Delaying the start of the school day in Pennsylvania and around the country by less than an hour could significantly reduce the number of teenagers killed or injured in motor vehicle accidents according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. A research team from Boston Children’s Hospital reached this conclusion after looking at accident data that was compiled both before and after a county in Virginia chose to start school classes at 8:10 a.m. instead of 7:20 a.m.
The researchers found that the change led to the number of crashes involving drivers between the ages of 16 and 18 falling from 31.63 per 1,000 to 29.59 per 1,000. The researchers found no such reduction when they looked at car accident statistics from other parts of Virginia where schools continued to open at 7:20 a.m. The study is significant because accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has been calling for later school openings for years. The organization says that young people who do not get enough sleep are far more likely to engage in potentially dangerous behavior like texting while driving and not using seat belts. The study reveals that the fall in accidents among young drivers was largely caused by a reduction in distracted driving incidents.
Young people who act negligently behind the wheel and cause accidents usually lack the financial means to make restitution to those who are harmed. While Pennsylvania law allows accident victims to sue parents or guardians in these situations, it also places strict limits on the damages they can recover. This is why experienced personal injury attorneys would likely file a lawsuit against an auto insurance company when their clients have been injured by a young driver.