The daylight saving experiment that failed

HOLT, Fla., Nov. 6, 2021—It’s time to turn clocks back one hour tonight as the nation and parts of the world return to standard daylight time.

Many relish the extra hour of sleep, while others bemoan the “loss” of an extra hour of daylight.

In 2018, Florida voted to keep the state on daylight saving time. Washington, California and Oregon also passed laws to remain on saving time.

However, implementing the law requires a congressional act. States can opt out of DST, but they cannot opt out of standard time.

In other words, Florida can’t remain on DST unless Congress passes a law allowing it.

Energy crisis

Cars line up at a Maryland gas station during the gasoline shortage in 1974

The Emergency Daylight Saving Time Energy Conservation Act of 1973, signed by President Richard Nixon, put the United States on year-round DST beginning Jan. 6, 1974.

Eight months later, after Nixon resigned from office, President Gerald Ford amended the year-round law by exempting the  months of November to February from DST.

The 1973 law came at a time of national emergency as Americans’ day-to-day life was impacted by energy shortages in heating, lighting and transportation.

The nation faced gasoline shortages that resulted in odd and even gas rationing according to license tag numbers and days of the week.

In addition to gas rationing, the speed limit was lowered to 55 mph nationwide. Public service announcements encouraged everyone to save electricity.

During this national energy emergency, clocks were adjusted back one hour in January, a period of the solar calendar when there are fewer daylight hours.

This meant school children were standing at bus stops in the dark.

Due to parents’ concerns about their children’s safety, many schools districts adjusted their hours, resulting kids being released an hour later in the day, which, in turn, affected after-school programs, sports activities and shortened afternoon and evening hours at home.

The change affected broadcast productions, particularly rush-hour radio broadcasts. The construction industry opposed the change because of safety hazards working during early morning darkness.

Time changes again

An interim report conducted after four months stated that the energy savings anticipated by the law were inconclusive—there was no indication the time shift resulted in an energy savings.

Reduced availability of gasoline, lower speed limits and voluntary reduction of energy by the general public contributed to the vagueness of the savings.

Congress caved to the general distaste of Americans’ observance of DST from November to February.

In October 1974, eight months after Nixon signed the bill into law, Ford amended the law to return to standard time Oct. 27, 1974, until Feb. 23, 1975, exempting the fall and winter months of November, December, January and February.

Beginning in 2007, by law, the United States adjusts time by one hour on the first Sunday in November and the second Sunday in March, except for Arizona and Hawaii, as well as the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, which have elected to opt out of daylight saving time.

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