Drowsy driving is a dangerous risk to teen drivers. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) 11 to 17-year-olds need at least eight and a half hours of sleep nightly. 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. Teenagers who sleep less than average are more likely to be tired during the day, depressed, and not focused on their schoolwork. Sleep loss also reduces their ability to process information, pay attention, and solve problems, all crucial to safe driving.
According to the NSF, over half of teen drivers say they’ve driven while drowsy at least once in the past year, and 15 percent admit driving while tired at least once during the past week. This is very dangerous. Tell your teen that drowsy driving can make anyone lose focus and the effects are 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 so she can stay healthy, such as a consistent bedtime.
- If your teen is up late studying, offer a ride to school. Discourage getting behind the wheel until he’s more rested. (Explain that an energy drink won’t do it.)
- Encourage your teen to take a 20-minute snooze or power nap during the day whenever possible. Studies show that a nap before a night out can boost alertness by a few hours.