SALT LAKE CITY — A legislatively mandated push to decide the fate of daylight saving time in Utah came to the Clark Planetarium Thursday and focused on three questions:
Should Utah continue its current "spring forward, fall back" time change practice, should it be replaced by mountain standard time year-round, or should a third option be considered, to create a new daylight saving time which would spring forward an hour for all 12 months of the year.
"I just think this is government at its best. When government listens to constituents and then we respond by setting up a mechanism for them to give us feedback," Rep. Ronda Menlove, R-Garland, said.
That feedback was apparent Thursday as about 30 people voiced their opinions at the planetarium, site of a public meeting that also revealed results of an online petition that has drawn 20,000 responses.
Menlove drafted HB197 to get people talking about the daylight saving time issue, not to solve it. The bill calls for the Governor's Office of Economic Development to collect data through a vote system and report the outcome to a legislative interim committee at the start of the legislative session in January.
As of Thursday, people have voted a total of 20,425 and the site will remain open until August 15. To date, the economic development office reports that 70 percent of respondents are in favor of doing away with daylight saving time, however the website does not limit the number of times a person can submit a response,.
Bills have been drafted on this issue for the past four years as the issue has arisen not just in Utah, but elsewhere as economic data, accident data and even mental health issues are cited as both reasons to end the practice and, in some cases, support it.
Brian Anderson, a Salt Lake City resident, described himself as an outdoor enthusiast, a family man, photographer and pre-diabetic. For him daylight saving time is crucial to get the exercise he needs to stay healthy while spending time with his family and pursue his hobbies.
"The time I have to exercise is after work until dark," Anderson said. "I like to hike, I like to bike, I like to swim, I like to run. I need that daylight hour for my health, and to be active with my family You can’t get nine holes in between work and dark without daylight savings time."
He questioned the real issue at hand, saying that people should consider what part of the day is most important to the community.
"We are talking about an hour of daylight between 4:30 and 5:30 a.m. compared to an hour of daylight between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. Which is more valuable to the community?" he said.
Dicker Andrew, vice president of marketing at Lagoon, highlighted the importance of daylight saving time in terms of business.
"Doing away with daylight saving time would be a major blow to this entire industry. We cherish that extra hour of daylight in the summer. It is very important to us," Andrew said.
Others argued against the spring and fall change, citing sleep irregularity, safety, and other concerns.
Kay Anderson of Provo, said that daylight saving time has affected his sleep schedule for years.
"My main issue is health. I think its unfortunate that we undergo jet lag twice a year," Anderson said.
West Jordan resident, Adam Miller, said his only concern with it was the safety of children going to school in the mornings.
"My preference is to stay on standard time year round, principally for the children going to school in the dark in the mornings. I think it’s a safety concern that outweighs any other inconvenience concern," Miller said.
Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, who also works as a lieutenant in the Utah Highway Patrol, said that there has been an increase in tired drivers who crash after clocks are changed.
"People’s biological clock starts to change and so we have a lot of fatigued drivers, and because of the longer daylight hours people seem to push their limits a little more than we should," Perry said.
Crash data from March of 2012 and 2013 from the Department of Public Safety however, showed that during the past two years there have been fewer crashes following the onset of daylight saving time.
"Sunday is always the lowest day for crashes and weekdays are always the highest, and it also depends on the weather. But just a simple analysis showed that day of daylight saving and the three days after day light saving had lower crashes than the week before," Research Analyst for DPS Gary Mower said.
Sterling Brown, a representative from the Utah Farm Bureau, said the bureau is reviewing the opinions of its membership and will take an official position by the start of the legislative session in January.
"Dealing with livestock, cultivating lands, and harvesting lands during the daylight is a considerable difference versus nighttime," Brown said.
"If we can create a system where there’s more daylight hours then that would help many of the farmers in Utah," he said.
Michael Sullivan, the Communications Director at the Governor's Office of Economic Development, said current sentiment is split along demographic lines. He said that a majority of people who want to get rid of daylight saving time are elderly and that those who want to keep it are employed and working a day shift.
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