Just two weeks ago, Indiana made the change to Daylight Saving Time, but another time issue is now being discussed in our state: the time zone.
Although Indiana currently operates in Eastern time, some are discussing the permanent switch to Central time. According to its website, the Central Time Coalition is an organization that works to return Indiana to “its geographically correct Central time zone.”
After a proposed resolution to switch time zones failed in the Statehouse, the coalition now leads a petition to raise awareness of the switch. Sue Dillon, president of the coalition, explains her stance:
What is the dominant reason for this resolution?
I think it’s the safety for the students; that’s the most dominant and the most obvious reason. We are out of our correct time zone, so we have excessively dark mornings, and it’s unsafe. We are tracking a lot of information, and one of the things that we are tracking is incidents that occur to students before sunrise. To date there have been seven students so far who have been hit by cars. None of them were killed this year, but last year there was one who was killed and another one with a broken neck… That’s such a tragedy. There have been 5 girls raped (and) about 20 attacked; either robbed or attempted rapes.
Why is Indiana on Eastern time in the first place?
It goes back to 1961, and there were requests from two entities for Indiana to be moved from the Central time zone to the Eastern time zone. The first request came from the national television network. Almost all of television was being broadcast live from their studios in New York. The other request was from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce because at that time they were communicating with the financial centers on the east coast- primarily in New York- by telephone and telegraph. So to be competitive, they wanted to be in the same time zone. So those were the two requests originally.
Has Indiana’s time zone switched since then?
No, we have been in the Eastern time zone for 50 years. The thing that switched back and forth is the observance of daylight savings time. (The Central Time Coaliation) supports Daylight Savings Time because we think if the rest of the country is going to be changing their clocks, we need to stay in sync with them, because it’s detrimental to business. But there’s no advantage to business for us to be in the Eastern time zone anymore because the two original petitioners…aren’t valid any longer. Television is recorded digitally in California, mainly, and delivered by cable or satellite. Financial transactions are accomplished through computers, so those original reasons no longer exist.
What is the current progress of legislation to switch Indiana’s time zone?
The entity that makes the final decision is the federal government- the Department of Transportation- but the request needs to come from the state. And it’s either the government can request a time zone change on behalf of the citizens of the state, or the legislature can request it. But they need to vote on it to pass, or it can be done county-by-county. We’ve had two resolutions, one in the House and one in the Senate, and it did get a hearing in the House but it did not get a vote. So it’s over for the year, but the issues were heard by that committee. We are collecting petitions now, and we have 55 hundred now. That’s what we’re concentrating on, getting people to sign petitions for restoring Indiana to Central time. Our goal is to get a 100 thousand this year, and we think we can accomplish that because we have a lot of public events this summer. I think it will be easy because we have a lot of people unhappy with our time situation.
Would there be any problems in switching time zones after so long?
Some people like the Eastern time in the summer because they like having the sun set at 10 o’ clock. But other people don’t like it, and that’s a matter of personal preference based on lifestyle, and the preferences are split. There was a poll done by two television stations at the same time in January, and they asked “Which time zone do you prefer?” and in one of those polls, 69 percent indicated that they preferred Central time. The other one was split, but it’s not unanimous, so there will be people that will not be happy. But there are a lot of people who aren’t happy right now.
Who can sign the petition?
It says they need to print their name and then sign their name and put their address, and we want to know the city and the county they’re in because it’s pretty hard to sign a petition where somebody has signed their name, rather than online. Quite frankly, as far as I’m concerned, I think high school aged kids should be allowed to sign the petition, because they may be legal voters by the time this gets passed. The resolution will be back again (in the House) next year, and we just have to keep going. People have not known that we were doing this. We actually started the petitions in September, and now that people know that there’s an organized effort, I’m getting petitions everyday in the mail. They either have to fax them to me or mail them to me or they can scan them and email them.
Does the petition have any legal standing?
This petition has no legal standing, it creates awareness. These aren’t being checked by anybody, they’re just proof of support.
Overall, how do you feel about the time zone situation in Indiana?
I think it’s very important, and this goes back to our constitution. Students have no choice but to be out and to be pedestrians in the dark, and that’s an unsafe situation no matter what age you are and what time that occurs. We have 1.35 million students in Indiana, and they’re forced to be in an unsafe situation every morning they travel to school. Doesn’t that sound like a violation of our constitution to you?