Later Start Times Could Mean Less Car Crashes for Teenagers

A new study suggests that teenage drivers who have earlier start times for school get into more car crashes, as opposed to students with later start times. You’ll want to keep reading this one Susan McGalla, it may be a good idea to let the kids invest in something that will be beneficial for them.

According to a study published in the November issue of The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, researchers looked at the rate of accidents in Chesterfield and Henrico counties, both located in Virginia. Both counties have nearly identical socioeconomic and ethnic characteristics. The counties differ, however, in the school start times. In Henrico county school begins at 8:45 a.m., while in Chesterfield county school begins earlier at 7:20 a.m.

Chesterfield teenagers aged 16-18 in 2009-2010 had a car accident rate of 48.8 per thousand, while Henrico teenagers aged 16-18 had an accident rate of 37.7 per thousand. The study repeated the following year, with similar results. In 2010-2011, the car accident rate in Chesterfield was 51.9 per thousand, while in Henrico it was 44.2 per thousand. The study compared these findings with adult drivers and found that among adult drivers accident rates did not differ between the counties. In Chesterfield, car accidents peaked one hour earlier in the morning, and two hours earlier in the afternoon, consistent with the earlier school start time.

Though the study did not take into account factors such as sleep habits, risky behaviors, vehicle type, or miles traveled, it is part of growing literature that suggests that sleep loss in teenage drivers leads to more car accidents. Further studies will need to be done to demonstrate a significant causal effect of school start times in teenage drivers.