In recent years, families in San Antonio may have heard some of the debate around school start times. Research shows that teens are often not at their best early in the day. As school start times have crept earlier, students have been losing out on the precious hours of sleep they need in order to function well. This is particularly true in an age where teens are balancing hours of sports practice and lots of homework. What’s more, inadequate rest can negatively impact teen drivers.
Looking at the numbers
A recent study in the Denver, CO, area shows that postponing the school day by just over an hour can make the roads safer for everyone. Lead researcher Lisa J. Meltzer measured this in two ways. Firstly, the students reported how drowsy they felt. Secondly, the team reviewed official data showing the timing and number of accidents for teen drivers in the area.
Overall, there was a drop in the number of accidents among teen drivers in Arapahoe County, where the study was conducted. Researchers looked at numbers for three school years: immediately prior to the time change, the year of the change and the year after the change. Motor vehicle accidents ultimately dropped from 78.9 per 1,000 before the change to 68.7 per 1,000 during the year after the change. This is a very significant improvement.
Motor vehicle accidents can be devastating. Preventing them can spare people injury, loss of income and other hardships. The positive effect of later school times on student achievement has been highlighted over the past few years. Students perform better and even have fewer sick days when they are able to get adequate sleep. But we’re only now starting to understand that later school start times can improve the safety outlook for a whole community.