Customs: A Chaos of Clocks

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It's about time to do something about time. This was the consensus of a parade of witnesses representing transportation, communication, finance and farm who testified last week before a Senate committee called to consider three bills for reforming the U.S.'s unhappy clock chaos. It was an apt coincidence that the committee convened on the first full day of Daylight Saving Time.

Daylight Saving Time in the District of Columbia, that is. Across the border in Virginia, Arlington moved forward one hour, but Richmond will stay behind until May 30—at which point it will be an hour ahead of the city of Bristol. At the end of August, Richmond will rejoin Bristol, but be an hour behind Arlington for two months more.

Of the 28 states that observe D.S.T., only half impose it on a statewide basis, and they all turn it on and off whenever they feel like it. Compounding the confusion are the country's four time zones. In Indiana, for instance, the boundary between Eastern Standard and Central Standard Time splits the state from north to south. In parts of northern Idaho, Daylight Saving Time is observed on a door-to-door basis. And passengers on the 35-mile bus route between Steubenville, Ohio, and Moundsville, W. Va., would, if they wanted to keep local time for all the stops on the way, have to adjust their watches no less than seven times.

Most of the witnesses at last week's Senate Commerce Committee hearing cited the wastefulness and expense of the U.S. time snarl. Chief pressure group for reform is the year-old Committee for Time Uniformity, whose chairman, Robert Ramspeck, disclaimed efforts to force Daylight Saving Time on everybody (as in World Wars I and II). "What we do urge, however, is that such jurisdictions as do observe D.S.T. should, in the interest of uniformity, begin and end D.S.T. on the fourth Sundays of April and October of each year."