A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine has connected later school start times with a lower rate of auto accidents involving teen drivers. Parents of teen drivers in New Jersey should know that no less an authority than the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends later start times for high schools, citing improved teen safety, health and academic performance as reasons.
The study looked at teen car crashes that occurred in the year before and after the fall 2015 change that Fairfax County, Virginia, made to its school start times. Specifically, the county pushed back the start time a full 50 minutes from 7:20 am to 8:10 am. In the year preceding this, there were 31.63 crashes involving licensed drivers aged 16 to 18 per 1,000 drivers. In the year after, it had fallen to 29.59. Crash rates remained steady for the rest of the state, which did not change its school start times.
It appears that by getting more sleep, teens become less likely to engage in unsafe behaviors like distracted driving and seatbelt neglect. It’s important for teens to achieve adequate sleep since their circadian rhythms undergo changes that result in them sleeping longer and later. Those aged 13 to 18 should ideally get 8 to 10 hours of sleep.
Drowsy and distracted driving are just two of many forms of negligence. If a drowsy or distracted driver causes a crash, those who were hurt in it may be able to pursue a personal injury case. New Jersey is a no-fault state, so most cases can be settled with drivers’ own insurance company. However, if the injuries were serious, then victims may file a third-party insurance claim and be compensated for non-monetary damages as well. Consulting a lawyer might be a good idea.