Teens go through a lot of physical and mental growth as they mature. While some parents never doubt that their children will be fine, the more familiar feeling is concern over there safety and well-being, particularly after they begin to drive – accidental injuries to teens in motor vehicle accidents are the top reason for deaths among the age group.

Driver’s education and parents setting a good example help forge safe driving habits in new drivers, but there is now a new study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine that found that later school starting times lead to fewer motor vehicle accidents involving teen drivers. This should come as no surprise to parents who regularly see their teen son or daughter wake up late morning or early afternoon when they are not in school.

The study

Researchers in Fairfax County, Virginia, took four years of data that featured two years with the earlier start time and two years after moving start times from 7:20 a.m. to 8:10 a.m. Interestingly, the study found that the number of drivers between the ages of 16 and 18 years old involved in an accident dropped from 31.63 to 29.59 per 1,000 drivers. Fairfax County was the only one in Virginia to institute this change in start time. Thus, there was ample proof that the rate stayed at a higher rate throughout the rest of the state during this same period.

Any helpful strategies should be employed

Many teens are not at their best in the morning. This is likely due, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, to the circadian rhythms and biological needs for individuals at this age, which is 8 to 10 hours per night. Lack of sleep leads to poor decision making both behind the wheel of a car and in other parts of their lives, including classwork, sports-related injuries and psychological well-being.  All in all, it points to a simple, smart and effective way to reduce accidents and severe injuries for drivers and riders of all ages.