HARTFORD, CT — Connecticut residents will “fall back” on Nov. 5 and gain an extra hour of sleep, but there’s a movement that seems to be gaining momentum to stay on daylight savings time.
Rep. Kurt Vail, R-Stafford Springs, introduced legislation earlier this year, that would have Connecticut stay on daylight savings time and switch to the Atlantic Time Zone. The legislation received a public hearing, but never received a vote from the General Administration and Elections Committee.
In fact, no one but Vail submitted public testimony on the bill.
He said it was an idea that was raised by one of his constituents and the more he investigated the issue, the more he saw the benefits both to the economy and public health.
He’s not alone.
A commission in Massachusetts voted Wednesday to recommend moving to year-round daylight savings time, as long as other northeastern states joined it.
The Special Commission on the Commonwealth’s Time Zone found that ending the practice of changing the clocks twice a year in March and November could improve the economy by increasing retail sales, increasing worker productivity, reducing energy costs, lowering street crime, and improving public health.
“There’s no purpose for it anymore,” Vail said Thursday in a phone interview.
He said he’s been speaking with his counterparts in Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire about the legislation. Vermont is the only New England state that hasn’t weighed in on the issue.
Vail said he’s also spoken to farmers in his district and businesses and both believe it would be beneficial to have the additional hour of daylight in the afternoon.
He said the two objections he’s heard to the idea over the past year. The first complaint is that schoolchildren would be waiting for the bus in the dark. That’s because the extra hour of daylight would come at the end, instead of the beginning of the day.
The Special Commission on the Commonwealth’s Time Zone suggested that the impact could be mitigated “by delaying school start-times, which is a cost-effective way to alleviate safety concerns as well as improve students’ physical and mental health, attendance and graduation rates, tardiness and dropout rates, and grades and standardized test scores.”
The second complaint is that other surrounding states would be on a different schedule.
Vail said he believes they will be able to resolve the latter in the next year as they gain momentum and work with other New England states to adopt year-round daylight savings time.
He said the science is there to back up his argument. He said there’s an increase in both heart attacks and motor vehicle accidents the week after the clock changes in both March and November.
A 2014 study in the journal Open Heart found an increase in heart attacks on the Monday following the switch to daylight savings time in the Spring.
A 2001 study in the Sleep Journal found an increase in motor vehicle accidents on the Monday following the Spring shift and the Sunday night before the fall shift.
The Special Commission on the Commonwealth’s Time Zone report found that year-round daylight savings time would have a mixed impact on transportation.
“While evidence suggests that year-round DST would lead to fewer traffic fatalities, unilateral action by Massachusetts would likely complicate travel air and train travel,” the report concluded.
It also found that there were positive impacts on public health.
“The spring transition itself has negative consequences, most of which result from lost sleep, while the additional evening daylight provided during DST improves public health by increasing physical activity among residents,” the report found.
Daylight savings time was introduced in the United State during World War I and then it was abandoned until 1966 when Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, which established daylight savings time as running from the last Sunday in April until the last Sunday in October. The dates have been amended several times since 1966.
The current dates for “springing forward” and “falling back” are the second Sunday in March and the first Sunday in November. Those dates have been in place since 2007.
The Special Commission on the Commonwealth’s Time Zone found that there’s no mechanism that exists through which Massachusetts could adopt year-round daylight savings time because federal law only allows states to opt out of it.
“But the state could effectively achieve that goal by moving from the Eastern Time Zone to the Atlantic Time Zone and then opting out of DST,” according to the report.
Vail said the intention of his legislation was the same as what was proposed by the commission. Vail would like to see Connecticut stay on daylight savings time and switch to the Atlantic Time Zone.
However, in 2018 Vail can only pitch a committee on raising the concept because individual lawmakers are only allowed to submit legislation in odd numbered years. That means he will have to win the support of his colleagues to push the legislation forward in 2018 when the new legislative session begins.