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Early School Start May Contribute to Drowsy Driving Car Accidents

Teenagers in Virginia Beach, Virginia (VA) must be at school by 7:25 a.m. Teenagers in Chesapeake must be at school at 8:40 a.m. If you compare car accident rates, Va. Beach is 41 percent higher than in Chesapeake, according to a study conducted by a doctor at the Eastern Virginia Medical School.

Is the higher car wreck rate just a coincidence? Maybe; no one can say for sure at this time, but it's a correlation to consider. For example, car crash rates in the afternoon were higher in Va. Beach and teens get out of school at around 2 p.m., according to The Virginian-Pilot..

Medical studies have shown that teenagers have biological sleep patterns that naturally shift toward later times and teens actually need more sleep than adults. The National Sleep Foundation reports roughly 15 percent of all teenagers do not get an adequate amount of sleep every night.

Requiring teenagers to get up at the crack of dawn may lead to a higher percentage of drowsy drivers on the road and tired drivers are more prone to mistakes. Those mistakes may lead to a major car crash and serious injuries like a broken neck, severed limb, or traumatic brain injury.

Drowsy driving leads to roughly 100,000 car wrecks every year and more than half of all "dosed off" car crashes involved a driver younger than 25. These wrecks lead to 1,500 lives lost and 71,000 serious injuries, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

So we should just start school later, right? That's one idea, but there are many factors that need to be considered when shifting to a later school schedule. For example, you have to consider athletic programs, after-school jobs or internships, and the conflict with teenagers who help take care of younger siblings.

Plus, we're not just talking about Va. Beach. The high schools in Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk all start before 8:00 a.m.  

If the results of the study conducted by the EVMS doctor are substantiated by further examination, many school districts in and around Hampton Roads may need to look at reforming the school schedule. Nevertheless, you should address this issue with your teen and emphasize the importance of getting to bed early so they can get as much rest as possible.

To learn more about the dangers of drowsy driving and "dosing off" car wrecks, check out this article:

Asleep at the Wheel: Drowsy Driving Increasing

 

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