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Long School Commutes Are Terrible for Kids

Children who live farther away from their schools get significantly less sleep and exercise, new research shows.
More than two-thirds of high school students get to school by car.
More than two-thirds of high school students get to school by car.Mike Blake/Reuters

We live in a car society, so it’s no surprise that more and more kids take cars to school. Today, nearly 60 percent of kids get to school by car, almost four times as many as in the late 1960s, when just 16 percent of children did so.

One study quantifies what many intuit: Long commutes to school have negative impacts on children’s well-being, especially on sleep and exercise. The research by Carole Turley Voulgaris of California Polytechnic State University, Michael J. Smart of Rutgers University, and Brian D. Taylor of UCLA, takes a detailed look at how lengthy commutes affect the time kids devote to other daily activities. To get at this, the researchers analyzed more than 2,700 high-school students’ responses from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, spanning from 2003 to 2015.