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Dairy cows want to make Daylight Savings Time permanent. Does Michigan?

Cows
Cows are creatures of habit who are best milked at consistent hours. The United States should “ust set the time and leave it.” said Bob Thompson, president of the Michigan Farmers Union. (Shutterstock)

LANSING— Measures to make Daylight Savings Time year-round are getting bipartisan support from state and national legislators. 

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill that would make Daylight Saving Time permanent. The bill came days after the nation turned its clocks forward one hour this week, and as the Michigan Senate is sitting on a bill that would do the same thing and passed the House in March 2021.

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Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, who sponsored the Senate’s version of the bill, said changing the clock does more harm than good. Irwin’s bill encompasses both the part of Michigan that operates in the Eastern Time Zone and the four Upper Peninsula counties that operate in Central Time. 

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“The tradition of changing our clocks twice a year is anachronistic,” Irwin said. “The switching of the clocks twice a year is causing real disruption in people's lives.”

Americans alternate between standard time and Daylight Savings, which countries like Germany and the United States implemented to save energy during World War I. It became a national practice in the United States in the 1960s.

Irwin is referring to studies that showed an uptick in traffic crashes, workplace injuries and productivity loss that occur when Americans change their clocks. 

According to 20 years of data analyzed by federal officials, the first week of Daylight Savings Time is linked to a 6 percent increase in car crashes. There’s also a link to workplace mishaps: the Occupational Safety and Health Administration analyzed data from 1983 to 2006 that showed “Daylight Savings Time results in people getting 40 minutes less sleep, a 6 percent increase in workplace injuries and nearly 68 percent more workdays lost to injuries.”

Irwin said those problems would be mitigated if lawmakers stuck with one time.

If they did, people would first notice sunlight — as the sun wouldn’t rise until about 9 a.m. during the winter and set an hour later, around 6 p.m., said Martin Baxter, an earth and atmospheric professor at Central Michigan University. 

Opponents of keeping Daylight Savings Time argue it will result in icier road conditions because of the late sunrise, more cars on the road and colder mornings. 

“A lot of this is a matter of opinion and based on people’s unique schedules,” Baxter said. “Weather-wise, I don’t think there would be that many more impacts, with just an hour’s difference and considering that when we go to work now it’s already dark.”

The measure has support from one constituency: dairy farmers, whose cows are used to being milked at specific times. 

“When you change the time, typically their production backs off for a period until they settle into their new routine,” said Bob Thompson, president of the Michigan Farmers Union. 

“Having a stable timeframe is much better than just switching back and forth. Just set the time and leave it.”

An extra hour of sunlight in the evening could help people cope with seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression related to changes in the seasons and daylight hours. 

Jacob Rivard of Romeo has the condition and said it can be especially hard at the start of winter when the sun sets at 5 p.m.

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“There’s a two to three month period where I just completely shut down,” Rivard said. “In recent years, I’ve planned trips to warmer places to temporarily recharge the battery when things get bad.”

If the U.S. House of Representatives follows the Senate’s lead and passes the bill, Michigan would not need to pass its own legislation to keep the summer schedule of Daylight Savings Time year-round.

Irwin said if passed, his bill would only go into effect if neighboring states Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania adopted similar legislation. Ohio passed a similar but nonbinding resolution in 2020. Sixteen states have enacted legislation for year-round Daylight SavingsTime

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