Indiana Time

Debate 1:
Daylight Saving
   The West Wing >

Debate 2:
Eastern vs Central 

More Info
The West Wing
The above scene is from season four, episode one of The West Wing (an episode called 20 Hours in America, Part 1). In the episode the president is campaigning in a fictionalized southern Indiana when the three characters Toby, Josh and Donna are left behind by the presidential motorcade. They make their way across southern Indiana with the assistance of a local campaign volunteer.

In this scene the characters mention of the time zone changing when crossing over into Dearborn County. This situation ended in 2006 when Indiana began to observe Daylight Saving Time state wide. This episode was originally aired September 25, 2002.

There are many problems with this scene - primarily the fact that Dearborn County is not close to Unionville (in Monroe County). Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center is 45 miles southwest of Unionville in Martin County. Josh mentions that he has 15 minutes to reach a plane three miles away. The scene suggests that the fictional air force base the trio was trying to reach was in Dearborn County.

What should be noted is that in order for the trio to have their watches set to "12:45" at that moment in the show they would have needed to set their watches to "Eastern Standard Time" (which would have been the official local time for all locations mentioned and the rest of Indiana). Dearborn County was officially (from the US Government perspective) also on Eastern Standard Time. If the fictional air force base Air Force One departed had been in Dearborn County it would have observed the US Government prescribed time for that county - not the locally preferred unofficial time zone.

There are other fictionalizations better off ignored. It is a funny scene and it does allow one to consider the problems addressed when crossing a time zone boundary. The frustrations expressed by Josh and Toby needing to do business on the other side of a time boundary have been felt by Hoosiers. Especially in Dearborn County where (until 2006) their official government time chosen by state leaders in Indianapolis was not convenient for doing business in the Cincinnati region.

Every time zone has a boundary and while most boundaries are at state lines there are twelve states where the time zone boundary is a county line. Putting those boundaries in the right place - where it is convenient for commerce - is a task delegated to the Secretary of Transportation.

Locations noted on The West Wing. Reynolds AFB does not exist.
Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center is 45 miles southwest of Unionville.