Schools starting later may reduce teen driver crashes

Texas residents with teenage children know that teens tend to sleep long and usually late into the day. If school starts early in the morning, then teens may not obtain the full 8 to 10 hours of sleep that the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends, and this can lead to drowsiness behind the wheel and car crashes.

The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine published a study where a group of researchers analyzed the effect of a change that Fairfax County, Virginia, made to its school start times back in 2015. Specifically, the times were pushed back from 7:20 a.m. to 8:10 a.m. Determining the crash rate for licensed 16- to 18-year-old drivers in the year before and after the change, researchers noted a decline: It went from 31.63 to 29.59 crashes per 1,000 drivers.

Interestingly, the crash rate remained steady throughout the rest of Virginia, which did not change the time school started during that two-year period. Researchers noted that teens who got more sleep were less likely to drive distracted and take risks.

The AASM mentions other benefits of later school start times. Among them are fewer absences, less tardiness, fewer sports-related injuries, better academic performance and even better mental health for teens. The organization recommends that middle and high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later.

Still, schools can only do so much for teens, and ultimately, it is up to drivers themselves whether they want to act negligently behind the wheel. When negligent behavior leads to a crash involving a personal injury, the other side can seek compensation. Victims must be less to blame than the defendant, and if they did partially contribute to the crash, then whatever damages they recover will be proportionally lowered. They may want a lawyer to help them achieve a fair settlement.