America’s ritual of changing the clocks affected millions as daylight saving time (DST) ended on Sunday. But if some lawmakers have their way, it’ll be the last time that happens.
Every year, on the second Saturday in March, the clocks spring forward an hour, robbing people of an hour of sleep. On the first Sunday of November, they fall back, giving them an extra hour’s sleep. Daylight saving time aims to give people more hours of sunlight. On November 6 at 2am, daylight saving officially ended across most parts of the US.
Only Arizona, Hawaii, and a handful of territories were exceptions. They do not have DST having applied an exemption to the Uniform Time Act.
DST in the Caribbean is used by the Bahamas, Bermuda, Cuba, Haiti, and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Cayman does not apply DST although it was considered by the government in 2015.
The idea behind the clock shift is to maximize sunlight in the Northern Hemisphere, as days start to lengthen in the spring and then wane in the fall. The logic is that by springing forward and falling back, people add an hour of sunlight to the end of the work day. But the benefits of this change are controversial, and the shift can have measurable impacts on health. Saving energy and safer driving conditions are two of the main reasons for DST. In Cayman the Americans shifting their times affects banking deadlines for money transfers and business operations that are tied to US financial institutions.
Next year, America’s time-shifting dance could cease to exist altogether. In March, the Senate unanimously voted to pass the Sunshine Protection Act, which would make daylight saving time permanent. If the bill passes the House, where it’s currently being considered, and is signed into law by President Joe Biden, once the clocks change in March, they won’t change back. Permanent DST would take effect on 5 November, 2023.
For many, the change seems officious, resulting in missed meetings and sleepy workers. Many studies have questioned whether there have ever been energy savings at all. A 2008 study from the US Department of Energy suggested that in the United States, an extra four weeks of daylight saving time saved about 0.5 percent in total electricity a day. But others reason that the situation is largely negated because the later sunlight hours do often reduce electricity use during this time, but they also increase use of air conditioning in the evening and greater energy demands to light up the dark mornings.
Even so, those impacts may be location specific. One study found that daylight saving time caused an increase in energy demand and pollution emissions in Indiana, while another found it led to slight reductions in energy use in Norway and Sweden.
These days, arguments in favour of daylight saving time generally centre on the boost the time shift gives to evening activities. People tend to go outside when it’s light after work - playing sports, exercising outdoors, taking kids to the playground - rather than lounging at home. Many outdoor industries, including golf and barbecues, have even promoted daylight saving time, which boosts profits. The petroleum industry is also a fan, as people drive more if it is still light after work or school.
But in many places, the time shift is extremely unpopular. Europe’s pending move away from the annual change stems from a survey that revealed roughly 80 percent of some 4.6 million respondents were against DST. And some American states are also starting to push for changes.