California teenagers may be safer drivers if they are able to get more sleep, and moving school start times to later in the morning can help with this. School officials in Fairfax County, Virginia, made this change, and a Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine study revealed that accidents among 16-, 17- and 18-year-old drivers dropped substantially throughout the county. They went to 29.59 accidents per 1,000 drivers from 31.63. In the rest of Virginia, school start times remained the same, and the accident numbers did not change.

Car crashes are among the accidents that kill the largest number of teens annually. The study also found that fewer of the accidents that occurred were the result of teens being distracted. Getting enough sleep also means that teens have better decision-making abilities, and this leads them to take more safety measures, such as wearing a seat belt.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has urged middle and high schools to move start times later than 8:30 a.m. for improved teen health and safety. The organization says that teenagers need 8 to 10 hours of sleep nightly. The senior study author said that if more schools adopted a policy of starting later, it could cut down on other student injuries as well, such as those caused by sports.

When a driver of any age causes an accident, whether it is a result of distraction, sleepiness or any other reason, that person may be considered responsible for an injured person’s medical expenses and other related costs. This type of accident could be catastrophic, and an injury could take months of rehabilitation or be permanent. If the insurance company will not cover all the costs, or the person is underinsured or uninsured, it might be time to contact a personal injury attorney and file a civil lawsuit to obtain compensation.