A bill that would put Washington state on year-round daylight saving time passed the state Senate on Tuesday by an overwhelming 46-2 vote.
The state House already approved such a measure, but the Senate amended it, so it now heads back to the House for a final vote before going to the governor’s desk.
If passed, it would still require federal approval to implement. The bill’s sponsors say there’s national momentum for change.
Voters in California last year backed an initiative to adopt permanent daylight time, and Oregon legislators recently passed a similar proposal. That’s significant, Washington lawmakers say, because the West Coast should be unified in its timekeeping.
It’s not a new idea. Measures have been introduced in Washington and other states to do away with the time change. But this is the first time this state has considered adopting permanent daylight time, which we are on from March to November. Previous proposals had focused on the adoption of permanent standard time, which proved unpopular.
What people want is that extra hour of light in the evening rather than the morning, said Sen. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, who is among the sponsors of Senate Bill 5139.
“What California did changed the conversation,” Hunt said.
The vote in Washington comes as more than two dozen states are considering measures to avoid the twice-yearly clock change.
Even if Gov. Jay Inslee signs the measure, Washington would be allowed to observe permanent daylight time only if Congress passes legislation allowing states to do so. While federal law allows states to opt into standard time permanently — which Hawaii and Arizona have done — the reverse is prohibited and requires congressional action.
Supporters of Washington’s bill contend that sticking to one time zone, rather than switching back and forth, would improve health and public safety, and some safety experts agree.
Steve Calandrillo, a professor at the University of Washington School of Law who has written extensively on the benefits of year-round daylight time, testified at the Senate committee this legislative session.
He said studies show that permanent daylight time has several advantages.
On average, it would save about 400 lives per year, he said. That’s because darkness in the late afternoon and evening — when most people are awake and moving around — is more dangerous than the dark of morning, when a significant portion of the population is still asleep.
“There’s a dramatic threefold increase in injuries at twilight,” he has said. In addition to the increased number of drivers on the roads in the evening, he said, it’s plausible that early birds may be more responsible drivers.
Year-round daylight time could lead to an estimated 20 percent reduction in crime because, Calandrillo says, it removes one hour from the “preferred workday” of criminals, who like to work in darkness and “are notoriously late risers.”
On Seattle’s shortest winter day, the sun rises around 8 a.m. and sets just after 4 p.m. If the switch to Pacific Daylight Time were to become permanent, the sun would rise at 9 a.m. and set at 5 p.m. on the shortest day.
Some critics of the proposed change point out that switching to daylight time in the winter would leave children standing at their bus stops in the dark.
In addition, experts in depression and sleep science say it would be healthier to either keep making the twice-yearly change or adopt permanent standard time. Both those options would be more in line with our natural circadian rhythms, which are synced with morning light, according to David Avery, a professor emeritus in the UW School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and an expert in seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Moving our clocks forward into “daylight time,” essentially losing an hour of morning light and tacking it onto the evening, can be hard on our bodies and devastating for people with seasonal depression, he has said.
Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.