PD Editorial: On second thought, daylight saving time isn’t so bad

Twice a year, Americans across most of the country must deal with a disruption to their daily schedule. In early March, clocks spring forward an hour with the change to daylight saving time. In early November, the cycle is reversed, and clocks fall back for the return to standard time.

This November, two days after the fall back, California voters will have the opportunity to call for an end to that disruption. Proposition 7 would repeal the Daylight Saving Time Act, an initiative passed in 1949, and allow the Legislature to forgo the annual clock dance. Most proponents hope lawmakers would then vote to move the state to permanent daylight saving time.

This is a seductive proposition, and we understand the appeal. In fact, in March, we endorsed a similar measure. But after further investigation and thought, we've concluded that we were wrong then - and that passing this proposition would be wrong now.

In our March editorial, we said we supported the idea of permanent daylight saving time mostly because the current system is annoying - but also because it doesn't actually serve its intended purpose of saving energy.

It does, however, serve a purpose, and that purpose is one worth the biannual annoyance. Daylight saving time helps a society dependent upon clocks deal with the fact that the sun doesn't rise or set according to a fixed schedule.

As the tilt of the Earth's axis relative to the sun changes throughout the year, the sun rises earlier and sets later into the summer - and then rises later and sets earlier in the winter. Without daylight saving time, the sun would start peeking in your bedroom before 5 a.m. in mid-summer.

That could be irritating, but if California went to permanent daylight savings, the winter sun wouldn't rise on Santa Rosa streets where children wait for school buses until almost 8:30 a.m. - and that could be dangerous.

Even if voters think children walking to school in the dark is acceptable, they need to realize that Proposition 7's goal of moving California to permanent daylight saving time isn't the most likely outcome.

That's because the decision wouldn't be up to just the Legislature, which would have to pass the measure with a two-thirds majority, and the governor. It would also literally require an act of Congress and presidential approval.

The most likely outcome of Proposition 7's passage, then, would be year-round standard time. That would leave fewer hours of after-work sun from early March into November. Instead of daylight lasting until nearly past 8:30 p.m., the sun would set around 7:30 p.m. at summer's height.

And that's not the only ramification. When the East Coast is on daylight saving time, the three-hour time difference we're all used to would become a four-hour difference shortening the window for dealing with East Coast counterparts during business hours.

As we said in March, the switch to and from daylight saving time is annoying and inconvenient. But living without that switch would be even more annoying and inconvenient - and also dangerous for schoolchildren. The Press Democrat recommends a no vote on Proposition 7.

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