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"Darkness kills," advocates for permanent Daylight Saving Time tell Congress

Congress considers future of Daylight Saving
Congress considers future of Daylight Saving Time 01:32

Days before most Americans reset their clocks, a congressional committee is mulling changes to Daylight Saving Time

The House Energy Subcommittee on Consumer Protection heard testimony Wednesday from health experts, some of whom urged Congress to pass a new law keeping Daylight Saving Time in effect permanently.

The biannual shifting of clocks was initially implemented in the U.S. to preserve energy and resources during the early 20th century, requiring most Americans to set clocks one hour ahead of standard time between early spring and late autumn. In 2007, Congress expanded Daylight Saving by an additional four weeks each year.  

But the Daylight Saving system is unpopular with many Americans and has inspired a series of new state and federal legislative proposals to change or eliminate the program. 

"Daylight Saving Time has benefits and costs. The growing public interest in this topic and action on the state level brings us here today," said subcommittee chairwoman Rep. Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat of Illinois. "Some argue when we spring forward, and lose an hour of sunlight in the morning, this impacts our health, school children commuting to school and even traffic safety."

Some versions of the new legislation would require Daylight Saving be kept in effect year-round. Others would give states more latitude to opt out of the system.

University of Washington professor Steve P. Calandrillo testified that Americans experience fewer safety risks when sunset is pushed later into the afternoon or evening.   

"Simply put, darkness kills. And darkness in the evening is far deadlier than darkness in the morning," Calandrillo told the committee. "The evening rush hour is twice as fatal as the morning for various reasons — far more people are on the road, more alcohol is in drivers' bloodstream, people are hurrying to get home, and more children are enjoying outdoor, unsupervised play."

American Academy of Sleep Medicine researcher Dr. Beth Marlow told the panel her organization's survey of Americans found 63% support for eliminating season time changes. She cited a review published in a 2020 commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association showing an increase in strokes, heart attacks and teen sleep deprivation during time transitions.

Members of the House subcommittee said the issue is a common source of criticism from voters. "This is a topic I continue to hear about from my constituents," said Rep. Gus Bilirakis, a Florida Republican. "While this transition may be easy for devices, it is not so much for our bodies. Humans are not as simple as winding a watch backward," he said. "The toll on our bodies can be severe." 

Rep. Fred Upton, Republican of Michigan, who previously led the House Energy Committee that approved an expansion of Daylight Saving Time more than a decade ago, said he supports giving states the right to opt in or out of the seasonal time changes. Upton said the system "saves lives," pointing out that at Halloween, there's more daylight for children on and near streets. At minimum, Upton said he'd prefer adjusting the scheduling of clock changes from early Sundays to early Saturday mornings each year.   

CBS News reviewed several pending legislative proposals to overhaul or adjust the system. There are multiple proposals with similar language to make Daylight Saving a year-round system. One proposal from GOP Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina would require the Government Accountability Office to produce a study on the results of a change to year-round Daylight Saving, if such a law is enacted.

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