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Drowsy Driving Most Prevalent Among Teens, Young Adults

Seventy-one percent of 18-29 year olds are likely to drive drowsy. Is your teen or young adult driver getting enough sleep? Researchers say, probably not.

My son was one of about 40 teens and young adults who facilitated an Antioch retreat last weekend for sophomores in our church parish.

This is the third year he participated in the event, which features lots of friendship and fellowship, but little sleep as they sit around the campfire talking long into the night. 

As a parent, I couldn’t be prouder of my son and his fellow peer ministers, but I do worry about how this lack of sleep impacts their drive home. 

Drowsy driving is dangerous. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 100,000 police-reported crashes a year resulting in 1,550 deaths and 71,000 injuries are the result of sleep deprived drivers.

People who sleep six to seven hours a night (I’m betting my son and his friends were lucky to get half that), are twice as likely to be involved in a drowsy driving crash as those who get eight hours or more.

Retreat or not, my son, like most teens, tends to stay up late and get up early.  Early school start times coupled with athletics or other after-school activities and jobs result in many teens not getting enough sleep. 

And that is worrisome since drivers 16 to 24 years of age are nearly twice as likely to be involved in a drowsy driving crash as drivers 50 to 59.  nd the risk is even higher for males, who account for two out of three drivers involved in these crashes, reports the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

So what’s a parent to do? Short of ordering him to bed, I’ve taken to reminding my son that sleep will help him perform better in the classroom and on the ice. While that usually results in an “I know mom,” response, he has been getting to bed earlier resulting in a less groggy and more social son in the morning.

Sleep is serious business. A lack of sleep is linked to decreases in memory, attention and academic performance, as well as teen obesity and other health problems. According to research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), sleep-deprived teens are more likely to feel sad or hopeless or to seriously consider suicide. A 2012 study by a leading sleep researcher at Brown University, linked sleep deprivation in college freshmen to the expression of genetic factors linked to depression.

When it comes to driving, the importance of sleep can’t be overstated (that applies not just to teens, but adults, too). Sleepiness can result in slower reaction times, vision impairment, lapses in judgment, and delays in processing information.

Studies show that being awake for more than 20 hours results in an impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent, the legal limit in all 50 states. Here’s an even scarier fact, some sleep deprived people lapse into 3 to 4-second micro-sleeps. Imagine your teen doing that behind the wheel!

Talk to your teen about the importance of getting enough sleep and its impact on driving. Also make it a point to discuss the warning signs of drowsy driving -- difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, heavy-feeling eyelids, head nodding, frequent yawning, tailgating or missing signs, unintentional swerving. If he experiences any of these symptoms, his body is telling him to get off the road.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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