Sleepy Teens Are A Recipe For Car Crashes

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Cars and sleepy teens are a problem, so much so that they have an insurance company and a student group teaming up to spread the word that driving and fatigue don’t mix.

According to a survey conducted by Liberty Mutual Insurance Company and Students Against Destructive Decisions or SADD, teens who fail to get eight hours or college car
more of sleep each night are twice as likely to fall asleep behind the wheel of the car as those who do. The national survey which included 3,580 students in grades ten, eleven and twelve also found that 36% of teens will frequently still drive when drowsy on their way to school in the morning.

“The new survey reminds teens and parents that road safety begins with a good night’s sleep,” said Dave Melton, director of Transportation Technical Consulting Services at the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety in Hopkinton, Mass.

Of significance in the survey is the revelation that 82% of teens who drive do so as a way to get to school each day. With some schools holding their first classes well before 8 a.m., the chances of a student getting behind the wheel in a fatigued state is quite high.

“As parents we tend to equate safe teen driving with sober driving, but fatigue should be an equal cause for concern,” said Melton. “Together we need to raise awareness of the risk factors and symptoms of drowsy driving in our communities and schools, to ensure our children are getting the rest they need and provide them with the tools to know what to do if they are on the road and tired.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that at least 10,000 accidents each year can be attributed to drowsiness, resulting in 40,000 injuries and 1550 deaths. To combat fatigue, teens will often resort to other methods to keep themselves alert including drinking coffee, playing loud music, talking on the cell phone, rolling down their window, and drinking energy beverages. Only caffeine, which is found in coffee and energy drinks, has a possible benefit in helping to reduce drowsiness.

To combat the growing problem of teen sleepiness, the National Sleep Foundation recommends that students get between 8.5 and 9.5 hours of sleep each night. Unfortunately, the jam-packed schedules that teens like to embrace actually works against them, resulting in 1-2 hours of lost sleep on average each night.

“Unfortunately, ‘early to bed, early to rise’ doesn’t synch well with suddenly nocturnal teens who are balancing late nights, early mornings, and jam-packed schedules,” said Stephen Wallace, SADD Chairman and CEO. “They want to do it all, but our job is to help them regulate competing demands in a way that ensures they get the sleep they need to be safe behind the wheel.”

To help young people make the right choices when it comes to life decisions, SADD offers peer-to-peer advice through its website as well as workshops and other community events. Visit SADD at www.sadd.org for more information and Liberty Mutual at www.libertymutualteendriving.com for safe driving tips.


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