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Study: school start times may influence teen driver safety

Teens are as liable as anyone else to become distracted behind the wheel, and lack of sleep is one factor that can raise the risk for this. Lack of sleep, in turn, can be aggravated by an early start to school each day. Connecticut residents should know about a study that suggests that pushing back school start times can reduce the rate of car crashes involving teens.

In it, researchers analyzed crash data over a two-year period in Fairfax County, Virginia. In the fall of 2015, the county made it so that its schools start at 8:10 am instead of 7:20 am. In the year before this change, licensed drivers with ages from 16 to 18 were in 31.63 crashes per 1,000 drivers. During the second year, the crash rate declined to 29.59. The rest of Virginia, which made no similar alterations, saw a steady teen car crash rate.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, those aged 13 to 18 should sleep 8 to 10 hours. Because of changes to their circadian rhythm, teens tend to sleep into the late morning, so delayed school start times can allow teens to get more sleep. This, the AASM says, leads to less risky driving behavior as well as improved mental health and classroom performance.

Teens, like all other drivers, have a responsibility to keep their vehicle under control. If sleepiness or distractions cause them to get in car collisions, then they will be held liable. In this state, crash victims who are 51% or less at fault may file a claim against the other driver's auto insurance company. Whether they achieve a fair amount in damages is another thing, so it might be wise to retain legal counsel. A lawyer may have investigators help strengthen the case.

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