Many secondary schools in New Mexico have early start times, often because teens have jobs after school that may require them to finish early. What you may not know is that an earlier school start time increases your teen driver’s risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident significantly.
A recent study by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles compared teen crashes in two different counties in the state. One had a school start time of 7:20 a.m. while the other school began at 8:45 a.m. The study found that teens who attended the school with the earlier start time were involved in more than 520 motor vehicle accidents each year.
Teens and lack of sleep
One of the reasons teens who must be at school early are involved in more accidents is that most teenagers get far less than the nine hours of sleep pediatricians recommend. In fact, many teens sleep less than eight hours each night. This may be due to heavy course loads or jobs that keep them awake until late at night. There is significant evidence that drowsy driving can be as dangerous as driving under the influence or texting while driving, leading to many motor vehicle accidents.
Parents and teen sleep
If your teen attends a school that starts early, it is critical that you encourage him or her to get enough sleep. It may also be beneficial to work with your local school board to encourage a later start time for teens than for younger children. Provide your teen with information on the importance of not driving while drowsy. Although it may be difficult with jobs and high school course loads, their lives may depend on them getting the right amount of sleep, especially if their school starts early in the morning.
Teens are notoriously less careful on the roads than adults with many of them driving above the speed limit and often while distracted. It is important to stress the importance of not driving while fatigued with your teen in order to protect him or her and others on the roadways.