By Maya K.
As my 17th birthday grows near, I turn quite giddy when thinking of having my full license. I’m readily crossing down the days until I can trade in my “L” for an “N”. But having an “N” is not an all-access pass to freedom. You’re only allowed one friend at a time, and the hours which you can drive are still restricted. These rules exist to ensure myself and the public’s safety. It’s well-known that teens can be reckless drivers. But a recent study has found that schools may be the cause of dangerous teen driving.
Not entirely teens’ fault
A study led by Harvard Medical School found that when school started 50 minutes later, teen car crashes decreased by over 5%. The study looked at one particular district where school start times moved from 7:20 am to 8:10 am. As a result, the number of distraction-related crashes significantly decreased.
Dr. Judith Owens (lead author of the study) believes that the heightened alertness from extra sleep decreases crashes. But this is not the first time scientists have advocated for later start times. This isn’t even the first-time scientists have seen crashes go down when start times are later. Another study from 2019 found that a 50 minute school delay decreased car accidents in Virginia. However, this study found that more sleep meant teens were less likely to drive while intoxicated. To emphasize the importance of sleep, the district involved saw a 5% decrease in teen crashes while the rest of the state saw an increase of 4%.
Many other studies have supported later start times. A study in Seattle found that later start times improved students’ grades. Another found that early classes could increase rates of youth mental illness.
It’s quite clear that later start times are beneficial to students’ health. However, the majority of studies recommended school start at 8:20. Based on my own experiences, Vancouver schools start much later than that (approximately 9:00 am). I’m very grateful to go to a school with a reasonable start time. As I get closer to getting my license, I’m especially appreciative of the safety I’ll get on the roads from these delayed starts.