A woman jogs along Portland's Eastern Prom at sunrise on Tuesday morning March 30, 2021. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

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The U.S. Senate quickly, and unexpectedly, passed a bill this week that would make daylight saving time permanent.

After Sunday’s clock change to daylight saving time, many people complained about the switch, saying they were tired and their children and dogs were out of sorts. Data back up complaints that switching between standard time and daylight saving time is inconvenient — and dangerous. Research has found that traffic crashes and heart attacks increase on the Monday after clocks are moved ahead an hour at the start of daylight saving time. 

The solution, however, isn’t to keep daylight saving time throughout the year. This is backward. 

First, Congress should consider the pros and cons of daylight saving time, based on scientific evidence, not complaints from sleepy people, before further considering a change.

Second, if lawmakers decide on one time system for the full year, standard time is a better choice from a health perspective, in part, because more daylight in the morning has health and mental benefits. Standard time, which Arizona and Hawaii have adopted year-round, better meshes with our circadian rhythms. Disrupting those rhythms with daylight saving time affects our sleep and health.

“You may think that the extra hour of evening light we gain with DST is good for you,” Horacio de la Iglesia, a professor of biology at the University of Washington, explained. “But research shows that the hour of morning light we miss out on under DST is unhealthy for your body and mind.”

Here’s the problem, neatly summed up by News Center Maine meteorologist Keith Carson: “No matter what, we can’t create more daylight, and that’s the real issue for most of us.”

So, if we can’t create more daylight, the question becomes whether we want more daylight in the morning or at night. Daylight saving time is an artificial construct to extend daylight later into the evening. 

We’ve had this debate before. In 1973, President Richard Nixon signed a year-round daylight saving time bill into law. The rationale then was to help ease the energy crisis and there was broad public support for the change, which began in January 1974.

After going to work and sending children to school in the dark, the public quickly changed its mind. The U.S. Department of Transportation found the change may have produced some electricity savings but increased gas consumption. Year-round daylight saving time was abandoned in less than a year — before the next cold, dark winter began.

As the Department of Transportation found in 1974, there is widespread support for daylight saving time in the summer, but not in the winter.

Here’s why: The lack of daylight is a common complaint among Mainers in the winter. On the shortest day of the year — Dec. 21 — there are about 8 hours and 42 minutes of daylight generally in Maine. That’s almost seven hours less daylight than on the summer solstice in June.

On Dec. 21, 2021, the sun rose at 7:14 a.m. and set at 3:56 p.m. If a change is made to year-round daylight saving time, the sun wouldn’t rise until 8:14 a.m. and it would set just before 5 p.m. That means a lot of people would go to work and many kids would head to and start school in the dark for a longer period of time in the winter, and many workers would also return home in the dark. That doesn’t seem like an improvement.

Using daylight saving time, which in 2007 was extended to run from early March to early November, for part of the year is a way to essentially get the best of both worlds: More sunlight at the end of the day in the summer (when stores and restaurants are glad for the extra daylight — and dollars) but fewer dark mornings with the switch back to standard time.

However, there is an increase in crashes on the Monday after the yearly switch to daylight saving time. Same with heart attacks.

So, if lawmakers decide this switch is truly problematic, they should move to adopt standard time year round.

But, given the lessons learned in the 1970s, ignoring the grumbling — which will quickly fade — and leaving the clocks alone for now makes the most sense.

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Opinion Editor Susan Young, Deputy Opinion Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked for the BDN...