Research supports Sunshine Protection Act

A bill recently passed by the U.S. Senate could make Daylight Saving Time permanent, a move supported by traffic, crime and consumer spending statistics


Derek Schweizer

Sayonara sunshine: Early twilight looms as the sun sets over Lake Stevens. Seventeen days into Standard Time. A 4:23 PM sunset dashed hopes of safe evening recreation. “It’s safer if it’s lighter when it gets later in the day,” junior Jack Santos said.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, or so the saying goes. But America’s social clock is broken and has been for quite some time because of daylight saving time (DST), and the government needs to fix this. Either DST or standard time (ST) must become permanent.  The Senate chose the former, as they unanimously voted in favor of the Sunshine Protection Act, a bill intended to perpetuate the jump forward. But not everyone is fond of the idea.   

“Yeah, so I don’t like having to change my clocks when daylight savings time happens. And I would just much rather have it be standard time all the time,” senior Connor Tastad said.

Tastad is correct that the bi-annual clock change needs to go, but there is a better solution than year-round ST. Permanent DST is the superior choice because of the traffic safety improvements, crime reduction, and positive economic impact, despite supposed energy costs.

Regarding federal law, public safety is of the utmost priority, so permanent DST is a logical choice because it reduces the rate and severity of traffic accidents. Opponents of DST often claim DST poses a safety risk and cite a six percent uptick in the risk of fatal crashes in the weeks following the transition into DST. Such information only furthers this article’s goal. 

Darker mornings do not cause the uptick, evidenced by the lack of reference to any particular time of day; sleep deprivation causes it. The shift forward misaligns the circadian rhythms, stealing about forty minutes of quality sleep, which causes impaired judgment and reaction time. Hence the temporary increase in fatal traffic accidents. The transition into DST is deadly. So why keep it?

In contrast, DST itself makes the roads safer. Research shows that during DST, the frequency of collisions involving pedestrians falls by eight to eleven percent, and vehicle-on-vehicle collisions fall by six to ten percent. In the evening, there tend to be more cars and pedestrians outside, so increasing visibility in the evening would of course make collisions easier to avoid.  

If reaped year-round, this benefit could save three hundred sixty-six lives every year. Permanent DST is a boon to traffic safety and the obvious solution in the spirit of safety.

Another regard in which DST improves public wellness is crime reduction because the brighter evenings deter otherwise costly crime. For example, one study found that robbery is reduced by twenty-seven percent during the extra hour of daylight and an average of seven percent overall following the shift to DST. 

Such a drop existing throughout the whole day means criminals did not simply change when they robbed people. The crime went uncommitted. But why such a drastic drop? Because brighter evenings make it easier to spot potential or active threats, criminals know this. Thus, they become more hesitant to commit crimes. 

This reduced crime rate, in turn, saves a significant quantity of money. When Congress extended DST by three weeks in 2007, experts calculated the saved social costs equaled about two hundred forty-six million dollars. These social costs include prosecutions, medical expenses, police expenses, and stolen money.

Some proponents of permanent ST argue that DST has a detrimental impact on energy conservation that presents a cost not worth paying. While it is true that DST has no striking net-positive effect on energy consumption, available research offers no sufficient and consistent evidence for the idea that DST increases energy consumption. 

Four major studies have investigated the influence of DST on electricity use. Two of these focused on the entire nation, one in 1975 and the other in 2008. The former found a one percent decrease in electrical usage and the latter a point zero three percent decrease. Both concluded that DST conserves energy. However, neither study sufficiently accounted for essential variables like gas usage and air pollution, which may have balanced out the results. Simply put, the scope of variables was too narrow. Because of this, neither study is viable support for permanent DST. 

A 2007 California-focused study found similar results but an entirely different conclusion. The study found a point zero two percent decrease in electricity consumption, a number well within the one point five percent margin of error. The results falling within the margin of error means smaller factors could have either caused the decrease or hidden the actual effect DST had. It did account for other variables, such as gas usage, which could explain the different conclusions. However, more research is needed because a single state is too small a sample size to be relevant in a debate about federal law. 

Finally, the infamous Indiana study of 2008 found that DST resulted in a one percent increase in electricity and gas use. This increase cost the state an additional nine million dollars in electrical bills and up to five point five million dollars in air pollution-related social costs. Unfortunately, much like the California study, the sample size is too small to render this study relevant. 

These are the four significant studies conducted on the issue, the most recent of which is fourteen years out of date. Energy use is constantly changing and evolving, so a fourteen-year-old study certainly does not matter. 

These studies found contradictory results, came to different conclusions, applied critically different methodologies, and are all outdated. These issues combined annihilate credibility. None of this information is relevant and certainly does not support either side. DST may have saved energy in the past, but in the modern age, it simply does not matter to energy conservation. However, DST does matter to the economy. Permanent DST would be economically beneficial because it would support commerce and recreation, grow businesses, and facilitate economic growth. As mentioned earlier, the American people lose an average of forty minutes of quality sleep in the weeks following the transition into DST. This tiredness lowers productivity and increases the risk of work-related injuries by five-point-seven percent, causing a sixty-eight percent increase in lost work days. 

These factors combined equate to a nationwide loss of four hundred thirty-four million dollars. After all, injured or nonproductive employees typically generate little profit, considering they are not getting any work done. Consequently, hundreds of millions of dollars go unearned and unmoved every year because of the transition into DST. So, in addition to being plain deadly, the change is costly.

Quite unlike the transition into it, DST itself supports the economy, as the brighter evenings permanent DST would institute could benefit the economy by millions of dollars. For example, one month of DST is worth up to four hundred million for the golf industry and one hundred fifty million for the barbeque industry. This profit was the result of increased consumer spending, spending that both industries praised DST for. And it is this exact type of increased commerce that is vital to a healthy economy.  

Consumer spending is the total money spent on goods and services, which is the demand part of supply and demand. When spending increases, businesses increase production and demand by hiring more workers, increasing wages, and lowering prices, which contributes to business growth, causing a cycle of economic growth. Furthermore, the resulting profit is taxed, allowing the government more revenue to invest in the public.

Industries closely associated with outdoor recreational activities enormously benefit from one month of more time spent outside. So four more months of DST would give a critical boost to an economy crippled by the pandemic. In light of this, approving the Sunshine Protection Act is the most logical choice. 

“I feel like it’s a very good decision. I feel like I don’t originally know why daylight savings was even made, but I feel like the average person would benefit from that. I can’t see why someone would not want it,” senior John-Timothy Heist said.

According to a wealth of data, Heist’s sentiment rings true. The American social clock has been in flux since DST became a harmful bi-annual compromise. But the Sunshine Protection Act would rectify this error to the great benefit of the American people. Public roads would become safer for pedestrians and drivers, saving roughly three-hundred sixty-six lives yearly. Purses and wallets would no longer fear dark alleyways, as the brighter evenings create a seven percent drop in petty theft and other crimes. The economy would grow by several hundred million dollars in consumer spending. The time for compromise has long since passed. Now is the time to pressure Congress and President Biden to make the Sunshine Protection Act a new federal law.