WASHINGTON, D. C. (Thursday, March 5, 2020) ––It is one of the most anticipated “rite of spring.” But before the switch to Daylight Saving Time 2020 occurs this Sunday, Maryland lawmakers will weigh whether to “ditch it” and permanently stick with standard time year-round. It is not just Maryland legislators wanting to show Daylight Saving Time the door. Legislation is in the works to end the clock-switching practice around the region. Springing into Daylight Saving Time means many drowsy motorists may lose a spring in their step as they face a darker morning drive or sun glare from a rising sun, warns AAA.
Wake up sleepyhead. This time around, Daylight Saving Time officially begins at 2 a.m. this Sunday, March 8, when we set our clocks one hour ahead. Advocates of the change call it the “Lock the Clock” movement. In a word or two, they want the nation to quit changing the clocks in and out of Daylight Saving Time (DST). At one this afternoon a hearing will be held in Annapolis on the bipartisan Senate Bill 517. The measure calls for moving away from Daylight Saving only if all the states surrounding Maryland do that too.
“Time waits for no one, as the old saying goes. However, the transition to Daylight Saving Time can leave some of us in a rut. The switch to Daylight Saving Time causes us to lose an hour of our day in exchange for extended daylight hours throughout the summer,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “What is more, come Monday morning, the commute will look very different for school students waiting for buses and motorists driving to work – in the dark.”
Year-round Eastern Daylight Time? In addition to SB517, the Maryland General Assembly is poised to consider its house version, HB 1610. “Delaware is one of the 10 states that passed bills or resolutions to stop the practice of changing the clock twice a year,” noted Townsend. “Another 31 states have introduction legislation to follow suit, and there are two bills pending in the U.S. Congress to address this issue. All state legislation will require related changes to federal law prior to enactment.
A change in time can mean that drivers are more tired than they realize, while transferring daylight from the morning to the evening means drivers and pedestrians will have to adjust to a darker morning commute to work or school, cautioned AAA Mid-Atlantic. It’s critical that both drivers and pedestrians are aware of the potential dangers and act with caution.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recently released the most in-depth drowsy driving research ever conducted in the U.S., using footage of everyday drivers, which found drowsy driving is a factor in about 10% of all crashes – that is eight times higher than previous federal estimates. “Drivers who miss just one or two hours of the recommended seven hours of sleep In a 24-hour period nearly double their risk for a crash,” warned Leah Scully, Traffic Safety Specialist, AAA Mid-Atlantic.
Yet 35% of U.S. drivers sleep less than the recommended minimum of seven hours daily, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a related AAA Foundation survey, nearly all drivers (96%) say they view drowsy driving as a serious threat to their safety and a completely unacceptable behavior. "Still, 27% admitted to driving when they were so tired they had a hard time keeping their eyes open," said Scully.
The other issue increasing risk with the time change is darkness. The Monday morning commute, and the morning commute for several weeks to come, will be much darker than what drivers are used to, a serious concern because 76% of pedestrian fatalities happen when it’s dark, according to the latest findings from the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) released in February 2020.
Since most pedestrian fatalities occur in urban areas, GHSA also examined changes in the number of pedestrian fatalities for the ten most populous U.S. cities. The total number of pedestrian fatalities for the ten largest U.S. cities increased by about 7%, from 613 fatalities in 2017 to 655 in 2018.
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Both SB 517 and HB 1610 call for altering the standard time in Maryland to be Eastern Daylight Time year-round. The public hearing on SB 517 is slated for today, Thursday, March 5, 2020 at 1 p.m. before the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee, in the Miller Senate Office Building.
Future shock? In 2019, Delaware passed a measure (SB73) which calls for the state to end the clock changes as soon as Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland pass similar legislation. In addition to Maryland, such legislation is also pending in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. “Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Nevada, Oregon and Washington have already passed such bills,” according to news reports.
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