When you have a teenaged child who’s got the keys to a vehicle, it might seem as if the things you can worry about become endless. What if they speed? What if they text someone while driving? What if they get behind the wheel after having had something to drink?
It turns out that the biggest risk for teens is dying in a crash because of drowsy driving: teens simply don’t sleep enough. A number of reasons contribute to this situation. Teens may be working, playing sports, or involved with other worthwhile activities. Or, they may be spending more time out of the house with friends, pushing their bed time later.
However, one of the biggest reasons teens can’t get enough sleep is physiological. Teens actually need more sleep than the rest of us, and they have trouble falling asleep early enough to get the sleep they need. Early rising times for school or a job only exacerbate the situation.
Did You Know?
Did you realize that remaining awake for 18 hours straight and then driving approaches the impairment level of being legally drunk (having a 0.08 blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, level)? That’s one reason drowsy driving is so dangerous. Some risks are greater for teens, as borne out in these facts regarding teens and drowsy driving:
- From the ages of 13 to 19, the amount of sleep that teens get drops about an hour from when they were younger. Later bedtimes (often because teens have trouble falling asleep) are usually the culprit.
- Teens actually need more sleep than adults—about 9 hours a night in order to diminish the chances of drowsy driving.
- If teens sleep less than 8 hours a night, they are one-third more likely to be involved in a crash.
- Those under 25 who are behind the wheel cause over half the crashes related to drowsy driving.
What’s Being Done?
Because of these facts, and because most crashes (and almost-crashes) occur between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. and from midnight to 2 a.m., some states use graduated drivers’ licenses (GDL) to restrict teen driving between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Some have a different idea, however. One movement that is gaining momentum is moving school start times later for teens. In 45 states, schools have delayed their start times in order to match the research that’s been done on the adolescent biological clock. Some schools now start as late as 9 a.m. The results have been positive: teens are less stressed, more alert, and performing better in their classes. If kids are more rested for school, it makes sense that there’s also less chance of them engaging in drowsy driving.
Engage with Your Teen
It’s difficult to know exactly how big the drowsy driving problem is, because it tends to be underreported. But what we do know is that talking with your teen about the problem is critical to preventing drowsy driving crashes. You should also do what you can to help them obtain the sleep they need.
Some of the things you need to tell your teenager:
- Everyone, including adults, overestimates how alert they are when they feel sleepy. Don’t do it.
- Tricks like rolling down windows and playing loud music work for only a short while. It’s better to get off the road safely and then take a nap. After the nap, walk around briefly to wake up.
- Signs of sleepiness are yawning, drifting onto the shoulder or into other lanes, not being able to recall the most recent miles driven, missing exits or turns, being unable to keep your eyes open, and brief, dangerous episodes of full sleep called microsleeps.
- Sleepy drivers can try caffeine, but it takes at least 30 minutes for caffeine to work. Stay off the road during that time.
- If another person in the vehicle can drive, switch drivers.
- Get a nap if you think you’ll be driving when it’s late.
- Call your parents or other family member for assistance if you are sleepy.
Be there for your kids so that they don’t end up a statistic. We can prevent a great number of drowsy driving crashes if we talk with our kids.
We’re listening. How can we help?
At the Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler, we have devoted our practice to defending the rights of personal injury victims. We know how traumatic a serious car accident can be for both the injured person and for his or her family. If you or a loved one was seriously injured in any kind of vehicular accident, you may be entitled to various kinds of financial compensation, such as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Keep in mind, however, that there is a statute of limitations – or a time limit – for filing personal injury claims. If you have been injured in an accident, you should not delay. Contact Steve today for a free initial consultation by calling 1-410-625-4878, or use our convenient and confidential online form.