NORFOLK -- Students would likely get in fewer crashes if they didn't have to go to school so early, according to research conducted at Eastern Virginia Medical School of Medicine, Division of Sleep Medicine.
The study looked at the 2008 teen crash rates in Va. Beach and Chesapeake, based on Virginia DMV statistics. It found more crashes in Virginia Beach, where high school classes began at 7:20 a.m., than in Chesapeake, where classes started at 8:40 a.m.
Robert Vorona, MD, cited DMV statistics that show 65.4 automobile crashes for every 1,000 teen drivers in Virginia Beach and 46.2 crashes for every 1,000 teen drivers in Chesapeake and more of those crashes occurred in the afternoon than morning.
"The study supported our hypothesis, but it is important to note that this is an association study and does not prove cause and effect," he stressed.
Dr. Vonora suggested school systems consider later start times, noting that more sleep could make 16-18 year olds more alert behind the wheel. He also said it would help them in school.
"When teens get insufficient sleep, there are more academic difficulties. There may be more behavioral or mood difficulties and there may also be issues - unsurprisingly - with driving," he stated.
Va. Beach Schools spokeswoman Nancy Soscia said, "At this time, Virginia Beach City Public Schools is not considering changing the high school start time later in the day based on Dr. Verona’s research. Especially in light of the fact that Dr. Verona has not shared the specifics of his research with our school division. Since student safety is a priority in Virginia Beach City Public Schools, we would like to have the opportunity to review the complete research and discuss the validity of Dr. Verona’s findings."
2008 CRASH STATISTICS CITED BY STUDY:
Va. Beach: 12,916 16-18 year old drivers; teens involved in 850 crashes
Chesapeake: 8,459 teen drivers; 394 teen-involved automobile accidents
Dr. Vorona said the two cities were chosen because they have similar demographics, including racial composition and per-capita income.
The report was being presented Wednesday afternoon at SLEEP 2010, the 24 annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC.