The U.S. Senate approved the Sunshine Protection Act in March 2022, with the goal of making daylight saving time permanent starting in November 2023. If that happens, the U.S. will never again “spring forward” or “fall back.”
Following the Senate’s vote and a recent hearing in the House Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce – at which I testified – the subcommittee is now considering the issue. The full House of Representatives will need to vote in support of permanent DST before the bill goes to President Biden’s desk for his signature.
In an effort to avoid the biannual time change in spring and fall, some DST critics have suggested that returning to permanent standard time would benefit society.
But research shows that DST saves lives and prevents crime. Nearly 20 states have passed bills to make DST permanent, and the Senate unanimously passed the Sunshine Protection Act to allow those laws to take effect – since any one state can’t move to DST unilaterally on dates different from the rest of the country.
If Congress ultimately passes the measure to turn all clocks forward permanently, I see five ways that Americans’ lives will 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 the opposite impact, by moving sunlight to the morning.
A metastudy reviewing all of the available research on the topic demonstrated that 343 lives per year could be saved by moving to year-round DST, primarily in reduced vehicle on pedestrian accidents. Mornings would be riskier, but afternoons/evenings would be far more safe.