A blog post by Colin Savino, Junior Associate
In 2019, the European Parliament voted 410-192-51 in favor of ending biennial time changes based on the Transport Committee’s recommendation. However, the European Council would not approve or decide the details of the policy until the European Commission conducted an impact assessment. The Council is made mostly of heads of state, while the Commission is the E.U.’s executive arm. The main detail at issue was whether the year-round time for the future should be Daylight Saving Time (DST) or Standard Time (ST). For perspective, daylight in year-round ST might be 4:11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the summer solstice, and 7:57 a.m. to 4:23 p.m. at the winter solstice. Meanwhile, daylight in year-round DST might be 5:11 a.m. to 9:10 p.m., and 8:57 a.m. to 5:23 p.m. at the winter solstice.
Since 2019, the E.U. has become occupied with the pandemic, Brexit, and war in Ukraine. As a result, the E.U put time change discussions aside. Though the pandemic, Brexit, and Ukraine initially overshadowed the time change issue, they have reinvigorated it in recent months because of the high energy costs these conditions have exacerbated.In September 2022, Alessandro Miani, president of the Italian Society of Environment Medicine voiced support for permanent ST, which was projected to save Italy $500 million on gas.
DST originated in Germany in 1916 to save coal during World War I. Ever since, about 70 countries around the world have continuously adjusted their DST policies to minimize emissions and energy costs. However, the world’s energy usage has change immensely in the past century. A 2011 Review of Economics and Statistics study suggests that evidence of DST’s environmental benefit is ambiguous at best and may even increase residential energy consumption. While DST reduced energy demand for lighting, it increased demand for heating and cooling in Indiana. However, as seasonal fluctuations in daylight and temperature may differ in Europe from North America, it is hard to say how universal these results would be.
Other policy considerations are based in crime or health and safety. The current yearly switch to DST usually causes a slight increase in car accidents and heart attacks. As a result, the medical community generally favors year-round ST over DST, as it “is more aligned with humans’ circadian rhythms… and disrupting that rhythm has been linked to higher risks of heart disease, obesity, and depression.” The impact of sleep deprivation is so significant, an American Psychological Association study even found criminal defendants receive harsher sentences immediately following the yearly switch to DST.
In a Wake Forest Law Review article, Steve Calandrillo cites data suggesting that earlier sunsets, as with year-round ST, would lead to increased crime and rush hour traffic fatalities. While Calandrillo supports year-round DST, he notes a downside is that children would need to get to school in the dark during winter. A common fear is that this increases the risk of cars hitting children while they wait for school busses. Though the increased risk is not statistically proven, Calandrillo suggests that schools delay their openings during a few weeks in the winter and that the other benefits of year-round DST would outweigh this inconvenience.
Year-round DST, year-round ST, and the current seasonal DST system all have unique trade-offs. Therefore, DST will continue to be a contentious topic in the E.U., especially as it grapples with ways to reduce energy costs. Though not a daily headline, time changes quietly impact the economy, environment, human health, crime, and traffic safety to unknown proportions. In turn, the element of uncertainty in these contentious issues magnifies the enigma of DST.
 The EU Parliament votes for the end of the time change from 2021, Die Zeit (Mar. 26, 2019), https://www.zeit.de/wissen/2019-03/eu-parlament-stimmt-fuer-ende-der-zeitumstellung-ab-2021?utm_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.bloomberg.com%2Fnews%2Farticles%2F2019-03-28%2Fwhy-time-changes-are-a-transportation-matter.
 Feargus O’Sullivan, Why Europe Couldn’t Stop Daylight Saving Time, Bloomberg (Mar. 11, 2021), https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-03-11/will-daylight-saving-time-ever-end.
 Christine Clarridge, Permanent daylight saving time passes state Senate 46-2; here’s what’s next, The Seattle Times (Apr. 17, 2019), https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/permanent-daylight-saving-time-in-washington-gets-closer-with-senate-approval/.
 Alice Tidey, When will the EU end seasonal clock change? Only time will tell, Euronews.com (Nov. 28 2022), https://www.euronews.com/my-europe/2022/10/28/when-will-the-eu-end-seasonal-clock-changes-only-time-will-tell.
 Feargus O’Sullivan, Why Changing Clocks Could Exacerbate Europe’s Energy Crisis, Bloomberg (Oct. 25, 2022), https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-10-25/why-daylight-saving-could-worsen-europe-s-energy-crisis.
 Emilio Parodi, Italian scientists call for year-round summer time to cut energy costs, Reuters (Sept. 2022), https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/italian-scientists-call-year-round-summer-time-cut-energy-costs-2022-09-02/.
 Christopher Klein, 8 Things You May Not Know About Daylight Saving Time, History.com (Mar. 16 2022), https://www.history.com/news/8-things-you-may-not-know-about-daylight-saving-time.
 Matthew J. Kotchen & Laura E. Grant, Does Daylight Saving Time Save Energy? Evidence From
a Natural Experiment in Indiana, 93 Rev. of Econ. & Stat. 1172, 1172 (Nov. 2011).
 Id.; Klein, supra note 11 (explaining that fewer countries near the equator use DST because the length of days and temperatures fluctuate less between seasons).
 Carolyn Crist, Sleep Experts Recommend Permanent Standard Time, Rather than DST, WebMD (Mar. 17, 2022), https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20220317/sleep-experts-permanent-standard-time-vs-dst.
 Kyoungmin Cho et al., Sleepy Punishers Are Harsh Punishers: Daylight Saving Time and Legal Sentences. 28 Psych. Sci. 242, 242 (Dec. 2016).
 Steve P. Calandrillo & Dustin E. Buehler, Time Well Spent: An Economic Analysis of Daylight Saving Time Legislation, 43 Wake Forest L. Rev.45, 70, 76 (2008).
 Id. at 88-89.