3 Reasons Teens are at High Risk for Drowsy Driving and 2 Ways to Help

Drowsy driving is no laughing matter, and teens are at high risk for getting on the road with their judgment impaired by sleep deprivation. Roughly328,000 drowsy driving-related accidents occur every year. Unique aspects of the maturing body, the structure of the education system, and teen lifestyle make drowsy driving common and dangerous. However, parents, educators, and teens can work together to improve safety and help teens make better driving decisions.

4 Reasons Teens are at High Risk for Drowsy Driving

Physical Changes in the Body

Teens go through intense physical and emotional changes. Around the age of 13, the circadian rhythms alter their pattern. Rather than getting tired at 8-9 pm, teens find themselves awake and ready to go until 10-11 pm. This fundamental shift in the sleep-wake cycle puts teens at risk for sleep deprivation when their changing body’s need a solid nine hours of sleep, a full one or two hours more than adults.

2. Education and School Start Times

These changes come right as teens often find themselves with early school start times. High schools often have the earliest start times in a school district. Students may start school as early as 7 am. When coupled with the shift that takes place in the circadian rhythms, teens may be awake until midnight with their alarms going off at 6 am, which doesn’t leave much time for sleep.

3. Teen Lifestyle and Reasoning Skills

With a driver’s license comes new found freedom. Teens underestimate danger and overestimate their ability to react in a potentially dangerous driving situation. Fifty percent of teen deaths from vehicle accidents occur between the hours of 3 pm and 12 am on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Teens tend to make poor decisions when driving with friends. They may not even realize they’re starting to get tired once they’re on the road. The adolescent body is able to withstand fatigue better than an adult but falls asleep faster. The results of sleep deprivation may start slow, but come on fast before many teens can take action.

2 Ways to Stop Drowsy Driving

Drowsy driving is preventable, although it might take a community working together.

  1. Later Start Times

Later start times require coordination and efforts on the part of schools and families. However, it should be noted that studies have been done comparing the number of vehicle accidents at high schools with later start times versus those with early start times, and the number of accidents went down when students got more sleep. Improving student safety is a cause all community members can support.

2. Be Consistent and Help Teens Get Better Sleep

Start by making sure your teen has a comfortable mattress that isn’t keeping him up at night. If his mattress is old or lumpy, you may want to consider a mattress topper to add a few years of use. His room should be kept cool and dark at night for optimum sleep conditions. Try to help your teen go to bed at the same time every night. It will help him sleep better and make sure he gets a good nine hours of sleep each day. Try to have your teen shut off screens from televisions, smartphones, and laptops an hour before bedtime to prepare the mind and body for sleep.

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