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More sleep may help teens be better drivers

Over the last few posts we have been talking a lot about teen drivers and the causes of teenage car accidents. Car accidents are the leading cause of death among teenagers, and inexperience and distraction are the main causes of all teenage car accidents. When it comes to fatal teenage car accidents, nearly 40 percent of fatal teen car crashes involve alcohol. According to a new study on teen car accidents, teenage drivers can improve their abilities behind the wheel just by getting enough sleep each night.

The new study shows that an additional hour of sleep can improve how alert teenage drivers are behind the wheel and therefore improve their safety. The study compared school start times in two Virginia communities and also compared the respective communities' car accident rates for drivers ages 16 to 18. High school students in Virginia Beach, Virginia start class between 7:20 a.m. and 7:25 a.m., and students in nearby Chesapeake, Virginia start class between 8:40 a.m. and 8:45 p.m.

The relatively small difference in start times was enough to show that students who went to school earlier may not be as alert behind the wheel as the students who went to high school more than one hour later. In Virginia Beach there were 65.8 car accidents for every 1,000 teen drivers and in Chesapeake there were 46.6 car crashes for every 1,000 teen drivers. The author of the study argues that a later high school start time may make drivers more alert because they may have gotten more sleep.

Source: wfaa.com, "Teens drive better with more sleep," 4/24/11

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