MASSACHUSETTS — Daylight savings time ends at 2 a.m. Sunday, meaning it’s time for the annual ritual of griping about shorter days and watching the sun set before the workday is over.
It’s also prime time to check in on a bill introduced in the Massachusetts legislature in January 2019 that, if passed, would keep Massachusetts permanently in daylight savings time. Co-sponsored by Senator John F. Keenan of Quincy and one of his constituents, Tom Emswiler, the bill would technically move Massachusetts out of the Eastern Time Zone and into the Atlantic Time Zone.
The bill has stalled, in part because the legislature has focused on the coronavirus pandemic this year. But Emswiler thinks the pandemic is reason to reconsider the bill, not an excuse to put it off.
“What better time to consider: Does it really make sense to arbitrarily shift our clocks for four short months?” Emswiler told Boston magazine earlier this month. “We’re already redesigning everything from work and school to weddings and Halloween. Why not commit now to stay on summer time?”
The proposal, which Emswiler has been championing for at least six years, isn’t just about having a little more daylight in the afternoons. Studies show workplace injuries, car crashes, pedestrian fatalities and heart attacks increase immediately when clocks “spring ahead” in March. There’s also a correlation between increased reports of Seasonal Affective Disorder and pushing the clocks back each fall.
About 5 percent of U.S. adults experience SAD each year, but experts worry those numbers will be higher this year with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Social interactions, which can offset the depression that accompanies SAD, are harder to coordinate in the year of social distancing. Add in the stress of trying to work from home, coordinate remote learning, a second wave of coronavirus infections and a chaotic presidential election, and the stress that fuels depression multiplies.
“All of these things that can actually improve our mood are all things that because of the quarantine, we can’t do at all, and having this extra added layer of shifting our clocks back so at 4:00 p.m. it’s dark in the winter makes it even harder to feel motivated to find something to do,” Dr. Eric Zhou, a clinical psychologist at Boston Children’s Hospital, told Boston. “So it’s these two elements that go hand-in-hand that might really make mood a major issue for individuals during this fall and winter.”
A commission that studied keeping Massachusetts on daylight savings time voted 9-1 in favor of it in 2017. But the commission said the switch would only work if other northeastern states made the change. Massachusetts is one of more than 30 states that has a bill pending to stay on daylight savings time.
For this year, however, Massachusetts residents will have to deal with dark afternoons, heading up to Dec. 3-12, when the sun will set at 4:11 p.m. in Boston. The days will continue to get shorter after that, with later sunrises, until the winter