More sleep helps teens stay safer on the road

Over the last couple of weeks we have written a lot about teen driving and the cause of teenage car accidents. Car accidents remain the leading cause of death among teenagers in the United States. Inexperience and distraction are the main causes of all teenage car accidents, and nearly 40 percent of fatal teenage car accidents involve drinking and driving. While the suggestion may seem obvious, a new study shows that the more sleep a teenage driver gets at the night the safer the driver will be on the road the next day.

A new study that compared the school start times of two communities in Virginia and car crash rates for students ages 16 to 18 shows that an extra hour of sleep will likely help teen drivers stay safer on the road. The study compared student drivers in Virginia Beach, Virginia where classes begin around 7:20 a.m. to student drivers in Chesapeake, Virginia where classes start around 8:40 a.m. When the teenage drivers of the two communities were compared there were nearly 66 automobile crashes for every 1,000 teen drivers in Virginia Beach and nearly 47 car accidents for every 1,000 teen drivers in Chesapeake.

The take-away from the study was that students who wake-up early may not be the most alert while at the wheel and were more likely to experience daytime sleepiness. The author of the study argues that beginning high school classes later in the morning may allow for students to get more sleep and to be more alert.

While seven to eight hours of sleep is recommended for adults, teenagers should get nine hours of sleep at least during the week. Though a busy high school schedule may interfere with students’ ability to get an appropriate amount of sleep, an additional hour of sleep will help teens perform better in school and remain alert behind the wheel.