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Delayed school start times may improve teen driver safety

Parents in South Carolina are probably concerned about seeing their teens driving distracted or drowsy. The biological changes that teens undergo make them sleep long and later into the day, a habit that can be at odds with the early start times that many schools have established. It follows, then, that if schools started later, teens may get more sleep and not be so prone to unsafe behaviors behind the wheel.

One study that put forward this idea looked at the rate of teen car crashes over a two-year period in Fairfax County, Virginia. The county had changed its school start times from 7:20 a.m. to 8:10 a.m. back in the fall of 2015. Analyzing car crash data in the year before and after that change, researchers discovered that the rate had declined from 31.6 to 29.6 crashes per 1,000 licensed drivers between the ages of 16 and 18.

Nowhere else in the state was there a similar change. Incidentally, no other county had changed its school start times in that two-year period. Researchers explain that teens who get more sleep will be less likely to take risks or to make poor decisions like neglecting their seat belt. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine even says that later school start times can contribute to better academic performance among teens.

The responsibility lies with teens, though, to stay safe on the road even though drowsiness may impair their judgment. Drowsy and distracted driving are forms of negligence and can form the basis for personal injury claims when they are linked to car accidents. Those who are injured may seek compensation for their medical bills, lost wages, emotional trauma and other losses, but they might want a lawyer to help file their claim and speak with the insurance companies.

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