As Americans brace to lose an hour of sleep this weekend, marking the beginning of daylight saving time, nearly a dozen states are considering abandoning the whole clock-shifting practice altogether.
States like Alaska and Rhode Island are considering bills that would place them squarely in one time zone, without the hassle of falling back every November and springing forward every March. Right now only two states, Arizona and Hawaii, rebuff the practice.
Ending the practice of switching clocks would probably be a good thing: Numerous studies have shown that shifting the clock forward affects our health, with rates of heart attacks, traffic accidents, and workplace injuries all seeing an uptick in the few days following the beginning of daylight saving time.
The question is in which directions should states move — permanently back, or permanently forward?
For some industries, like agriculture, it’s much more preferable to remain in standard time: The sun would rise earlier, giving farmers an extra hour of daylight to work. But that extra hour of morning sunlight benefits us all. For one thing, driving a morning commute when it’s light out probably reduces traffic accidents. And the earlier sunset in the evening might mean less crime, since most street crime, like muggings, happens more often when it's light out.
Proponents of moving the clock permanently forward – essentially, adopting daylight saving time year-round – say most people would prefer to enjoy an extra hour of sunlight in the evening. (Sunlight, of course, has many psychological and social benefits.)
States are also split on the question. California, which is also considering a bill that would end the practice, is proposing to stay in the Pacific time zone all year.
Alaska, meanwhile, wants to join the Pacific time zone, essentially setting its clocks to their summer position throughout the rest of the year. (Currently, it occupies one time zone to the west, fittingly called the Alaska time zone.)
A couple of states in New England, allured by an op-ed in the Boston Globe, are proposing to move into a new time zone altogether. Lawmakers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island want to move their states to the Atlantic time zone, one east of Eastern Standard Time – the prevailing time zone in far eastern Canada. Again, that would essentially amount to those states adjusting to daylight saving time year-round.
The Globe op-ed argues this geographic realignment makes sense. Cities like Boston and Providence are so far in the eastern reaches of the Eastern time zone that during the winter, the sun can set as early as 4:15. By switching, those cities can reap the benefits of afternoon sunlight in summer and winter.
Of course, switching time zones isn’t easy. Under federal law, states can exempt themselves from daylight saving time, but they must seek permission from the US Department of Transportation to switch time zones – a decision that has the potential to hugely disrupt commerce.
For that reason, it’s particularly unlikely that the New England advocates of Atlantic time will see their region switch over anytime soon. Disruption to train and airplane schedules alone – the time zone would switch crossing the New York state border — could be reason enough for the federal government to reject a change.