The logic of it makes perfect sense: teens don’t function at high levels early in the morning. So the results of a study from the Eastern Virginia Medical school aren’t too shocking: when high schools start too early, teens are more likely to crash their cars on the way there.
The study compared teen accident rates between Virginia Beach and Chesapeake counties, two adjacent Virginia counties with differing school start times.
Robert Vorona, a sleep doctor at the school, compiled data on drivers between 16 and 18 in the two counties. In Virginia Beach, the high schools start at 7:20 a.m., and in Chesapeake, 8:40 a.m.
While the time difference was seemingly minimal, the crash data was drastically different.
Among students who started school very early in Virginia Beach, there were 65.4 car crashes for every 1,000 teen drivers. In Chesapeake County, there were just 46.2 crashes per 1,000 teen drivers.
That is a 40% crash rate increase for schools starting a little over an hour earlier.
While this particular study didn’t account for the time of day of the crashes, this is not the first time school start times have been linked to the crash rate.
A 2008 study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine showed a 16% decrease in accidents when a Kentucky school pushed start times back.
Falling asleep at the wheel is obviously dangerous, but for a new driver, merely being tired can have just as poor an effect on their driving.
To anyone who has ever lived with a teenager, this need for sleep isnt news. The average teen needs 9.25 hours of sleep and typically cant fall asleep until 11, so its no wonder that later start times help.
Several lobbyist groups are already pressuring schools to adopt earlier start times. If you don’t have time to get involved, there are a few things you can do to ensure that your teens are getting enough sleep.
Try turning off cell phones, computers, etc an hour or two before your teen needs to go to sleep so they can start winding down.
Avoid too many caffeinated beveragesand avoid caffeine entirely after 4 p.m.
Consider going over your teens daily schedule with them. When alarms start to go off at 6 a.m., and extracurricular activities last until 6 or 7 p.m., it can be hard to find time to juggle homework and a social life. Learning time management strategies from a young age ensures they can make time for sleep well into their adult life as well.
If your teen still didnt get the necessary amount of sleep, dont let them bike or drive to school. They may hate you for it, but at least they wont be a hazard to themselves or others on the road.
Copyright (c) 2010 James Parrish