Teens in Louisiana are more inexperienced and are at higher risk of accident involvement than other motorists. While the driving abilities of teens improve with more experience, one thing that might help them to avoid accidents is for school districts to change their school start times for high school students to a later time. Doing so might reduce the risks of teen drowsy-driving accidents.
Study shows the effect of later start times
In a study of the effect of changing school start times, data on early-morning accidents involving teen drivers was reviewed among 2,100 students at an Arapahoe County school district in Denver, Colorado. Researchers compared the accident rates for teen drivers in the district for several months both before and after school starting times were changed. The district moved its start time to 70 minutes later than before. The district was also compared to four other neighboring districts that did not change their start times.
The researchers found that teens in the district had significantly fewer accidents in the morning commute to school after the change in start time compared to before the change occurred. They also had significantly fewer motor vehicle accidents than teens in the neighboring school districts that did not delay their start times. Before the change in start time, 29.3% of students reported driving while drowsy. Following the change, that percentage fell to 20.3%. In the school district prior to the start time change, there was an accident rate of 78.9 accidents per 1,000 teen drivers. In the year following the start time change, the accident rate fell to 68.7 crashes per 1,000 teen drivers.
Teens need more sleep than adults because they are still growing. Unfortunately, teens are notorious for not getting sufficient sleep by staying up late for schoolwork, extracurriculars and socializing with friends. Changing the start times of the school day for high school students might help teens get more sleep and potentially reduce their risks of being involved in drowsy-driving accidents.