According to the National Sleep Foundation, 42% of drivers 18 and under will admit to driving while drowsy, and that studies on driving simulators show that driving while drowsy is equivalent to driving after consuming three of four beers. In other words, drowsy driving is like drunk driving. At Masconomet Regional High School, seniors often drive themselves to and from school, working to arrive in time to park and get to homeroom by 7:35am. Scientific research tell us that teens naturally sleep from 11pm-8am and our early start times are forcing students lose sleep. In fact, 61% of adolescents are not getting enough sleep and during the week, the primary reason for this is an early school start time (CDC, 2015). Every morning, some of our children get behind the wheel when they have not had enough rest, and that puts them – and members of the community – at risk.
In December of 2015, a 16-year old Massachusetts teenager crashed into the living room of a home in Foxboro just before 7 a.m on his way from hockey practice to school. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers, and young drivers cause 50,000 traffic accidents each year due to drowsiness and fatigue. In one study (Carson, 1990), those with the greatest extracurricular time commitments were the most likely group to report falling asleep at the wheel. In other words, the group of children most at risk were the brightest, most energetic, hardest working teens.
In school districts that moved their start times to 8:30am or later, the results were clear: better drivers and fewer accidents. There were 41% fewer accidents in Virginia and 24% fewer in Kentucky. If you want to get a good look at the effects of drowsy driving, watch the video below. It’s time for the Masconomet Regional School District to move the school start time to be 8:30am or later – it’s a safety issue that affects everyone in our community.