New Jersey residents may have good reason to worry whether or not their teens are getting enough sleep. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine says that 13- to 18-year-olds require 8 to 10 hours of sleep and that many fail to achieve this due to early school start times. A study published by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine has, in fact, gone further and tied early school start times with a higher crash rate for teens.
For the study, researchers took a look at Fairfax County, Virginia, which had changed its school start times from 7:20 am to 8:10 am back in the fall of 2015. In the year leading up to the change, the rate of crashes involving 16- to 18-year-old licensed drivers was 31.63 per 1,000 drivers. In the year after, it declined to 29.59. During that two-year period, the crash rate remained steady in the rest of Virginia, which did not alter its school start times.
Researchers noted that teens who attend a school that starts later are less likely to drive distracted, forget their seatbelt or take risks. Some pronouncements by the AASM back up the conclusions. The AASM says that if middle and high schools start at 8:30 am or later, they can help improve teen driver safety as well as academic performance.
Of course, a later school start time can only dispose teens better to drive safe; the choice is up to them whether they want to, say, speed or distract themselves with their phone. Crashes caused by driver negligence, which make up the majority of crashes, can form the basis for a personal injury claim, but those who wish to file may consider a legal evaluation first. New Jersey is a no-fault state, so not everyone can file a third-party insurance claim.