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February 19, 2020 Wednesday 11:47:53 AM IST

Later school start times improve teen safety

Policy Indications

A study published online as an accepted paper in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that later school start times were associated with a significant drop in vehicle accidents involving teen drivers. Researchers analyzed motor vehicle accident statistics involving adolescents in Fairfax County, Virginia, for two school years before and after the implementation of later school start times. Results show that the crash rate in 16-to-18-year-old licensed drivers decreased significantly from 31.63 to 29.59 accidents per 1,000 drivers after the delayed start time. In contrast, the teen crash rate remained steady throughout the rest of the state.

The study compared motor vehicle crash rates among adolescents in the differing school start times in Fairfax County, which in the fall of 2015 pushed back school start times by 50 minutes from 7:20 a.m. to 8:10 a.m. Data also were compared to teenage crashes in the rest of the state, where school start times did not change. The analysis also found that the later school start time was associated with a lower rate of distraction-related accidents.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine supports middle and high school start times of 8:30 a.m. or later to promote teen health, safety, and academic performance. The AASM's school start time position statement is based on scientific evidence that teenagers experience changes to their internal circadian rhythms and biological sleep drive that result in later sleep and wake times. 

A delayed school start time offers several benefits:


There will be a greater likelihood that teens will get enough sleep on school nights.

Students will be more alert to achieve peak classroom performance.

Reduced tardiness and absences will improve opportunities for learning.

Students will experience better mental health and psychological well-being.


Teen driving safety will improve.

The AASM recommends that 13-to-18-year-olds sleep 8 to 10 hours a day. Owens hopes her study will incentivize other school districts to examine school start times and their relationship to other safety issues beyond car crashes, such as sports-related injuries in student-athletes.

(Content Courtesy: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-02/aaos-ssl021820.php)



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