Researchers who studied the relationship between a delayed school start time and teen-driver car accidents in Fairfax County, Virginia, found that starting the school day later was associated with decreased crash risks among drivers in high school.
In the fall of 2015, Fairfax County schools pushed back school start times by 50 minutes from 7:20 a.m. to 8:10 a.m. Medical researchers analyzed motor vehicle accident statistics involving adolescents in Fairfax County for two school years before and after the implementation of later school start times.
The results showed that the crash rate among 16-to-18-year-old licensed drivers decreased significantly in Fairfax County after the delayed start, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. By contrast, the teen crash rate remained steady throughout the rest of Virginia. The study was published online by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
What are the Benefits of Schools Having Later Start Times?
In the news release, senior study author Dr. Judith Owens, MPH, professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and director of sleep medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital, noted that motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 cause of deaths among adolescents in the U.S.
“Teenagers who get more sleep are less likely to make poor decisions, such as not wearing a seat belt or engaging in distracted driving,” Owens said. “One of the potential mechanisms for this reduction in car crashes is a decrease in behaviors that are related to risk-taking.”
In other words, teens are more likely to be well-rested when they drive to school and less likely to make poor decisions that lead to car accidents.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine supports middle and high school start times of 8:30 a.m. or later to promote teen health, safety, and academic performance. The AASM’s school start time position statement “is based on scientific evidence that teenagers experience changes to their internal circadian rhythms and biological sleep drive that result in later sleep and wake times,” the AASM says.
According to the AASM, a delayed school start time offers several benefits:
- Greater likelihood that teens will get enough sleep on school nights.
- Students who are more alert and able to achieve peak classroom performance.
- Reduced tardiness and absences, which will improve opportunities for learning.
- Better mental health and psychological well-being among students.
- An improvement in teen driving safety.
Young, novice drivers have a higher crash risk when sleep-deprived, and motor vehicle crashes account for 35% of all deaths and 73% of deaths from unintentional injury in teenagers, the AASM says.
Teen Driving Laws and Teen Accidents in New York
New York has a complex, multi-stage licensing process that allows teens to gain exposure gradually to driving situations and ease them into driving over an extended period of time. At age 16, NY residents may apply for a learner’s permit. With a learner’s permit, teens may only drive while under the immediate supervision of an approved license holder in the front passenger seat.
After having held a learner’s permit for at least 6 months, teens may apply for a junior driver’s license. Teens with junior driver’s licenses are allowed to drive on their own with certain restrictions. For example, teens may not drive with more than one unrelated passenger under age 21.
At age 17, teens are eligible for a full unrestricted license if they have a junior driver’s license and have completed a driver education course. At age 18, teens with a junior driver’s license will automatically receive their full license in the mail.
The system differs for teens in Upstate New York, Nassau, and Suffolk counties and in New York City. Holders of a junior driver’s license may not drive in New York City. Other areas have specific times in which teens are allowed to drive with a junior driver’s license.
The New York State Department of Health says motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for teens age 16 to 17 in New York State. Every day, approximately 10 people are killed or seen in hospitals due to car crashes caused by a teen driver. Male teen drivers are more likely to be seriously injured or killed in a car crash than their female counterparts.
The N.Y. Health Department also says teen drivers are more likely to drive drowsy or fall asleep behind the wheel when compared to more experienced drivers. Male teen drivers are twice as likely than female teen drivers to drive drowsy or fall asleep behind the wheel.
Several factors beyond driving while drowsy or fatigued contribute to dangerous driving by teens in New York. If you have been hurt or have lost a close family member in a New York City car accident caused by a teenage driver, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries or other losses. For a free initial consultation about a claim for compensation, call the car accident attorneys of David Resnick & Associates, P.C. now or fill out our online contact form.
Teenagers Need Proper Sleep
The AASM recommends that 13- to 18-year-olds sleep 8 to 10 hours a day. Sleeping less than the recommended amount on a regular basis increases the risk of accidents, injuries, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, depression, and attention, behavior and learning problems. Insufficient sleep in teenagers is also associated with increased risk of self-harm, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.
The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine (JCSM), also says middle school and high school start times should be 8:30 a.m. or later. It recommends that middle and high school students have:
- A cool, dark, quiet sleep environment
- Adequate time for 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night
- Consistent bedtimes and wake times on weekdays and weekends
- A regular bedtime routine to cue the body that sleep is imminent
- Morning light exposure.
Furthermore, the use of sleep-disrupting electronic devices near bedtime or during the night should be avoided, because the light emitted from electronic devices, particularly blue wavelengths, can suppress the production of melatonin and contribute to difficulty falling asleep, the JCSM says.