A southern Indiana lawmaker is proposing moving Indiana to the Central Time Zone as a safety measure. Senator Eric Bassler, R-Washington, said he will file a bill in the coming weeks to move Indiana out of the Eastern Time Zone and into the Central.
“First of all if you just look at a map it is logical,” said Bassler. “Indiana sits in the center of the country and not on the east coast. We’re a midwestern state. If you just consider the way the sun comes up, it rises about an hour later in Indiana than it does in New York.”
Bassler said he has considered the bill for a couple of years. One thing it will do is put all of Indiana on one time zone. Currently, there are pockets around Chicago and Evansville that are Central Time.
“For some states, having multiple time zones makes sense,” he said. “Tennessee is wide and it sits along the time zone border. Indiana is a slender state. We should all be in one time zone.”
Perhaps the biggest reason the senator filed the bill was safety. He intends to file two bills this session in an attempt to make the roadways safer for children getting on buses in the morning. Those bills are in response to the deaths of three children in northern Indiana earlier this year as they attempted to board a school bus. One of those bills will make it easier to seek out and prosecute people who violate Indiana’s school bus stop arm law. The other is the time change bill.
“We have thousands of kids standing around in the dark along rural country roads every morning,” said Bassler. “Moving the clock back would, in many cases, put them out there during the daylight hours. Even if there are times when the kids get off the bus in the dark, they would be heading home. There would be less time spent by the road. This really is about child safety.”
For one southern Indiana school superintendent, Bassler’s proposal is just right.
“I’m a big proponent of Central Time just for that reason,” said Barr-Reeve School Superintendent Travis Madison. “Some studies have suggested that students would do better if school started later and there are some schools around Indiana that have taken that approach. Ours has not.”
Madison said that the hour change would make more daylight available during some of the more dangerous times of the day.
“I can’t tell you how many times I have been out trying to make a decision on a snow day or a delay for fog and thought if we had more daylight it would help with the visibility and make things safer,” said Madison. “We have roads with hills and curves and blind spots and there are kids standing alongside them. We need more visibility and this just doesn’t impact the kids out there trying to get on the bus. It is also about the safety of the buses and the people in our community who are taking their kids to school and the people in the community who are traveling those roads where the buses run. This is a change that would make things safer and not cost anything.”
Not all school officials though are as enthusiastic about moving to Central time as Madison.
“Before we change time zones, I think we need to have a number of conversations with communities and schools around the state and make sure that doing that would make a difference,” said Washington Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Dan Roach. “During winter, I think we would find that there still would be times where we would load students in the morning in the dark and then wind up unloading them in the dark in the evening. I just feel that needs a lot of study.”
Time changes have a long history of creating problems in Indiana. At one time the northern one-third of the state was on Central time and most of the rest of the state was on Eastern. During that “time compromise” some counties were even cut in two with different parts being in different time zones.
Another time compromise had the state ignore daylight saving time. Clocks were set on Eastern Standard Time year round. That put the state in sync with the east cost for six months and with the midwest for six months. With a push from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, then Governor Mitch Daniels convinced lawmakers to put the state in the Eastern Time Zone and to observe daylight saving time.
“My bill would not touch daylight saving,” said Bassler. “I don’t know how the Indiana Chamber of Commerce will react to this bill. Sometimes you just have to do what is right and what makes sense and if it ruffles a few feathers, so be it.”
As to whether the measure has a chance of making its way through the legislative process, Bassler calls it a toss up.
“I give it a 50-50 chance to get passed,” he said. “Of course, it might become so controversial that it will get sent to a committee and never get a hearing or see the light of day again.”