Parents of high school students know that Coventry’s 7:20 starting time for school comes early. They also see first-hand that teens are less concerned with getting a good night’s sleep, instead often staying up late even on a school night. Other everyday worries include handing over the keys to the family car or buying a teen a car of their own. These worries are well-founded – the CDC lists motor vehicle crashes as the top cause of accidental deaths among driving-age teens.

Parents can set an excellent example with safe driving habits, and the state requires training and testing to get a driver’s license. Still, there is a recent study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that later high school start times lead to fewer teens involved in motor vehicle accidents.

Study conducted in Virginia

Researchers studied statistics in Fairfax County, Virginia, crunching four years of data that is split in half between the local high schools starting at 7:20 a.m. and then switching to 8:10 a.m. The scientists found that the later time reduced the number of teen-related accidents from 31.63 to 29.59 per 1,000 drivers. The county was the only one in the state to switch to the later time, thus providing clear proof of the time change’s impact because there was no dip in the rest of the state.

We cannot change nature

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine finds that teens need 8 to 10 hours per night of sleep, yet they are prone to fighting the circadian sleep cycle by staying up late even on school nights. It is a fact that a lack of sleep leads to poor decision making, often with severe consequences to the driver and others if the individual is behind the wheel of a car or truck. Moreover, poor decision making can also lead to poor performance in school, cause sports-related injuries and impair a teen’s psychological well-being.  Perhaps it is time to try this simple, effective and smart solution for lowering the rate of motor vehicle crashes here in Coventry and greater Louisiana. The greater safety of our roads depends upon it.