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Daylight saving time began Sunday morning. On Monday, we’ll hear the annual complaints about changing our clocks and losing an hour of sleep.
We’ll probably also hear more about efforts to ditch daylight saving time, to stop the twice-a-year clock changes and to keep one system throughout the year.
We get the frustration: Who likes to deal with grumpy sleep-deprived teenagers in the spring and pets up much too early in the fall?
But as David Prerau, an internationally known expert on daylight saving time (who knew such experts existed?), wrote in a column published by the Bangor Daily News: Daylight saving time is a good compromise. Simply put, we can’t create more sunlight during a 24-hour period, so the question becomes when we want that light, in the early morning or in the late afternoon and evening.
Daylight saving time is an artificial construct to extend daylight later into the evening. But, as Prerau wrote, having the sun set later in the day has more benefits than earlier sunrises.
With more light at the end of the day in the spring and summer, people get outside more, crime is reduced and energy consumption is lowered. This latter consideration was the reason that daylight savings time was extended by Congress in 2007. If the “extra” daylight were at the beginning of the day, which is what would happen if we stuck with standard time year-round, most people would sleep through it.
There is a temporary increase in crashes on the Monday after the yearly switch to daylight saving time. Same with heart attacks.
But switching to daylight saving time on Sunday essentially gives us 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 in the fall and winter with the switch back to standard time.
Still, there are efforts — in Augusta and Washington — to end the clock changing.
State Sen. Joe Baldacci, D-Bangor, has introduced a bill to have Maine opt out of daylight saving time and maintain standard time year-round. A bill from Sen. Rick Bennett, R-Oxford, would go the other way and have Maine use daylight savings time year-round, if allowed under federal law.
At the federal level, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, has reintroduced legislation to make daylight savings time permanent in the U.S. A similar bill unexpectedly passed the Senate last year, but it stalled in the House after lawmakers more fully considered the legislation and the negative consequences of such a change.
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 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.
Life, as one saying goes, is about tradeoffs. Switching the clocks may be annoying, but it’s a tradeoff that allows us to have as much daylight as possible when we want it, in both the winter and summer.