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I Won’t Rest Until Daylight Saving Time Dies

Tom Emswiler will fall back begrudgingly on Sunday.

The 37-year-old Massachusetts public-health advocate is the de facto leader of a growing movement to shift New England to Atlantic Standard Time, which is one hour ahead of the Eastern Time Zone and is essentially a Canadian thing. The switch, he contends — keeping the clock an hour forward all year — wouldn’t be as radical as it sounds. Currently, New England is only on Eastern Standard Time for five months a year, from early November until early March. In the spring, summer, and early fall, it’s on Eastern Daylight Time, which is already the same as Atlantic Standard Time.

Emswiler led his crusade with a 2014 Boston Globe op-ed entitled “Why Mass. Should Defect from Its Time Zone.” He’s been gaining allies ever since, both within Massachusetts and in neighboring states — a legislator in Maine, for instance, sponsored a bill earlier this year that would move Maine to the Atlantic Time Zone.

He’s a member of an 11-member state commission studying whether Massachusetts should do the same. Yesterday, by a 9–1 vote (one commissioner was absent), they decided to send such a measure to the Massachusetts state legislature.

Here’s why he never wants to move his clocks forward or backward again.

I moved to Massachusetts from D.C. in 2011 after grad school.

My parents are from New England, so I’d been here in the summer, but rarely in December. August is fine, and it’s beautiful in the fall. But as it got into December, I was like, “Boy, it’s really dark out.”

It reminded me of London — that constant chilly gray. But that at least makes sense — London is so far north, it’s practically near the Arctic Circle. New England, however, is not!

Then I looked at the Eastern Time Zone on a map and saw that it spanned from Michigan to Maine.

I was like, “What if we’re in the wrong time zone altogether?”

Next, I studied the research and found that there are more car accidents when we spring forward in March, because millions of people across 48 states essentially get jet lag all at once. There’s also an increase in heart attacks and workplace accidents when we spring forward because people aren’t getting enough sleep.

Another study found that New England is the worst region in the country at holding on to college graduates. That’s partly because we have some of the finest universities in the world here — if you go to Harvard, you’re more likely to return to your hometown after graduation than students at UMass Amherst. But it would be nice to keep a few more of those kids, and dramatically increasing our daylight would certainly help.

A couple of Octobers ago, I wrote an op-ed in the Boston Globe laying out my argument. It blew up on Twitter. The local CBS meteorologist even had me on TV to talk about it.

The response was so positive that I called my state senator, John Keenan, and suggested filing a bill that would study the issue. The bill received a hearing — for which I submitted a two-page, single-spaced written testimony — and it passed. Last spring, I learned it got added to a larger bill that was a priority for both Governor Charlie Baker and the Democratic legislature so it sneaked through. All of a sudden, in the first week of August, my little bill to create a commission to study this issue was law.

The commission convened with hearings in January with community members and experts from various sectors of the economy testifying about the pros and cons of changing the clocks. In the end, though, they agreed with my initial assessment: We should migrate to the Atlantic Time Zone. Or at least put it up for a vote in the Massachusetts legislature.

And now, hopefully, darkness will finally fall on daylight saving time in New England.