Drowsy driving is a serious problem in the United States. It's a factor in 6 percent of crashes. Each year, approximately 328,000 crashes are caused by drowsy driving. That includes 109,000 crashes with injuries and 6,400 with fatalities. And teens are at a particularly high risk of being involved in a drowsy driving accident.
Drowsy Driving Risk Factors
According to the CDC
, commercial drivers, shift workers, drivers who take medications that cause drowsiness, drivers with untreated sleep disorders, and drivers who don't get enough sleep are the most at risk for drowsy driving. Although you won't find many teens driving big rig trucks or working an overnight shift at the hospital, teens often fit squarely into the risk factor of drivers who don't get enough sleep.
Teens are frequently short on sleep. In fact, more than 87 percent of high school students get far less than the recommended eight to 10 hours of sleep they need each night.
Often, teens don't get enough sleep because their circadian rhythm shifts to a later sleep time, but they still need to make it to school early in the day. Pressure to complete assignments, participate in activities, and even work can exacerbate sleep difficulties for teens.
Teens who don't get enough sleep can build up a sleep debt, which can make it even more difficult to stay awake and alert throughout the day. It's even more dangerous at night.
What Happens on the Road When Teens are Too Sleepy to Drive
Although falling asleep at the wheel is particularly dangerous, drowsy driving is always risky. When you're too sleepy to drive safely, your ability to drive is impaired, says the CDC.
Drowsiness makes it more difficult to pay attention to the road, slows reaction times, and affects a driver's ability to make good decisions. Teens are particularly more likely to take risks while driving when sleep deprived.
Stay tuned for part 2 and find out the steps to take to help teens sleep and drive safely.
Gues Post from Ben DiMaggio a researcher for the sleep science and health organization Tuck.com. Ben specializes in investigating how sleep, and sleep deprivation, affect public health and safety. Ben lives in Portland, Oregon. His worst sleep habit is checking his email right before bed.
Tuck Sleep Foundation is a community devoted to improving sleep hygiene, health and wellness through the creation and dissemination of comprehensive, unbiased, free web-based resources. Tuck has been featured on NPR, Lifehacker, Radiolab and is referenced by many colleges/universities and sleep organizations across the web.