Teens often view getting a driver’s license as a final step in their independence. However, teen drivers are among the most dangerous of any age group due to their inexperience and distractions behind the wheel. In fact, car accidents are the number one cause of death of U.S. teens, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Alcohol, cell phones, and passenger distractions play a significant role in teen car crashes; however, another safety problem that is largely unrecognized is drowsy or fatigued driving. Unfortunately, most people are unaware of the dangers involved in driving while drowsy. However, studies have shown that drowsy driving impairs performance, judgment, vision and reaction times. These are similar impairments seen in drunk drivers.
According to the NHTSA, drowsy driving causes an estimated 100,000 police-reported crashes each year. In addition, more than 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in monetary damages occur each year due to drowsy driving. Surveys suggest that the problem is the worst among young drivers. Research released by Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD revealed:
- 56 percent of teen drivers admitted to driving drowsy at least once.
- 32 percent of teen drivers said they drive drowsy sometimes.
- 10 percent of teen drivers admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel.
As a parent of a teen driver, what can I do?
According to the principal research scientist at Liberty Mutual Insurance, William Horrey, Ph.D., the most important thing parents can do to ensure their teens are safe while behind the wheel is to educate them. Horrey suggests that parents address the issue early on, along with the other dangers of driving such as alcohol, cell phone use and other distractions.
A few other ways parents can help with drowsy driving concerns:
- Be aware of your teen’s schedule. Keep your line of communication open with your teen so that you know if your teen has taken on too much. Certain activities may need to be eliminated, to avoid exhaustion.
- Encourage your teen to call for a ride. Only 34 percent of teens reported that they had called for a ride if they felt too tired to drive. As a parent, you should encourage your teen to call if they feel drowsy, exhausted or under any circumstance where they do not feel comfortable driving.
- Talk about the dangers of driving while drowsy. Most teens are not aware of how dangerous it can be to drive if you are tired. It is important for you to educate them, show them statistics and tell them how crucial it is to be alert at all times while behind the wheel.
- Bump up their curfew. If your teen is showing signs of exhaustion such as irritability, being lethargic, etc. move up their curfew. This will increase the likelihood that your teen is getting adequate rest.
- Lead by example. Teens are not the only age group at risk of being involved in a sleep-related car crash. If you are feeling drowsy, call for a ride.
When you are teaching your teen about the dangers of driving while drowsy or fatigued, it is important to teach them the “Do’s & Don’ts” related to drowsy driving.
Below is a list from the National Sleep Foundation.
- Drive if you have taken medication that may cause drowsiness.
- Drive if you are tired.
- Rely on the radio or window to keep you awake.
- Drive at a time of the day that you would normally be sleeping.
- Drink any amount of alcohol, it may cause drowsiness.
- Get a good night’s sleep before a long drive.
- Get off the road if you notice any of the warning signs of fatigue.
- Take a nap – find a safe place to take a 15 – 20 minute nap if you have been driving a while.
- Consume caffeine, but do not rely on it for long periods of time.
- Try consuming caffeine before taking a short nap to get the benefits of both.
- Drive with a friend who can help watch for signs of fatigue and take a turn driving if necessary.
- Always wear your seatbelt.
One last thing you can do with your teen to ensure they understand why they should never drive while drowsy, is take the pledge against drowsy driving!
If you or a loved one have been involved in a car accident with a fatigued or drowsy driver, it is important that you contact an experienced Orlando Auto Accident Lawyer immediately. The opinions of expert witnesses, effective use of discovery and an immediate and thorough investigation of the accident scene are all vital to your claim. At the Law Firm of Michael T. Gibson, we can help you obtain compensation for medical bills, future medical treatment, loss of wages, pain and suffering, etc. Feel free to fill out our quick contact form on our website to discuss your legal options in greater detail.