No more falling back? The U.S. appears headed toward ditching changing our clocks and Robert Gehrke is not pleased

Passions always run high with the topic of daylight saving, but the system we’ve had for decades works for a reason, Gehrke says.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Robert Gehrke.

We live in a polarized society and yet there is one issue above all others that will make people want to gouge each other’s eyes out — daylight saving time.

Twice a year there’s the whining and tantrums, like children who are being forced to get up an hour earlier or go to bed an hour later. The passion people have for this topic is baffling, but I guess people are never happier than when they’re complaining.

Back in 2020, Utah became the latest state to pass legislation to quit the back and forth and simply stick to Daylight Saving Time. All told, 18 states have taken similar action. But it is always contingent on the federal government reversing its edict from the 1966 Uniform Time Act and letting states do what they want.

This session, Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, introduced a bill that would have just changed the time in Utah so we would join Arizona in not falling back, without asking the federal government for approval.

“Mine was a states rights play where, do we really need the federal government to tell us what time it is?” he told me. We could simply have “Utah time.”

So in New York it could be 6 p.m., in Colorado it could be 4 p.m. and in Utah it could still be 1957.

McCay’s bill didn’t get a hearing, but Utah and the rest of the country might be on the verge of finally getting rid of the hated back-and-forth.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate, which normally can’t agree on much of anything, including the time of day, unanimously voted to stay sprung forward and not fall back, beginning in 2023. The delay was built in to let airlines and other companies that need precise times to update their systems.

“The Senate passed it because they’re all grumpy old men who were tired from having to get up an hour early,” McCay said. “Let’s see if the House actually does something.”

It seems like there’s a good chance the House will do something and daylight saving will go away, but, frankly, I’m not keen on the idea.

There certainly are some compelling reasons to get rid of it. Studies have found that springing forward takes a toll on the body and can lead to higher incidences of heart attacks, strokes and sleep deprivation.

And there are economic arguments, specifically that the disruption in our schedules hurts productivity and that the energy savings — one of the arguments used to justify daylight saving in the first place — are negligible, if any.

Flipside, one recent study found there is less crime when we spring forward and there are considerably fewer traffic accidents — which makes sense because it’s easier to drive during daylight hours.

With pros and cons to either approach, in my mind the deciding factor is pretty basic: It’s no fun shuffling off to work in the dark during the winter. It’s even worse trying to get kids off to school when it’s pitch black outside.

No, it’s not great leaving work in the dark, but there isn’t enough sunlight, so we have to choose — and it’s not a close call in my mind. If we stop falling back, the sunrise in December won’t come until almost 9 a.m., and that’s just miserable.

As the story goes, one of the reasons the U.S. started changing clocks in the first place was for farmers, although that appears to be a myth concocted by daylight saving proponents. After all, farmers have chores that need to be done, no matter what the clock says or when the sun comes up. They’ve got the right idea.

With the possible exception of my son, humans aren’t nocturnal. We function best when it’s light and adjusting our schedule to pair it up to the seasonal changes in daylight makes a lot of sense — even if some people don’t like moving clocks. Someday I hope to see is us figure out a way to have clocks build in micro-adjustments, adding or subtracting a handful of seconds per day until we have the effect of springing forward or falling back without the disruption of gaining or losing that hour all at once.

But because time is a human construct, everyone would have to agree to move in that direction, and that appears unlikely to happen any time soon.

For now, the consensus seems to be, based on the Senate vote, that people want to quit with the back-and-forth. I’m sure we’ll all adapt, but it doesn’t mean I’ll like it any more than I like those cold, dark winter mornings.