The end of Daylight Saving Time might be right around the corner. On Nov. 4, California's clocks turned back an hour, giving residents a much-needed bonus hour of sleep, but this could be one of the last time Californians ever change their clocks.
On Nov. 6, Midterm Election Day, California voters will decide whether to pass Proposition 7, a measure that would give the state legislature the ability to establish Daylight Saving Time year-round with a two-thirds majority vote. This would mean no more turning clocks an hour forward or back — clocks would remain an hour forward, even in the wintertime, giving more darkness in the morning and less at night.
The proposition was first introduced by Kansen Chu, D-San Jose, in 2016, and was signed by Governor Jerry Brown in June. According to California's Official Voter Information Guide, Federal law establishes Daylight Saving Time for part of the year, but also allows individual states to opt out and remain on standard time all year. Currently, two states — Arizona and Hawaii — do not use Daylight Saving Time. California voted in 1949 to establish Daylight Saving Time.
The main effects of establishing Daylight Saving Time year-round will be to create a more constant schedule. Proponents of Proposition 7 argued in a statement that turning back clocks disrupts sleep schedules, citing increased risk of heart attack and stroke the days following a switch. They also claimed that switching causes increased energy costs.
A study titled "Daylight savings time and myocardial infarction" ("myocardial infarction" being the medical term for "heart attack") found a "significant increase" in heart attack incidence on the day following the switch back to Daylight Saving Time that occurs every spring. The study also found that, while heart attack incidence increased on the day after Daylight Saving Time began, there was no overall uptick in the following week.
Opponents of the proposition disputed the research behind these numbers in their statement, claiming there is no evidence that Daylight Saving time causes health or energy problems. The statement also cited California's previous attempt at extending Daylight Saving Time, noting that children would be going to school in the dark.
"We've tried this before and it was a disaster," the statement said. "In 1974, an energy crisis led President Nixon to declare emergency full-time Daylight Saving Time. It was supposed to last 16 months but was stopped after 10 months because people hated the fact that in the morning, the sun rose too late."
Daylight Saving Time was first proposed in 1895 by George Hudson, an entomologist from New Zealand, who saw it as a way to "reduce the excessive use of artificial light which at present prevails." During World War I, Germany became the first nation to adopt this practice, employing it in 1916 as a way to save energy. In 1918, the U.S. followed suit, officially establishing Daylight Savings Time.
However, while Daylight Saving Time saved energy in the early 1900s, there is no evidence to suggest the effect remains today. A study published in 2016 by Yale professor of economics Matthew J. Kotchen found that Daylight Saving Time actually increases energy consumption, causing an additional cost of $9 million a year in Indiana households.
On Nov. 6, we will see if our tradition of setting back the clocks lives another year, or if California decides to do away with Daylight Saving Time.