Watch out for sleep-deprived teen drivers

Watch out for sleep-deprived teen drivers

The next time you curse out the driver who cut you off or mutter expletives at the speed demon next to you, consider the fact that the driver might be a sleepy teen.

A National Sleep Foundation study found that the large number of teens who drive while tired poses a serious health concern.

The study surveyed U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 to assess the prevalence, frequency and perceived risk of drowsy driving. They were asked if they had driven while so tired they struggled to keep their eyes open and how often. They were also asked about their beliefs on drowsy driving and what prevented them from getting the necessary sleep to stay alert.

The study found that 1 in 6 teen drivers reported having driven while drowsy and estimated that over 400,000 teens drive drowsy at least once a week. Those with paying jobs were twice as likely to admit to drowsy driving compared with teens who didn’t work.

The study also found that 95% of teens agree that drowsy driving is risky, but they ranked it as having the lowest risk of death or serious injury behind drunk, drugged and distracted driving. In reality, drowsy driving accounts for a large portion of crashes. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 21% of fatal crashes involve a drowsy driver.

Study participants blamed work and school schedules for their lack of sleep. Researchers found that these time demands mean about 1.7 million teens have driven droopy-eyed and are at greater risk for drowsy driving-related consequences.

Vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of death among U.S. teens, but accidents caused by drowsy driving are preventable.

Before your teen hits the road, make sure they hit the hay.

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