Established standards of time within the United States first came into use in 1883, when U.S. and Canadian railroads adopted a four-zone system to govern their operations and reduce the confusion resulting from some 100 conflicting local sun times observed in terminals across the country.
During World War I, agitation for "daylight saving," which had been successfully tried in Europe and which was advocated as a measure to conserve fuel and increase national efficiency, led Congress in 1918 to make time standards a matter of federal legislation and to divide the territory of the continental United States into five zones -- Eastern, Central, Mountain, Pacific and Alaska. It also provided that the standard time of each zone should be advanced one hour for seven months of each year, beginning on the last Sunday in March and ending on the last Sunday in October. That is exactly what I am now proposing in a bill, S. 879.
There have been numerous changes in the Daylight Saving Time System. Except during wartime, Daylight Saving Time was an option left to the various states. By the summer of 1961, Daylight Saving Time had spread to areas with a total population of roughly 102 million people (about 56 percent of the population). But there was confusion attending the annual change to and from Daylight Saving Time in some areas while other areas maintained standard time.
Five years later, Congress enacted the Uniform Time Act, which called for the adoption of April-to-October daylight time. Then in 1973, Congress enacted another bill, providing for year-round daylight saving time. The following year Congress provided for an eight-month daylight time period, from the last Sunday in February until the last Sunday in October. The year after that the nation returned to six months of Daylight Saving Time.
There are several reasons for enactment of this latest legislation. But the two principal reasons for making this change are: 1) that it is a step toward combating this nation's rapidly rising violent crime rates; and 2) that it conforms the start of Daylight Saving Time to most peoples' life styles and preferences.
Expanding Daylight Saving Time is one modest piece in the larger puzzle of actions this Congress can take to fight violent crime. The administraton's final report on the operation and effects of daylight time showed that there was "consistently less violent crime for DST periods when compared with similar periods of standard time."
Daylight Saving Time also happens to be popular. The administration's study showed that of the people who had an opinion of eight-month Daylight Saving Time, as opposed to six-month, almost twice as many people preferred the longer period.
I am aware that there are some areas cross the country that are content with the six-month Daylight Saving Time period. I have attempted to take a modest approach in this bill and seek an extension of only one month rather than two. A two-month extension -- that is, beginning on the last Sunday in February -- would provide a symmetrical daylight to darkness system. Thus, sunrise and sunset at the start of Daylight Saving Time would be the same time as at the end of daylight time in October. Although I acknowledge the logic and increased benefits of an eight-month system, my bill simply returns us to the Daylight Saving Time system originally established by the 1918 act. It poses a minimal amount of dislocation, while presenting us with the potential for significantly reducing violent crime, and more adequately corresponding to the living styles of the majority of Americans.