Drowsy driving is a serious traffic safety problem. Twenty one percent of car crashes were attributed to drowsy driving in a 2014 study. Drowsy driving is often attributed to commercial drivers who drive for several hours over long distances or people working shift work. However, more than half of drowsy driving crashes involved drivers 25 and under.
Seatbelts Are Not Enough to Keep Teen Drivers Safe
Mandatory seat belt laws were passed in 1968 as a matter of public safety based on statistical data about accidents and injuries. It is almost hard to imagine that prior to the 1960s, not only were child car seats not used, seat belts in cars were not yet legally mandated. Infants often sat on a parent’s lap in the car and seat belts were rarely used, if the car even had them.
But times have changed and teenagers who are just learning to drive in 2017 have grown up with the car seats and seat belts that continue to help keep them safe. There are also laws regulating their use of cell phones while driving, but is it enough?
Despite the many laws regulating the operation of cars, from seat belt use to drunk driving to cell phones, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of fatal injury among teenagers.
Start School Later to Make Driving Safer for Teenagers
Statistics and studies support a later start to the school day for teenagers. Teenagers require eight to 10 hours of sleep per night. Later school start times may both increase the amount of sleep time for adolescents and decrease their risk of motor vehicle crashes.
High schools usually start classes between 7 and 8 am. In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that middle school and high school start their school days no earlier than 8:30 am to ensure that teenagers get enough sleep for their health, safety, and wellbeing. A start time of 8:30 am would counter issues caused by insufficient sleep such as depression and drowsy driving, as well as circadian rhythm disruption.
One study compared crash rates for teen drivers before and after a change in school start times in both the county in which the start times changed and in the rest of the state, where start times remained unchanged. The average crash rate for teen drivers in the two years after the change in school start time dropped 16.5 percent. Meanwhile, teen crash rates for the rest of the state increased 7.8 percent over the same time period.
Why School Boards Resist Later Start Times
Nationally, only 15 percent of public high schools start the school day at 8:30 am or later.
School districts are ignoring the evidence that a majority of adolescents do not sleep enough. Early school start times for teens increase their daytime sleepiness, which may increase their odds of crashing their vehicles while driving. Changing school schedules is a complex endeavor, as it disrupts established child-care arrangements, extracurricular activities, work schedules, and family life. However, it may be worth the effort if it reduces teen accident rates.
Delaware County Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Represent Victims of Drowsy Driving Accidents
If you or someone you love has been injured due to a car accident, please call McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC for a free consultation. Our experienced Delaware County car accident lawyers are prepared to help you seek compensation for your injuries and other damages. Contact us online or call our Philadelphia offices at 215-569-8488 to schedule a free consultation.