Special commission in Massachusetts recommends ending practice of moving clocks forward, back

Days before most U.S. residents "fall back," a special commission in Massachusetts recommended Wednesday against switching to year-round daylight saving time — and ending the practice of moving clocks forward and back twice a year — unless most other Northeast states also participate.

The panel spent months studying a possible shift from the Eastern to the Atlantic time zone, which would effectively result in 12 months of daylight saving time. The commission said in its final report that such a change could be beneficial "under certain circumstances."

Most notably, a majority of other Northeast states would have to act in concert to adopt the same new time zone, the commission concluded.

"Any move to year-round (daylight saving time) should be regional, because acting alone would make Massachusetts a significant outlier, and could disrupt commerce, trade, interstate transportation, and broadcasting," the report says.

Daylight saving time ends Sunday, when clocks will be set back an hour in all but two U.S. states, Arizona and Hawaii.

Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands observe Atlantic time, as does Nova Scotia and part of Quebec. Seventeen U.S. states are in the Eastern Time Zone.

"There is a real compelling argument to be on one time all year round, said Thomas Emswiler, a public health advocate who first proposed the study commission and was later appointed to serve on it.

After moving to Boston a few years ago, Emswiler said he was horrified to see the sun set around 4 p.m. on cold winter days.

The commission, which voted 9-1 to accept the report, listed several benefits a time zone change could bring: savings in energy costs; an economic boost from an additional hour of daylight for shoppers; and potential reductions in traffic accidents, workplace injuries and seasonal depression, all of which statistically rise after clocks are changed.

"It seems like a 20th century policy that has outlived its usefulness in the 21st century world," said Democratic state Rep. Daniel Cahill, of daylight saving time.

But Cahill joined other commission members in rejecting any notion that Massachusetts act alone.

"That would be foolish, and some would say insane," he said.

The idea of changing time zones has been broached in a handful of other Eastern states. Lawmakers in Maine voted earlier this year to adopt Atlantic time if Massachusetts and New Hampshire also did so.

In a significant wording change from an earlier draft version of the report, the panel said a majority of "Northeast" states, rather than simply New England states, would have to join with Massachusetts in adopting year-round daylight saving time.

Limiting cooperation to New England, critics said, would exclude New York and raise the possibility of Boston and New York City being in different time zones several months a year, a situation that could wreak havoc with financial markets, airline schedules and broadcast programming among other things.

"If we don't have New York, this is a no-go," said Republican state Rep. Paul Frost, who had been the panel's most skeptical member throughout its public meetings and the only one to vote against the final report.

Frost argued the report gave less attention to other potentially negative impacts of a time zone change, including disruptions of public school schedules.