Study: Early school starts are associated with teen car accidents

06/10/2010 // WPB, FL, USA // Nicole Howley // Nicole Howley

West Palm Beach, FL—New research is confirming what teenagers have been saying for years, “we are not morning people.” Researchers have found an association between early risers and car crashes and other benefits of starting high school later, as reported by MSNBC.

The study compared the accident rates of teenagers in two adjacent counties in Virginia, where schools start extra early and where schools start a reasonable hour. Robert Vorona, a sleep doctor at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Virginia, collected data from the Virginia Depart of Motor Vehicles of the accident rates among drivers between the ages of 16 and 18 in two counties. The study focused on Virginia Beach County where high schools start at 7:20 a.m., and Chesapeake County where high school classes begin at 8:40 a.m.

The data revealed a distinct difference between the two counties, which found for every 1,000 teen drivers in Virginia Beach County there were 65.4 car wrecks; whereas Chesapeake County had 46.2 automobile accidents for every 1,000 teen motorists. The crash rate is 40 percent higher in the county where school starts at 7:20 a.m.

Vorona asserted, “This study did not prove by any means that early high school start times led to increased rates of car crashes. Instead, it shows an association between early risers and car crashes.”

The findings also strengthened the growing amount of evidence that supports the theory that later school start times can help teens achieve higher grades, get along better with peers, gain control of their emotions, keep away from drugs, avoid depression and lowers risk of suicide.

A 2008 study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine discovered that when high schools in Fayette County, Kentucky, changed their school start times from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., the crash rates among teens plummeted by over 16 percent.

Other studies assert that teens need about nine and a quarter hours of sleep every night, and with school starting at 7:20 a.m. and with after school activities and homework, most teens cant get to bed before 10. Thus leaving many teens sleep deprived and exhausted.

Legal News Reporter: Nicole Howley-Legal news for automobile accident lawyers.

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