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Schools starting later may help teens stay safe on the road

Teenagers run a higher risk for distracted driving and other unsafe behavior on the road the earlier that school starts. This was the conclusion of a study published by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, and it echoes that of other studies and even the findings of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. North Carolina residents will want to know more.

Researchers focused on the effect of a change that Fairfax County, Virginia, made to its school start times back in the fall of 2015. Specifically, it set back the time from 7:20 am to 8:10 am. Looking at those car crashes involving teen drivers in the year before the change and the year after, researchers found a decline in the car crash rate from 31.63 to 29.59 accidents per 1,000 drivers. The crashes were limited to licensed drivers aged 16 to 18.

Interestingly enough, the rest of Virginia, which did not change its school start times in that two-year period, saw no comparable decline. The study notes that when schools start later, teens are less likely to drive distracted, forget their seatbelt or take risks. The AASM adds that later school start times can lead to teens performing better academically, being absent or tardy less and experiencing better mental health. They can lead to less sports injuries, too.

Indirectly, then, schools can lower the risk for teens talking or texting behind the wheel. Of course, it is ultimately up to teens whether they want to act in a negligent, unsafe manner on the road, which is why they will be to blame for any accidents they cause. Victims of such accidents might consult a lawyer about filing a claim. The lawyer may see if the case holds up under North Carolina's strict rule of contributory negligence.

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John McCabe wrote "The Investigation and Analysis of Personal Injury Cases" in the best-selling book Personal Injury Practice in North Carolina. This is the book that other lawyers follow in handling personal injury cases.

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