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Early school start times lead to teen car accidents

Whether you are the parent of a teen driver or simply another driver who has to share the road with teenagers in California, you probably worry about their driving. No age group has higher crash rates. A big reason is that teens are young and inexperienced. They're naturally going to crash more often than experienced adults, and the statistics back it up year after year.

However, that does not mean we have to resign ourselves to an epidemic of teenage car accidents. There are steps that people can take to reduce the risks. According to some studies, one such step may be allowing teens to sleep in more and get to school later.

The data

It's not just that teens do not want to wake up and go to school early; the statistics show that they actually crash more often as start times get earlier. They're tired, they're in a rush and they cause serious injuries -- and even fatalities -- because of it.

In one study, researchers compared a county with school start times set at 7:20 a.m. to another county where they started at 8:45 a.m. That's a massive difference, and it played out in the data. The county with the earlier start time saw 29% more teen car accidents than the one with the later start time.

Not satisfied, researchers looked at the same counties again the following year and discovered that the teen accident rate was 27% higher when they had to get up earlier for school. This data suggests that the county consistently sees worse crash rates every single year, a dangerous trend not just for teens but for everyone else on the road.

Combating drowsy driving

There are some steps that teens and their parents can take to reduce the odds of drowsy driving. Making sure that teens get to bed at a proper hour is very important. It's also wise to make sure they get up early enough in the morning that they do not have to rush out the door and jump behind the wheel while they're still tired. Teens need to be aware that the early start times make it harder and riskier to drive, and they then need to plan around it so that they can safely get to school on time.

That said, the statistics show that the risk remains elevated, despite the knowledge that this is a problem. That means that accidents will happen every year. They will take lives. They will put people in the hospital. If you get injured by a teen driver who is tired and inexperienced, make sure you are well aware of the options you have.

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