Teenagers tend to sleep long and into the late morning due to changes in their internal circadian rhythm. If they do not achieve the 8 to 10 hours of sleep recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, they may drive distracted, forget to wear their seatbelt and take more risks. West Virginia residents should know that one way to minimize this risk is to change school start times.
This is the conclusion proposed by a study that has been recently published by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. In it, researchers analyzed the rate of teen car crashes over a two-year period in Fairfax County, Virginia. Back in the fall of 2015, the county had made a change to the time that its schools start, setting it at 8:10 am rather than 7:20 am.
In the year prior to this change, researchers found that licensed drivers aged 16 to 18 were involved in 31.63 accidents per 1,000 drivers. In the year after, the rate declined to 29.59. The rest of the state, not altering its school start times, saw no change in teen crash rates during that period.
The link seems clear, then. The AASM even recommends that schools delay their start time because it can boost teens’ safety as well as mental health and academic performance.
Teens can sometimes be more prone to distraction than others, but regardless of a driver’s age, he or she will be held liable for any traffic accident caused by distraction. Those who are harmed need to have the defendant’s degree of fault determined before they can consider a claim. In West Virginia, one can recover damages as long as the defendant’s degree of fault is the greater. It may be wise, though, to hire a lawyer for assistance.