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Later school start time may contribute to teen driver safety

The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine has published a study that may be of interest to parents in New Jersey because it suggests that teens may be more likely to become distracted on the road the earlier that school begins. Researchers looked at the rate of car crashes involving teens during a two-year period in Fairfax County, Virginia. The county, in the fall of 2015, pushed back its school start times from 7:20 am to 8:10 am.

In the first year, the year preceding the change, researchers determined that 16- to 18-year-old licensed drivers were involved in 31.63 accidents per 1,000 drivers. In the year after that, the rate declined to 29.59 accidents. During that two-year period, the rest of the state, which did not change its school start times, saw only a steady rate of teen car crashes.

The study also noted that teens, sleeping longer due to the change, were less likely to drive distracted, neglect their seatbelt or engage in other risky behavior. In recommending later school start times, the study echoes something that the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has said. The AASM believes that delayed school start times can improve not only road safety but also teens’ mental health and academic performance. They can indirectly affect other issues, such as the prevalence of sports-related injuries.

Teens who cause auto accidents because of drowsiness or distraction will be held liable for the other side’s injuries. Victims may seek compensation for their injuries through a personal injury claim, assuming that the injuries are serious or have resulted in a disability. New Jersey being a no-fault state, most crash victims might be able to settle matters with their own insurance company. To determine what steps they should take and how much they might be eligible for, victims may want to hire a lawyer.

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