Teen Auto Accidents May Be Reduced With Adequate Sleep

Letting teenagers sleep in an hour and start their school day at 8:30 rather than 7:30 a.m. may reduce the odds for automobile accidents.

We know from the traffic we see in our offices at Farah and Farah, that teenagers are one population group that has a higher likelihood of being involved in traffic accidents than others, particularly first year drivers.

Parents may blame their teens for staying up late, but they may actually be biologically programmed to stay up an hour later than they did before puberty.

A University of Kentucky study finds that a shift in their biological clocks conflicts with the earlier hours of high school. Their study showed that as biology is pushing them to stay up later, school starts earlier.

“By the end of the week, [kids] are a wreck and our study shows they might actually be in one,” says Fred Danner, a psychologist who co-authored this study, to the Washington Post.

The study appears in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

Researchers surveyed about 10,000 students from Kentucky on their sleep habits – first in 1998, and then again in 1999. By that time the start of school had been moved to 8:30 a.m.

What they found was that students who got a full eight hours of sleep a night had 16.5 percent fewer car crashes, down from 35.7 percent.

The National Sleep Foundation finds fatigued drivers are responsible for about 100,000 accidents a year and more than half of them are young people ages 16 to 25.

Experts say that sleep and learning are intimately related. Not having the recommended 8.5 to 9.5 hours a night impacts your ability to pay attention, to communicate and problem solve. It may also be a trigger for depression.

If it makes us more productive, keeps us safer and allows time at night to repair and restore – maybe adequate sleep isn’t a luxury at all.