How would permanent daylight saving time impact health, safety of Washington residents?

SHORELINE, Wash. - Twice a year, people spend days talking about the time change as clocks spring forward or fall back.

This year, state lawmakers are getting closer to making daylight saving time permanent.

An unusually warm evening at Redondo Beach in Shoreline Tuesday had people in shorts and T-shirts soaking up the sunshine and enjoying late evening activities as the sun set later following the daylight saving time change earlier in the month.

“I love sunshine,” said Steve Calandrillo, a law professor at the University of Washington.

He says his interest in the law of daylight saving time came forth after teaching about the law, and he decided to look further into it.

Now, as the bill is pushed forward in Olympia to make daylight saving time year-round in Washington state, Calandrillo says he’s hearing more about it now than in the past 20 years he’s taught law.

“This year the momentum is great toward permanent daylight saving time. I’ve never seen it so great,” said Calandrillo.

He says the dominant justification for daylight saving time was energy back during WWI days when the bi-annual clock switches began. He says now that argument isn’t as valid, and he says the main benefit is lives saved, not energy.

“Once we hit sunset and twilight there is a 300 percent spike in traffic fatalities,” said Calandrillo. “The reality of moving sunlight to the evening hours instead of the morning you can reduce traffic fatalities dramatically.”

Calandrillo says he also likes to think of daylight saving time as a deterrent to criminals.

“Criminals sleep in. They wake up late. They work late, and they like darkness, because darkness helps them from detection. If you can move one more hour of sunlight into the evening you basically remove one hour of criminal’s workdays,” said Calandrillo.

Besides safety and lower crime rates, there are the health risks associated with the bi-annual time change.

“The clock switch is deadly as well. There’s a 24 percent spike in heart attacks the week after you lose an hour of sleep. So disrupting sleep cycles is bad for Americans' health,” said Calandrillo.

And if people are healthier, they are likely to be out longer and more likely to walk into stores, making the switch also beneficial for business.

“They’re less than willing to go shop when it’s dark,” said Calandrillo.

He says of course morning birds will prefer year-round standard time.

Critics say year-round daylight saving time would compromise safety for kids going to school in the dark. Calandrillo says in 1973 during the oil embargo by OAPEC, Congress enacted a trial year observing year-round daylight saving time in 1974, shifting schedules for schools.

“Many schools delayed their start by an hour to deal, that may be a responsible way for states to deal with permanent daylight saving time,” said Calandrillo.

In our state, as a Senate bill heads to the state house for consideration, there may now be greater chance for longer nights and later sunsets.

Even if Washington lawmakers and voters approve daylight saving time, it would not go into effect unless Congress approves it. The 1966 Federal Uniform Time Act allows states to observe year-round standard time, but not year-round daylight saving time.