Teen drivers in New Mexico and across the nation might get into fewer car accidents if schools implement later start times, according to a new study. The research was recently published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
For the study, researchers examined crash data involving teen drivers in Fairfax, Virginia, over two school years. During the first year, which began in the fall of 2014, classes began at 7:20 a.m. During the second year, which began in the fall of 2015, classes started at 8:10 a.m. Researchers discovered that the crash rate for drivers between the ages of 16 and 18 fell from 31.63 accidents per 1,000 drivers to 29.59 accidents per 1,000 drivers after class times were pushed back. In comparison, the crash rates for teen drivers going to school earlier throughout the rest of the state remained steady.
Medical experts say that teenagers need between 8 and 10 hours of sleep per day to achieve optimal physical and mental health. As a result, several organizations have been pushing for delayed school start times to help them get enough rest. For example, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine believes that classes should begin no earlier than 8:30 a.m. for middle school and high school students. The organization says this will help improve attention levels during classes, reduce tardiness and absences, boost mental health and reduce car accidents.
Individuals who are struck by teen drivers might need to take legal action to recover compensation for their losses. An attorney may be able to collect police reports, witness testimony and other evidence showing that a teen driver is legally liable for the crash, which might be used as the basis for a personal injury lawsuit filed in civil court. If the suit is successful, it may lead to a settlement for medical expenses, lost wages and more.