There’s no fixing the time-change crisis

This is the time of the year when Arizona is one of the smartest states in the nation.

Arizona doesn’t spring forward or fall back. It leaves its clocks alone.

So, it’s unlikely anyone in Arizona is dragging into work today because they were forced by a cockamamie idea to live life an hour earlier.

Now, that we’ve got Sunday liquor sales figured out, can we start working on this daylight saving time nonsense?

There’s no indication that daylight saving time does anything it was intended to do. Energy isn’t being saved and there’s no question that heart attacks and traffic accidents increase.

Some states are considering changing their clocks once and for all but none of them will, the New Yorker’s Alan Burdick writes today.

That’s because time is under federal, not state, jurisdiction. In the nineteenth century, cities set their clocks according to local solar time, and the American landscape was a temporal crazy quilt; in 1866, Illinois alone had more than two dozen distinct local times. In 1883, to simplify train schedules, the railroad companies established four time zones across the country, which Congress codified, in 1918, under the Standard Time Act.

The law also introduced the nation to daylight-saving time, which the Germans and British had implemented during the First World War. American farmers hated it, though, and it was struck from the law in 1919. (According to “Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time,” by Michael Downing, the notion that farmers benefitted from daylight saving was a fiction promulgated by the Boston Chamber of Commerce, which championed the time change because added evening light encouraged evening shopping.)

For the next five decades, daylight saving was a free-for-all; cities, counties, and states could follow it on whatever schedule they liked, or not follow it at all. Time magazine, in 1963, described the situation as “a chaos of clocks.” Finally, in 1966, the Uniform Time Act introduced order: daylight saving would start for everyone on the last Sunday in April, and end on the last Sunday in October. In 1986, the start date was moved up to the first Sunday in April, and in 2005, with prodding from the barbecue, golf, and candy lobbies, D.S.T. was extended to its current span, which covers Halloween.

Individually, the states are stuck. The Uniform Time Act prohibits them from starting or stopping daylight saving on any dates other than the existing ones, which would also bar them from adopting it full-time. “I’ve seen this over and over, in state after state—somebody proposes a bill to stay on daylight saving, then somebody looks up the law and figures out that they can’t,” Yates said. The act does allow a state to exempt itself from daylight-saving time entirely; Arizona and Hawaii opted out from the get-go. But doing so effectively places those states in a different time zone for part of the year, disrupting the desired uniformity. The prevailing wisdom is that no state can act alone; either they band together and all switch at once or no one does.

In the northeast, some of the states want a regional solution, moving into the Atlantic Time Zone and staying there.

In its editorial today, the Bangor Daily News says that would “isolate” the states.

Of course, it would be nice to have the sun set later in the day during the long Maine winter. But tinkering with the clock won’t solve this problem. Essentially taking the sunlight from the morning and moving it later in the day — How long before people would start complaining about how dark it is in the morning if Maine did make the proposed time zone switch? — isn’t worth the negative consequences.

Last year, 19 states considered one-time-all-year bills. None passed. And not a single bill in Congress in the last two years has proposed fixing the twice-a-year nonsense we’re experiencing today.