The Terrible School Policy
We are literally killing our teenagers by making them go to school so early in the morning. Having high school start earlier in the day is associated with a significant increase in motor vehicle accidents, according to a new study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
The study compared two Virginia counties with different school start times. In the county where classes started at 7:20 am, the weekday crash rate for teenagers was an incredible 29 percent higher than the county with the later school start time.
This should not be surprising given that other studies have shown that driving while sleepy is almost as dangerous as driving while drunk.
I normally don’t write about educational policy, because it is not in my field of expertise, but this is one reform where the scientific research is so overwhelming and cost of implementing it is so minor.
Adopting a more sensible school start time (roughly 9:00 am) would be worth it purely based on the public safety grounds alone, but studies have also shown it improves grades, test scores, attendance, physical and mental health. Being needlessly tired just generally makes you worse at everything.
Drowsiness produces similar cognitive deficits as being drunk. While no parent in their right mind would force their teenage to shotgun a few beers every morning before going to school, that is practically what we are doing by preventing teens from getting enough sleep. It needs to stop.