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Is The Sun Finally Setting On Daylight Saving In California?

Scott Wilson / Flickr
 

Scott Wilson / Flickr

Some people love daylight saving time. They argue it cuts down on energy use and extends opportunities for outdoor recreation.

But others say it disrupts our sleep schedule and has serious implications for public health. Assemblymember Kansen Chu (D - San Jose) has been unsuccessfully fighting the tradition for the past few years.

But Chu’s latest bill to eliminate daylight saving time is heading to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, possibly giving California voters a chance to end the practice in November.

“In reality, switching our clocks twice a year directly impacts our health, as well as leads to increased crime and traffic,” Chu said in a statement last fall. “It is an outdated practice.”

Dr. Lydia Wytrzes, director of the Sutter Sleep Center, said the key is keeping a consistent sleep schedule all year-round.  

“It’s a concept that should be ended,” she said of daylight saving. “Based on what we know about the circadian clock and circadian rhythms, it’s much more proactive in terms of health to have a natural shift in your rhythm based on light-dark cycles than to arbitrarily change the clock by an hour at set times.”

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports the forced shift forward can cause daytime drowsiness for weeks after the change. Some research has tied daylight savings to traffic collisions and heart attacks.

And there are additional concerns when we move the clocks back to normal. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warns that earlier sunsets can pose a risk to drivers and pedestrians, who may struggle to adjust to a new, low-light environment after a summer of sunlit evenings.

In California, the twice-a-year clock switch is mandated by the Daylight Saving Time Act of 1949. Chu’s bill would put a question on California’s November ballot, asking voters if they want to repeal that act.

Even if they vote yes, nothing happens immediately, according to staff from Chu’s office. But nixing the old law would open the field for legislators to put forth a new option — either setting our clocks permanently on winter time, or instituting daylight saving year-round. Any change would require approval from the federal government.

Arizona and Hawaii don’t use daylight saving time. But California’s efforts to end it have faced opposition in the past. Defenders worry that eliminating the shift could disrupt energy savings, tourism, business and agriculture. There is no formal opposition to the bill.

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