dreariest parts of winter. The online database I used to research the subject has the earliest sunset of the year at 4:49 p.m. in most of the first two weeks of December.
It’s really worse than that, because on cloudy, rainy or snowy days, daylight starts ebbing well before that.
Because I detest that mix of dark, dreary and cold in the winter, the notion of using year-round DST to make the earliest sunset happen at 5:49 sounded like a really good idea.
But what gave me pause when I took a look at sunrise times—I’d never actually looked them up before in a comprehensive way—was just how late DST would push some of our sunrises here.
Take, for example, the time the sun is expected to rise here at its latest time in winter, 7:27 in the period from January 4–7 in 2020.
Pop in good ol’ year-round DST and that becomes 8:27.
If none of us ever had to get up and going each day, trading that sort of later sunrise wouldn't seem like a bad bargain if we got sunsets in December closer to 6 than 5.
But the reality for most of us is that weekday mornings, and even those on weekends, start way before 8:27 a.m. Heck, by then, most school students and commuters have been up for hours and already gotten to work or class.
My argument in the past about endangering school children going to school in the dark was usually that many of them are going home nearly in the dark at the end of a school day, so it seemed like a wash.
But when you study the sunrise and sunset charts, it becomes pretty clear that there would indeed be more danger to school kids catching buses in the morning than afternoon.
To prepare for this column, I poured over arguments pro and con about year-round DST, and about our current system where we have daylight saving time from early March to early November.
In the endless back and forth, people use different statistics and arguments to show that DST causes or reduces accidents, costs or saves money or generally makes people happier or angrier.
The argument that made the most sense to me was the one noting that people generally like DST for giving them more daylight when they appreciate having it, in the warmer months of the year.
One that also seemed on point was a column in Popular Mechanics that argued that most of the complaints about DST—that it causes sleep and health problems—focus on short-lived symptoms right at the time shifts. It noted most of the problems caused by a shift in sleep patterns pass in the week or two after each shift.
And while I’d like to live in a world where we could get 6 p.m. sunsets in winter, it just doesn’t seem practical or even safe to have the sun coming up close to 8:30 on the coldest days.
That leaves me with the feeling that we should leave things exactly like they are. I don't want anyone taking away the extra hour we get to enjoy warm summer evenings.