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Study Suggests Higher Accident Rate for Early Morning Students

Authorities Attribute Higher Rate to “Drowsy Driving”

Motorcycle Accidents Involving Roadway HazardsIn a report in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, researchers concluded that teen drivers who start school earlier in the day have a more than 25% increased risk of being in an automobile accident on their way to school. The study looked at crash statistics for high school students in Virginia, comparing those who started at 7:20 A.M. with those who started at 8:45 A.M. Data gathered over two years showed a 29% higher accident rate for early starters the first year and a 27% increase the following year. The study also looked at crash rates for adults starting jobs at similar times and found no distinguishable difference.

According to researchers, the most common type of accident involves a student falling asleep or dozing at the wheel and running off the road. The report also found that students with inadequate sleep are more likely to engage in risky behavior behind the wheel and less likely to think before acting. A spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine said that requiring high school students to be in class by 7:20 is essentially contrary to their biological needs, depriving them of necessary rest. “We are asking teens to shine when their biological clocks tell them to sleep,” noted Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler of the National Healthy Sleep Project. He recommends that high school students get at least nine hours of sleep before getting on the roads in a motor vehicle.

Another study, sponsored by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, concluded that drowsy driving is involved in more than 300,000 car accidents annually and that 16-24-year-old drivers are at the greatest risk for drowsy driving.

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