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Teen Accidents Connected to Early Start Times, Study Finds

Teen Accidents Connected to Early Start Times, Study Finds

A new study finds that teens who have earlier high school start times may be more prone to getting in car accidents.

“Our study results suggest that early high school start times are problematic for our teens' ability to drive safely, but they cannot prove a causal relationship between early high school start times and increased teen crashes,” said lead author Dr. Robert Daniel Vorona of the Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk in an article on Reuters.com.

Vorona and his coauthors, the article said, “used data from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles to compare car accident frequencies in Chesterfield County, Virginia, where high school classes began at 7:20 a.m., with nearby Henrico County, where classes started at 8:45 a.m.”

In 2011, “the situation was similar for 17 to 18 year old teens in 2010-2011, although there was no difference overall between counties for 16 to 18 year olds.”

“In total over the two-year period, teens got into 707 crashes in Henrico county and 1074 crashes in Chesterfield, the researchers reported in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine,” Reuters said.

Middle and high schools, according to a 2014 policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics, “should start at 8:30 a.m. or later to benefit the health and welfare of students. Poor sleep has been linked to increased risks of depression, anxiety, obesity and motor vehicle accidents.”

“By decreasing the likelihood that teens will be sleep-deprived when getting behind the wheel in the morning, we can help decrease the chance they will be involved in an accident,” said American Academy of Sleep Medicine President Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler.

Sleep and circadian rhythms change during adolescence, he said, “and school start times that aren’t aligned with their sleep needs puts teens at risk for chronic sleep restriction.

“In puberty, a natural shift occurs in the timing of the body’s internal ‘circadian’ clock, causing most teens to have a biological preference for a late-night bedtime,” Morgenthaler said. “Current school start times are asking teens to shine when their biological clock tells them to sleep.”

Vorona said his suggestion would be for high schools to “optimally start in the area of 8:30 to 8:45 such as the two later starting jurisdictions in our two studies.”

Parents, he said, “should explain how important adequate sleep is to teens, and restrict their driving to and from school and otherwise if their teen has not achieved sufficient sleep.”

“Teens are inexperienced and poor drivers and adding sleep deprivation to the mix is asking for trouble,” he said.

Read the full story and comment below. 

Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor 

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