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Dangers of Drowsy Driving

Early to bed and early to rise may make a man healthy, wealthy and wise but it could impair his ability to drive if he doesn’t get enough age appropriate sleep.

The Journal of the American Medical Association reports in its June issue that drowsy drivers between the ages of 15 and 24 cause more than 1,500 fatalities per year in the United States according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The JAMA article shares the results of surveys from the University of Kentucky at Lexington that reported that later start to the school day resulted in a significant improvement in sleep levels for teenagers. At the same time, auto collision rates in the county where the survey was conducted fell 17% for drivers between 17 and 18 years of age. Elsewhere in Kentucky at the same time crash rates in the same age group rose by almost 8%.

The article goes on to note that sleep deprivation amplifies some of the problems normally associated with teenage years and the adolescent brain. Sleep deprivation can induce dowsing, reduced levels of attention and take drivers who have little experience and impair their judgment and decision making even further.

JAMA goes on to say that even small amounts of alcohol can badly impair the performance of a teenager who has built up a sleep deficit over a number of days.

Making sure our children get enough sleep on a regular basis before they get behind the wheel of a car is an important piece in the safety puzzle, not only for our individual families but for our community. Our children need a minimum eight hours of sleep to function safely in a car. It may make sense for parents to award their children the privilege of driving only in exchange for a teenager’s agreement to go to bed at a reasonable time. Senseless tragedy can be avoided by something truly rewarding – just another hours’ sleep.

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