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Study connects school start times with teen safety on the road

The safety of teens on the road can largely depend on the amount of sleep they get. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends 8 to 10 hours for 13- to 18-year-olds. At the same time, teens tend to sleep late into the day, which can cause a conflict when schools start so early in the morning. One way to avoid this conflict, then, would be to change the times when school starts in Ohio.

One particular county in Virginia, Fairfax County, pushed its school start time from 7:20 am to 8:10 am. This change, made in 2015, and its possible effect on teen car crash rates were the subject of a study published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine. Researchers analyzed the crash rates for the year before the change and the year after.

Ultimately, they found a decline in the rate of car crashes involving licensed drivers aged 16 to 18. In the first year, it was 31.63 collisions per 1,000 drivers while in the second, it was 29.59. The rest of Virginia, making no change to its school start times, only saw a steady rate of teen crashes in that two-year period.

Later school start times, then, may improve teen drivers' safety. The AASM adds that teens' academic performance and mental well-being may improve as well.

This is important because a distracted or drowsy driver is a negligent driver and will be held accountable for any accidents he or she causes. Victims may pursue a personal injury claim if they contributed no more than 50% to the crash, but any degree of fault will proportionally lower the damages they recover. To help in negotiations with the auto insurance companies, victims might want a lawyer. The lawyer may bring in investigators to prove the other's negligence.

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