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Zombies ate my car insurance!

By Jay MacDonald ·
Friday, September 17, 2010
Posted: 7 am ET

Now that school is back in session, it’s time once again for that popular full-contact family sport: Prod my high school student to school on time. Air horns ready? Tasers on full? Good. Let’s move ‘em out! But be careful what you ask for, lest your zombielike student driver exact a costly revenge on your car insurance.

Just as school was wrapping up last spring, sleep researchers at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk released a study of two districts that shows a correlation between high school start times and car crashes. Spoiler alert: The early bird gets the higher car insurance rates in this case.

The study found that high school students ages 16 to 18 in Virginia Beach County, which starts at 7:20 a.m., had a 40-percent higher crash rate than high school drivers in Chesapeake County, where the high school day begins at 8:40 a.m.

Wide-eyed researchers have linked the zombielike effect of early start times to a variety of teen maladies, including antisocial behavior, depression, poor grades and even thoughts of suicide. And here I was blaming “Glee.”

Yes, I know: your high schooler doesn’t log off Facebook until the wee hours, despite your pleas. But they’re not entirely to blame for their nocturnal lifestyle. Studies show that the onset of puberty interrupts the body’s circadian rhythm. Short version: their brain doesn’t get sleepy until 11 p.m. or so, regardless of when they last crawled from their lair.

Studies show that a typical high school student needs 9.25 hours of sleep per night. If they biologically can’t stop the carnival until close to midnight and have to make a 7:20 class, where are the other two hours going to come from? Let’s hope it’s study hall and not on the drive to school.

Short of pressuring school districts to rethink their schedule, what’s a parent to do to protect their kids and their car insurance rates? Experts say encouraging catnaps and a 10 p.m. curfew on electronic devices can help. Parents who fear their teen is nodding off also might want to check into new onboard monitoring technology such as DriveCam that enables you to literally keep an eye on sleepyhead while they’re behind the wheel.

But for the sake of your family as well as your car insurance rates, never give a zombie the keys!

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