Connecticut considering permanent daylight saving time

Tom Liberatore, a materials purchasing manager, walks past clocks being tested prior to shipping at the Electric Time Company in Medfield, Mass., Thursday, March 10, 2016. For first time in more than 10 years, a bill that would put Connecticut permanently in the Atlantic time zone made it to a public hearing in 2017.  (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Tom Liberatore, a materials purchasing manager, walks past clocks being tested prior to shipping at the Electric Time Company in Medfield, Mass., Thursday, March 10, 2016. For first time in more than 10 years, a bill that would put Connecticut permanently in the Atlantic time zone made it to a public hearing in 2017. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

For first time in more than 10 years, a bill that would put Connecticut permanently on daylight saving time has made it to a public hearing, with proponents saying it could help fight seasonal depression and possibly reduce crashes and crime.

Senate Bill No. 33, introduced by state Sen. Terry B. Gerratana, D-6th District, and cosponsored by state Rep. Kurt Vail, R-52nd District, asks state lawmakers to amend the general statutes and retain daylight saving time, which began just more than a week ago, through the year.

“I recognize one of the major flaws with this legislation would be having Connecticut in a different time zone than our New England neighbors,” Vail wrote in testimony he submitted last month in favor of the bill, “but I believe this can easily be addressed if we decide to make this move in conjunction with our Northeast neighbors.”

He said he has spoken with legislators in neighboring states, where similar bills are being floated.

It’s not the first time there’s been a push in New England, where Eastern Standard Time can bring sunsets as early as 4 p.m., to dump the time switch.

Research suggests the fall swap, where residents gain an hour of sleep, doesn’t lead to an increase in car crashes or a decrease in focus. But some studies show it can trigger seasonal depression because light in the morning, when many people are inside preparing for their days, isn’t as beneficial as light in the evening.

As for the switch to daylight saving time, several studies over the course of the years have found wrecks, workplace injuries and heart attacks spike in the days after residents “spring forward.” One such study, out of the University of Colorado at Boulder Department of Economics, found sleep deprivation post-time change was to blame for 302 traffic deaths nationwide from 2002 through 2011. It put the social cost of that at $2.75 billion.

“More light in the evening has benefits at reducing crime … and encouraging exercise,” author Austin C. Smith wrote. “When costs are found, similar to my study, it tends to be due to sleep loss or disruptions associated with transitions … Taking these points in combination, an ideal policy solution would leave the benefits of (daylight saving time) intact while eliminating the damage caused by the spring transition.”

A 2009 study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found, among other things, that U.S. citizens lose on average about 40 minutes of sleep in the springtime change.

A quick analysis of four years of Connecticut crash data didn’t show an obvious trend around the switch.

But AAA on the weekend of the time change — the same weekend many of the state’s St. Patrick’s Day parades occurred — reminded residents of the dangers drowsy driving can bring on its own, let alone with alcohol involved.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, drivers who get four to five hours of sleep in a 24-hour period are more than four times as likely to crash as those who get seven. That’s the same crash risk the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration assigns to those who drive above the legal limit for alcohol. 

In 2015, a study published in The Review of Economics and Statistics also found the extra hour of daylight appears to significantly reduce robberies in the weeks after daylight saving time begins. According to the research, the overall drop is 7 percent, driven largely by a 27 percent drop during the sunset hours.

Still, moving New England away from the time used by Washington, D.C., and New York City could be tough, especially considering the impact it would have on New England residents who commute to the city.

Some opponents aren’t comfortable with the idea of their kids walking to school in the dark, either. Others point to studies that show an early-setting sun encourages people to go to bed earlier, thus increasing productivity.

The jury’s still out regarding whether daylight saving time achieves its goal of conserving energy. One 2008 study, for example, found although the demand for energy fell in the evening during daylight saving time, the larger demand in morning hours canceled that out.

Regardless, several New England states are considering moving to the saving time permanently. At least one — New Hampshire — would do so only if Massachusetts also does.

Even if several or all of New England’s legislatures approved such a change, either Congress or the U.S. Department of Transportation would then have to allow it.

It’s not clear at this point where the Connecticut bill will go, if anywhere.

Vail was the only one to submit testimony regarding the bill.

l.boyle@theday.com

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