Switch the time switch.
That's a good idea.
In other words, pick a time zone and stay on it.
That's what a bill in the Montana Legislature would allow the state to do in 2020. Citizens would get the option of dumping Daylight Saving Time, the practice which attempts to maximize daylight during the summer, but causes clocks to jump forward, then back, every year.
We think this could be a good plan for several reasons. We're fairly ambivalent about whether Daylight Saving or Standard time is optimal, but we think we should be on a single time zone all year.
First, we applaud Sen. Jon Esp, R-Big Timber, for bringing the bill in the Legislature. We also think it's a great idea to put it to the vote of the people of Montana, who will be most affected by any change.
There are arguments for moving the clocks twice a year.
Many people with younger children point out that Daylight Saving Time allows families more time in the daylight because it doesn't start getting dark until close to 6 p.m., in places like Billings. This allows families to spend more time outdoors in the daylight. It also means that sunrise would not happen until about 6:30 a.m., instead of an hour earlier. But, we also believe that families could also adjust to the time switch by a simple schedule adjustment.
There are good reasons to consider not moving the time.
There is a body of research that suggests that time switching has a negative effect on things like sleep patterns and can be linked to increase headaches. Moreover, the change can be linked to an increase in depression-like symptoms. One of the other benefits was that there was a lower crime rate, which can probably be explained by more people being active during the daylight, and fewer nighttime hours.
Originally, Daylight Saving was also thought to save energy by maximizing sunlight. However studies that researched the issue showed that actually more energy was used instead of less.
One of the main themes is that humans and their sleep rhythms are disrupted twice a year by the switch. In fact, some studies have linked an increase in heart attack and stroke in the weeks directly following the switch because of the change.
While we support the idea of picking a time and staying with that change, we believe staying on Daylight Saving could be an option -- just so that we would keep consistent throughout the year.
The idea would go something like that: In the winter, during Standard Time, it's already dark. By continuing on Daylight Saving Time, it just continues to be dark, which is what's expected during the cold, dark winter months. However, if we were to stay on the Daylight Saving Time, it would allow Montana to maximize and take advantage of the daylight without having to switch the clocks. It's that switch, not necessarily the time zone, which seems to disrupt people's lives.
We also love the idea of putting the matter before voters. It may seem insignificant or trivial, but ask the average person and we'd bet they have stronger feelings on time switches — whether for or against — than, say, something as important as immigration or the federal deficit. We applaud Esp and his colleagues for letting Montanans decide.
We hope that we can pick a time and stay with it. And while we'd be in favor of keeping Daylight Saving all year round, we are against constantly having to shift our clocks for a practice which has questionable tangible results, and may have public safety implications.
It's time to make the change permanent.