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Editorial: We tried year-round daylight saving time in 1974. People hated it.

In December 1973, in the midst of an energy crisis, President Richard Nixon signed into law a bill that would make daylight saving time permanent for two years, beginning Jan. 1, 1974.

People hated it. They didn’t like the 8:30 a.m. sunrise for the vast majority of Americans. And they were appalled at the early reports from Florida of eight children hit and killed by cars while heading to school in the dark.

By February, even the co-author of the bill, Rep. William Ketchum, R-Calif., was having second thoughts. “The time to admit a mistake is when you’ve made one,” Ketchum told the New York Times.

A NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll in December 1973 showed 79% percent of Americans approved making daylight saving time permanent. Three months after it became law, approval had plummeted to 42%.

Nixon resigned in August in the wake of the Watergate investigation. In September, Congress sent President Gerald Ford a bill repealing the law, and on Oct. 27, Americans rolled back their clocks.

Yet Congress seems to have forgot that hard lesson. The Senate last week passed legislation that would make daylight saving time permanent starting in 2023, ending the twice-annual changing of the clocks. The House would still have to pass the bill, and President Biden would have to sign it before it could become law. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., calls it “an idea whose time has come.”

California voters already endorsed the concept when they passed Proposition 7 in 2018. Supporters then, as they do now, argue that it would create more economic activity if people have more daylight hours in the late afternoon and evening. They also say Americans would greatly prefer not having to set their clocks ahead in the spring and back in the fall.

The 1974 experiment says otherwise.

Consider California, where 6 million children attend K-12 schools. Studies show that 35% of schoolchildren still make their own way to school every morning. If permanent daylight saving time becomes law, they will be walking or biking to school in the dark for three months every year. On Feb. 1, 2023, for example, in the Bay Area, sunrise would be about 8:11 a.m. instead of 7:11 a.m.

It’s a significant concern. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 70% of all fatal pedestrian accidents occur when its dark. The agency also says that 20% of[ pedestrians killed in traffic crashes are children younger than 15.

Protecting children is parents’ highest priority. That should go double for Congress. The House should stop putting children’s lives at greater risk and kill the bill to make daylight saving time permanent.

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