Column

Olson: It's about time we ditch the switch

Eric Olson
Eric Olson

State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, is pushing a bill in the Senate that would call for Illinois to stay on daylight saving time year-round.

Everyone should get behind Manar’s proposal, which is likely to be debated in the Senate next week.

Changing our clocks twice a year is a biannual exercise in absurdity – a foolish display of man’s misguided belief that he is a master of forces beyond control.

Most of us aren’t sure why we do it, we don’t know whose idea it was in the first place, and we don’t like it – especially when everyone loses an hour of sleep every spring because the government says so. Studies have shown that after the “spring forward,” sleep-deprived people are more likely to have accidents, and even heart attacks.

This is not a liberal/conservative issue. It’s a matter of common sense. It’s about ending the unnecessary disruption to our day-to-day lives.

Legislators and people in states around the country already are on board. Tennessee, Oregon, Florida and Washington have passed laws calling for making daylight saving time permanent. Resolutions have passed calling for changes for year-round daylight saving in Utah, Nevada, Alabama and Arkansas. In Delaware and Maine, they’ve proposed changing their states to different time zones and then cutting out the “spring forward.”

President Donald Trump agrees, too.

“Making Daylight Saving Time permanent is O.K. with me!” Trump tweeted March 11, the day after our last “spring forward.”

Actually, during World War II the country stayed on daylight saving time year-round. They called it “war time” then. That was the second time we’d fiddled with the clocks – the first was during World War I. It was supposed to make the country more efficient. It may have, as we didn’t have air conditioning then. Now, any increased efficiency from reduced use of lights in darkness is offset by increased use of air conditioning.

The Uniform Time Act of 1966, which called for daylight saving and standard time to be observed across the country, gives states the ability to opt out of daylight saving time – as Hawaii and most of Arizona do – but not the ability to stay on daylight saving time.

In the five decades since, businesses and people have found they appreciate having more daylight in the evening. People are more likely to leave the house at night after work – and spend money.

Lawmakers may not have expected this in 1966. That was their time. This is our time, and we need to take it back.

I can hear the parents out there, saying, “But what about the children walking to school in the dark?”

Other parents might say, “My toddler doesn’t care what the clock says, and now she’s awake at 5:30 a.m. every morning and I’m miserable.”

That aside, if we stopped setting the clocks back, the latest that the twilight period would begin in northern Illinois would be about 7:50 a.m. for a few weeks during the dead of winter, including the two weeks most public schoolchildren are on winter break. If a child’s not old enough to cross the street safely, they’re probably not walking to school alone during this time. It’s cold whether the sun’s out or not.

People are adaptable to circumstances. The sun rises after 10 a.m. in Anchorage, Alaska, in December, and children walk to school in the dark of night, but they don’t set their clocks back three additional hours every winter. Students wear backpacks and vests with reflective material on them, and they manage.

It might be an adjustment, but compared with the adjustment that we ask people around the country to make twice a year, it’s a small one. Already, we use daylight saving time almost eight months of the year, so we might as well just finish the job.

The more states pass measures calling for making daylight saving permanent, the sooner Congress will have to act to change the law. Our elected officials should add Illinois to the list of states seeking an end to the changing of clocks. The time is now.

• Eric Olson is general manager of the Daily Chronicle, a Shaw Media publication. Reach him at eolson@shawmedia.com.

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