VIEWPOINT: Eastern time zone is Hoosiers’ best bet

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The Indiana General Assembly crusade to enact daylight-saving time legislation was legendary. The rising and falling fortunes, near-defeats and ultimate success have been well-chronicled. It turns out, however, that one battle may be over,
but the fight still must go on.

An amendment to the original legislation requires the General Assembly and Gov. Mitch Daniels to petition the U.S. Department of Transportation to hold hearings throughout the state. The reason: to determine what time zone (Eastern or Central) the 77 counties or any specific county making the switch should observe. The 10 counties in northwest and southwest Indiana that now observe Central Daylight Saving Time will, according to the legislation, continue to do so, as will the five counties in southeastern Indiana that already observe Eastern Daylight Saving Time.

The legislation does not require the governor or General Assembly to show any preference to either the Eastern or Central time zone. But all involved should demonstrate a strong preference for those 77 counties to observe EDST.

The bill that was introduced and to which the governor gave his strong support called for Indiana to observe EDST. The General Assembly voted to enact daylight-saving time, not daylight-losing time. Moving to central time would eliminate the DST advantage, because the summer sun would set at the same time it does now under Eastern Standard Time. In the winter, we would trade evening daylight for light in the wee hours of the morning, when it is of limited value.

Moving portions of Indiana out of the Eastern time zone would make the hardfought DST victory a hollow one. The reasons include:

The economy. Indiana companies do more of their business with states to the East than in any other time zone. In 2002, the numbers were more than $197 million in tangible business between Indiana companies and firms in EDST states, according to a U.S. Census Bureau survey.

Safety. EDST adds evening sunlight in the summer. A U.S. DOT study shows DST or additional sunlight reduces traffic fatalities 7 percent annually (that’s 58 Indiana lives) and reduces crime 10 percent annually (that’s almost 21,000 fewer personal and property-related crimes). CDST takes away an hour of evening sunlight in the winter, reduces these safety benefits, and increases the risk of further fatalities and crimes.

Quality of life. More evening sunlight equals more family time and opportunities for healthier living through outdoor activities. Neither would happen under CDST. In fact, the sun would set before 5 p.m. every day from late October through late January.

Energy savings. DST typically provides a 3-percent to 4-percent reduction in energy costs (annual savings of $617 million in Indiana) and would save the equivalent of 10,000 barrels of oil a day. These savings would turn into additional costs under CDST.

In the last 30 years, time zone changes have been few and far between, typically involving only a county or two at a time. The enactment of DST is a major move toward improving Indiana’s often lackluster national and international image. Let’s not take one step forward and two backward with a time zone switch.

The U.S. DOT has the final say. It will listen, however, to the message it hears in Indiana-particularly from its leaders. It’s their responsibility to finish the job and help ensure the prosperity of our state by calling for Indiana’s 77 changing counties to observe EDST.

More business transactions. Fewer traffic fatalities. Reduced crime. Additional energy savings. Indiana is depending on it.

Wells is president of REI Investments.

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