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Later school start times may reduce teen car crash rate

Teen drivers in Georgia and across the U.S. are liable to cause car crashes because of drowsiness and inattention. While they cannot blame anyone else for such crashes, there are still ways to reduce crash risk. One is to delay the start of middle and high school to 8:30 a.m. or later, says the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

The AASM recommends that teens aged 13 to 18 get 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night. Teens tend to sleep later into the day because of changes to their circadian rhythm, and early school start times may interrupt this sleep and cause drowsiness. A study from the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine has explored this potential link between school start times and the rate of crashes involving teen drivers.

Researchers looked at the effect of a change to school start times in Fairfax County, Virginia, comparing the rate of teen car crashes in the year prior to the rate in the year after the change. Focusing on crashes involving 16- to 18-year-old licensed drivers, they saw the rate decline from 31.63 to 29.59 accidents per 1,000 drivers.

Specifically, the county had pushed its start time from 7:20 a.m. to 8:10 a.m. There were fewer incidences overall of teens driving distracted, forgetting their seat belt or doing other risky things.

When there are car wrecks involving a distracted or drowsy teen, the victims may be able to file a claim. Personal injury claims can meet with strong opposition from the auto insurance companies, so victims may want a lawyer to help them achieve a fair amount in damages. If negotiations fail, then the lawyer may take the case to court. In the end, a claim might cover things like medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering.

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