Study Supports Massachusetts Time Zone Change
A Massachusetts special commission recommends a permanent time zone change after looking into its effects on the US state. However, it also sets some conditions.
The special commission studied the practical, economical, and health-related impacts of permanently changing the state's time zone from Eastern Standard Time (EST) to Atlantic Standard Time (AST) and leaving the seasonal Daylight Saving Time (DST) clock changes behind.
In the report, the special commission concludes that the benefits of moving to AST outweigh the problems. However, it presses the need for public awareness and defines two qualifiers for the time zone change to happen.
Firstly, it suggests that any time zone move should be regional because “(...) acting alone would make Massachusetts a significant outlier, and could disrupt commerce, trade, interstate transportation, and broadcasting.” Several states, including neighboring New England states, are considering time-related bills.
Secondly, the commission recommends that a potential time zone change should be accompanied by later school start times. This could not only mitigate the negative effects of darker mornings but improve performance in school.
Through an approach relying on studies, facts, data, and expert hearings, the commission found that there are several positives to changing to AST permanently:
- Economic growth: Lighter afternoons lets people dine out, shop, and engage in other commercial activities after work. The study found that the lighter afternoons could mitigate the negative effects of dark winters and help to attract and retain more talented workers.
- Labor and workforce: The loss of sleep associated with the spring DST transition has negative effects on both productivity and safety. Removing the change could increase productivity and cut down both the number and severity of workplace injuries.
- Public health: Eliminating the spring change could improve public health by removing the risks associated with the loss of sleep time, including traffic fatalities and heart attacks. It could also increase physical activity among residents.
- Energy savings: As a result of peak energy consumption on dark afternoons and evenings, even a small reduction in electricity consumption in those hours could have significant benefits. A later sunset could save energy, resulting in both financial and environmental benefits.
- Crime: The change could reduce street crime due to additional daylight. It could also reduce injustice in the criminal system as studies found that judges give longer sentences and that people of color were more likely to be searched and arrested arbitrarily in the wake of the spring transition to DST.
Though the commission's study sees largely positive effects of a time zone change, it has also found some potential challenges:
- Transportation: The change could have a mixed impact on transportation and communications. It can lead to fewer traffic accidents, but it could also complicate interstate travel. Airports could suffer under the complication of different states' DST rules.
- Broadcasting times: Shifting evening programs to one hour later can prove challenging for Massachusetts broadcasters, especially for news or live events. It could also affect residents' sleeping habits.
- School start times: Shifting an hour of daylight from the morning to the afternoon makes for darker mornings, meaning that children would have to commute to school in the dark. However, lighter afternoons could be beneficial for after-school activities.
Time Zones in the US
If introduced, Atlantic Standard Time (AST) would be a new time zone in the US. It is currently only observed as standard time in some parts of Canada, such as New Brunswick.
The contiguous US has four general time zones, Pacific Time, Mountain Time, Central Time, and Eastern Time. Alaska and Hawaii follow their own time zones. Hawaii and most of Arizona do not use DST.