School Start Times and Teenage Driver Motor Vehicle Crashes

Shifting school start times to 8:30 am or later has been found to improve academic performance and reduce behavior problems. Limited research suggests this may also reduce adolescent driver motor vehicle crashes. A change in the school start time from 7:30 am to 8:45 am for all public high schools in one North Carolina county presented the opportunity to address this question with greater methodologic rigor. The authors conducted ARIMA interrupted time-series analyses to examine motor vehicle crash rates of high school age drivers in the intervention county and 3 similar comparison counties with comparable urban-rural population distribution. To focus on crashes most likely to be affected, the authors limited analysis to crashes involving 16- & 17-year-old drivers occurring on days when school was in session. In the intervention county, there was a 14% downward shift in the time-series following the 75 min delay in school start times (p = .076). There was no change approaching statistical significance in any of the other three counties. Further analysis indicated marked, statistically significant shifts in hourly crash rates in the intervention county, reflecting effects of the change in school start time on young driver exposure. Crashes from 7 to 7:59 am decreased sharply (−25%, p = .008), but increased similarly from 8 to 8:59 am (21%, p = .004). Crashes from 2 to 2:59 pm declined dramatically (−48%, p = .000), then increased to a lesser degree from 3 to 3:59 pm (32%, p = .024) and non-significantly from 4 to 4:59 (19%, p = .102). There was no meaningful change in early morning or nighttime crashes, when drowsiness-induced crashes might have been expected to be most common. The small decrease in crashes among high school age drivers following the shift in school start time is consistent with the findings of other studies of teen driver crashes and school start times. All these studies, including the present one, have limitations, but the similar findings suggest that crashes and school start times are indeed related, with earlier start times equating to more crashes. Later high school start times (>8:30 am) appear to be associated with lower adolescent driver crash rates, but additional research is needed to confirm this and to identify the mechanism by which this occurs (reduced drowsiness or reduced exposure).

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  • English

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  • Accession Number: 01703297
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Apr 23 2019 3:06PM