Ohio parents will want to make sure their teenage children get the recommended 8 to 10 hours of sleep a day because one study has linked early school start times with higher rates of car crashes involving that demographic. The setting was Fairfax County, Virginia, which had pushed its school start times from 7:20am to 8:10am back in 2015. The study period was one year before the change until one year after it.
Researchers compared the accident rate involving licensed drivers between the ages of 16 and 18 and found that Fairfax County saw a decline from 31.63 to 29.59 accidents per 1,000 drivers in the two-year period. No other county in Virginia saw a similar decline or changed its school start times, for that matter.
The study mentions how teens were at a lower risk for distracted driving and other unsafe actions when school started later. One reason why the link is so strong is that teens sleep later into the day due to circadian rhythm changes. An early start to school interrupts this sleep, causing drowsiness and inattention.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that middle and high schools start no sooner than 8:30 am. Besides safer roads, the AASM cites better academic performance and mental well-being as results of the change.
Of course, no amount of safety measures can entirely prevent auto accidents. Teens can be held liable for their negligence just as much as adults can, and victims can have grounds for a personal injury claim. They may want legal assistance, though, since auto insurance companies often deny payment or force them to agree to a low settlement. A lawyer may handle all negotiations and, if necessary, take the matter to court.