In my research on daylight saving time, I have found that Americans don’t like it when Congress messes with their clocks.
In an effort to avoid the biannual clock switch in spring and fall, some well-intended critics of DST have made the mistake of suggesting that the abolition of DST – and a return to permanent standard time – would benefit society. In other words, the U.S. would never “spring forward” or “fall back.”
Congress should seize on this momentum to move the entire country to year-round DST. In other words, turn all clocks forward permanently. If it did so, I see five ways that Americans’ lives would immediately improve.
1. Lives would be saved
Simply put, darkness kills – and darkness in the evening is far deadlier than darkness in the morning.
The evening rush hour is twice as fatal as the morning for various reasons: Far more people are on the road, more alcohol is in drivers’ bloodstreams, people are hurrying to get home and more children are enjoying outdoor, unsupervised play. Fatal vehicle-on-pedestrian crashes increase threefold when the sun goes down.
DST brings an extra hour of sunlight into the evening to mitigate those risks. Standard time has precisely the opposite impact, by moving sunlight into the morning.
A meta-study by Rutgers researchers demonstrated that 343 lives per year could be saved by moving to year-round DST. The opposite effect would occur if the U.S. imposed year-round standard time.
2. Crime would decrease
Darkness is also a friend of crime. Moving sunlight into the evening hours has a far greater impact on the prevention of crime than it does in the morning. This is especially true for crimes by juveniles, which peak in the after-school and early evening hours.
Criminals strongly prefer to do their work in the darkness of evening and night. Crime rates are lower by 30 percent in the morning to afternoon hours, even when those morning hours occur before sunrise, when it’s still dark.
A 2013 British study found that improved lighting in the evening hours could reduce the crime rate by up to 20 percent.
3. Energy would be saved
Many people don’t know that the original justification for the creation of DST was to save energy, initially during World War I and II and then later during the 1973 OPEC oil crisis. When the sun is out later in the evening, peak energy loads are reduced.
Virtually everyone in our society is awake and using energy in the early evening hours when the sun sets. But a considerable portion of the population is still asleep at sunrise, resulting in significantly less demand for energy then.