The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine has published a study that may be of interest to parents in California. Researchers analyzed the rate of car crashes involving teen drivers in Fairfax County, Virginia, and saw how it was affected by a change that the county made to its school start times. It was in the fall of 2015 that the county pushed back the time from 7:20 a.m. to 8:10 a.m.
As it turns out, there was a decline in the rate from the year before the change to the year after. Considering only crashes involving licensed drivers aged 16 to 18, researchers found that the rate declined from 31.63 to 29.59 crashes per 1,000 drivers. The rest of Virginia, which did not change its school start times, saw only a steady rate in the same two-year period.
Researchers believe that the change, by allowing teens to get more sleep, reduced their chances of becoming drowsy and distracted behind the wheel. The researchers state that well-rested teen drivers were also less likely to forget their seat belt and take risks behind the wheel.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has recommended that middle and high schools start no sooner than 8:30 a.m. Later start times can improve road safety as well as teens’ classroom performance and psychological well-being.
Of course, drowsy driving is not something entirely unavoidable, and teen drivers will be held liable for any motor vehicle crashes they cause as a result. It is a form of negligence just as much as speeding or drunk driving. For this reason, victims of such a crash can be eligible for compensation under personal injury law. To see how much they might recover in damages, victims may consult a lawyer and hire him or her for settlement negotiations.