Daylight saving time remains controversial in southeastern N.C.

By Rachel Baldauf

Last Sunday, clocks across most of the country sprang forward an hour, marking the start of daylight saving time. The practice of shifting clocks forward an hour in the spring and back an hour in the fall is intended to make the most out of the amount of sunlight the Northern Hemisphere receives. But the practice has long been controversial.

A November poll by High Point University of 1,000 North Carolina adults found that nearly half of respondents want to change to year-round daylight saving time. Only 21% prefer an earlier sunrise and less daylight in the evening or changing to standard time. Twenty-five percent said they prefer to keep the current system of switching every fall and spring.

Lumberton resident Jerry Long, 79, called the time change “a bunch of hassle about nothing.” Long finds the loss of sleep inconvenient.

Pembroke resident Dial Knight, 65, agrees. “Either change it every year or don’t change it at all,” he said.

Fellow Pembroke resident Morris Brooks, 51, said that he doesn’t have a preference for daylight saving time or standard time but wants clocks to stay the same year round.  “We’re always trying to mess with what the good Lord’s put together,” he said. Brooks said it always takes him a few days to get used to the time shift. 

Pembroke resident Jackie Bowen, 50, wants North Carolina to adopt year-round daylight saving time. “I love summer, and I like my days being longer,” she said. When clocks are set to standard time, Bowen said she often ends up going to bed early because of how dark it is. “I don’t like going to bed at six o’clock at night feeling like you’ve laid there 24 hours almost,” she said.

Trayonna Haddock, 53, works at Lumberton Junior High School. During daylight saving time, many children have to catch their school buses in the dark morning hours, she said. She worries about their safety, especially when people ignore the flashing stop sign on the back of the school bus as children get on. “So if the kids could get up when it’s light, then everyone could see clearly,” she said. 

Daylight saving time was adopted by the U.S. in 1918 under Woodrow Wilson. Though it’s a common misconception that the practice was primarily implemented to help farmers, its true purpose was maximizing energy efficiency during World War I. Nationwide daylight saving time was repealed after the war but became a practice again during the Second World War. In 1966, the country adopted the system that most states still use today of “falling back” an hour in November and “springing forward” an hour in March.

Some have pointed out potential health risks posed by the time change. A 2014 study in Michigan found that there was a 24% increase in hospital admissions for heart attacks on the day following the switch to daylight saving time. A 2020 study found that the shift to daylight saving time may increase the risk of fatal traffic accidents due to drivers losing an hour of sleep and driving during the dark morning hours.

Attempts to do away with the time change in North Carolina have so far been unsuccessful. Currently, states are allowed to pass laws making standard time permanent, but they cannot adopt year-round daylight saving time without congressional authorization. In May, the North Carolina House passed a bill with an 80% majority that would adopt daylight saving time year-round once allowed by federal law. 

The bill, introduced by Rep. Jason Saine, is currently pending. “When I’m not disrupted in that way, and I get my normal sleep… I stay on a structured schedule,” Saine told WCNC Charlotte. “I perform better and I think I think that’s most people.”

A similar bill introduced in the North Carolina Senate by Sen. Ralph Hise has not yet been voted on. Previous efforts to pass bills that would make daylight saving time permanent failed in 2019 and 2021

Nineteen states, including South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia have passed laws that would switch their states’ clocks to permanent daylight saving time once authorized by federal law. Other states, including Arizona and Hawaii, have opted to observe standard time throughout the year.

In 2022, the U.S. Senate passed a bill that would make daylight saving time permanent across the country. The bill was passed by unanimous consent, a procedure that allows a bill to bypass all debates and preliminary votes and go straight to a final vote. Many senators said they were not made aware that such a vote would be happening that day and weren’t prepared to object to it, leading to the bill’s unexpected passage. Proponents of the bill said it would reduce seasonal depression and allow children to play outside for longer. “I know this is not the most important issue confronting America, but it’s one of those issues where there’s a lot of agreement,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, one of the bill’s sponsors. “If we can get this passed, we don’t have to do this stupidity anymore.”

The bill was never voted on in the U.S. House. Similar bills were introduced last year in the U.S. House and Senate, but neither have been voted on yet.

Cathie Phillips Price posted on the Border Belt Independent’s Facebook page that she has an idea that might appease both sides. Primarily, she just wants the time to stay consistent. 

“Choose one and stick to it. I can live with it either way” she said. “Or, I have suggested many times, change it 30 minutes and leave it there.”

The controversy of standard time versus daylight saving time is always an issue in the fall and spring. Here, a father and son enjoy time on the Lumber River. More leisure time in the afternoon is one of the main reasons people prefer keeping DST. Photo by Les High