Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Teen auto accident rates higher when school starts earlier

Statistics from a new study show teenage drivers are more likely to get in an accident when classes start earlier. Crash rates are 41 percent higher for students who attend schools that begin around the crack of dawn.

The teen driver study presented Wednesday at SLEEP 2010 further fuels a movement to push forward school start times.

The data came from data from two adjacent communities with similar demographics provided by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. In Virginia Beach, school starts at 7:20 a.m. Classes start at 8:40 a.m. in neighboring Chesapeake.

Accidents reports show 65.4 out of every 1,000 teen drivers in Virginia Beach were in at least one crash. Less than 5 percent of Chesapeake teens were in automobile accidents.

The crashes happened more frequently in the afternoon than morning in both communities. The afternoon accident rate was about 3.5 percent in Virginia Beach (2 p.m. dismissal) and 2 percent in Chesapeake (4 p.m. dismissal).

Although the study does not prove cause and effect, lead author Robert Vorona believes earlier start times are restricting the time available for teens to sleep. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends teens get at least 9 hours of sleep per night. Chronic sleep restriction increases the risk of an auto accident, and can lead to mood disorders, academic difficulties and behavioral issues.
Image courtesy gillicious

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