Drowsy driving is a dangerous risk to teen drivers. The Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends teens log a little more than nine hours of sleep nightly to achieve the optimal level of daytime alertness needed to eliminate the risk of drowsy driving. Unfortunately nearly two-thirds of high school students get less than seven hours.
It’s not always your child’s fault. Many factors play into this downward level of sleep. Early school start times, increasing hours of homework, after-school activities, and the teen body’s natural inclination to stay up until 11 pm make it challenging to get the rest they need. Making matters worse: Teens tend to drink caffeine-rich beverages, such as energy drinks, to keep them going. Their impact on quality of sleep and sleep interruption is still being studied.
Do not underestimate the importance of sleep for your teen, especially in regard to driving. Drowsiness is simular to alcohol in how it compromises driving ability by reducing alertness and attentiveness, delaying reaction times, and hindering decision-making skills.
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, approximately one in five fatal crashes include a drowsy driver, and drivers between the ages of 16 and 24 are the most likely to be involved in these crashes. Tell your teen that drowsy driving is very dangerous and similar to driving while legally intoxicated (with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08).
Other ways you can help:
- Talk to your teen about the importance of sleep and help set rules and priorities to promote health, such as a consistent bedtime.
- If your teen is up late studying, offer a ride to school. Do not let your teen get behind the wheel. It's too dangerous.
- Remind your teen that getting enough sleep offers benefits beyond safe driving: better grades, improved athletic performance, and an overall health boost.