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Back-to-School: Drowsy Teen Drivers Are Dangerous

Posted By Regan Zambri & Long || 22-Aug-2007

Teens need more sleep than younger kids — 9 or more hours per night — but they frequently get 6 hours or less, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.  Though insufficient sleep carries a number of negative implications for teens’ health, it can make them particularly dangerous drivers.  Here are nine things all teen drivers and their parents should know about the dangers of drowsy driving:

  1. "The only way to prevent drowsy driving is to get enough sleep on a regular basis.
  2. It’s possible to build up a big ‘sleep debt’ by sleeping too few hours for too many days on end.  You can’t ‘pay off’ the sleep debt in just one night — or day.  It can take days to get back to normal.
  3. Most sleepiness-related crashes happen between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. (during normal sleeping hours).
  4. There is only one sure-fire way to wake yourself up when you’re sleepy:  take a 15-20 minute nap before driving.
  5. Getting a good night’s sleep before a long drive can save your life.
  6. Traveling with a friend who’s awake can help keep you awake.  But, a sleeping friend is no help at all.
  7. Rolling down a window to get some air, stretching your legs, or even cranking up the radio are almost useless when you’re trying to stay awake.
  8. One beer, when someone is sleep-deprived, will hit as hard as two or three beers when one is well rested.
  9. Drinking caffeine (a caffeinated soft drink, coffee, or tea) before hitting the road may help for a short time, but it can also be a problem.  Caffeine can make you lose sleep, which leads to more sleepiness!"

Safeteendriving.org, a collaborative public service venture between Prince William County Public Schools, the Virginia Department of Education, the Virginia DMV and the Virginia Association of Driver Education and Traffic Safety, offers the following talking points for parents to engage teenage drivers in conversations about drowsy driving:

  • "Teen:  ‘I don’t need as much sleep as my parents.’
  • Parent:  ‘Yes, you do.  You need more sleep than younger children and adults.  Many teenagers need at least 9 hours of sleep each night.  But most of them get less than 6.5 hours of sleep each night.
  • Teen:  ‘I know when I’m falling asleep.’
  • Parent:  ‘No, you can’t.  Teens can fall asleep and not even know it.  Dozing while driving, even for a few seconds, can be fatal!’
  • Teen:  ‘I hate getting up in the morning.’
  • Parent:  ‘Perhaps you need to change some of your habits.  You need about 9.5 hours of sleep a night.  hormonal changes can cause you to feel sleepy later in the evening, which makes it hard to get to bed.  Turn off the tube!’
  • Teen:  ‘I’ll have some coffee.’
  • Parent:  ‘Coffee can indeed increase alertness, but it’s no substitute for sleep.’  (Consider the sleep debt!)"

Previously on the D.C. Metro Area Personal Injury Law Blog, we have posted articles related to:

For information about your legal rights, please click here or call the law firm of Regan Zambri & Long, PLLC at 202-759-6699.

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