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Could school start time reforms reduce teen drowsy driving?

On Behalf of | Jul 22, 2021 | Motor Vehicle Accidents |

Drowsy driving poses a major threat to roadway safety in New Hampshire and across the country. According to some experts, driving while sleepy carries many of the same risks as driving while intoxicated, increasing reaction time and lowering attentiveness behind the wheel. This may be especially true for teen drivers, who are less experienced and often newly licensed. As a result, a plan to improve academic outcomes by shifting school start times may also offer benefits in reducing auto accidents.

The case for later school start times

Sleep scientists have documented that very early start times for high schoolers are disruptive to sleep schedules and the body’s natural sleep/wake cycle, especially for teenagers experiencing rapid changes to their bodies. Starting school later in the day is linked to improved academic outcomes and engagement, a reduction in migraine headaches and other physical ailments, and lowered risks of obesity. According to one study, delaying start times by slightly over an hour also led to fewer motor vehicle collisions and incidents of drowsy driving by teens heading to school. The county studied during the experiment showed reduced crash rates in comparison to other neighboring regions with earlier school start times.

Risks of drowsy driving

Studies indicate that drowsy driving may be implicated in up to 6,000 deadly car accidents every year and leads to at least 90,000 crashes annually. Tens of thousands of people are injured as a result of these collisions. While it is difficult to fully assess the toll taken by drowsy driving, around 21% of fatal accidents are linked to at least one driver operating their vehicle while drowsy. Still, 60% of adults report that they drove while drowsy in the past year.

When people get behind the wheel when they are too sleepy to drive, it is all too easy to collide with others on the road. As a result, drivers and passengers in other vehicles may suffer serious injuries that keep them out of work or require months or years of follow-up care for treatment. People who have been injured by a drowsy or otherwise negligent driver may turn to a personal injury attorney to pursue compensation for their losses.