Motor vehicle accidents happen for many reasons in Wisconsin. Often, these crashes involve teen drivers. Researchers will try to find common denominators to try and reduce them. A new study focuses on the importance of sleep and whether a change to school start times could have a positive impact.

The study linked a reduction in auto accidents in Fairfax County, Virginia, with a change to the start of the school day in that area. When the school day began later, drivers between the ages of 16 and 18 saw a reduced number of accidents, down to 29.59 for every 1,000 drivers from 31.63 per 1,000 drivers. For the rest of the state, the numbers remained the same.

The Fairfax County schools changed their start time in 2015. It was moved to 8:10 a.m. from 7:20 a.m. A significant reduction was seen in the number of accidents due to distracted driving. Sleep is a foundational factor in there being fewer accidents. Teens who have less sleep are prone to making worse decisions behind the wheel. Sleep researchers suggest that high schools and middle schools begin the day later so that students can improve in several areas, including academics, health and safety.

Students who sleep more perform better in school, are on-time more frequently, have better attendance records, are psychologically and mentally healthier, and drive more safely. An earlier start time interrupts the natural sleep rhythm and hinders students. A key to this research is how a lack of sleep may negatively impact teen drivers. Their inexperience and other aspects common for new drivers can cause motor vehicle accidents. A lack of sleep can exacerbate these concerns. Having legal advice may be needed to determine the cause of an accident and in seeking compensation after a crash.

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