Teens plus drowsy driving equals a dangerous situation

Sleepy drivingFor many high school students, summer vacation means late nights out with friends, summer jobs, sports tournaments and overnight camps. Juggling all the summer activities can add up to irregular sleep schedules and too little sleep, putting teens at risk for drowsy driving.

Teen drivers are new to the road and need to be alert and free of distractions when driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, teen drivers are four times more likely to be in a fatal car accident. That statistic would probably be higher if it factored in teen drowsy driving.

More than 80 percent of teens get less than the recommended nine hours of sleep each night. What’s even scarier is that less than half of these teens realize being tired makes a difference in driving safely.

Increasing the awareness of this teen issue is important to keeping teens and others safe on the road. Parents can help keep their teen drivers safe by talking with them about these safe-driving tips:

  • Limit the number of passengers in the car. More passengers mean more distractions.
  • Put the cell phone away. Don’t talk or text while driving.
  • Know the signs of drowsy driving including:
    • Difficulty focusing or keeping eyes open.
    • Drifting into other traffic lanes.
    • Missed road signs or forgetting the last few miles driven.

Create a back-up plan if your teen finds himself or herself drowsy driving. I often suggest finding a safe place to stop and take a quick 30-minute nap or call a parent.

If you’re concerned about your teen’s sleep habits, talk to your pediatrician or contact one of our specialists in the Sleep Center at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin at (414) 266-2790.

Megan Grekowicz, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC~ Megan Grekowicz, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC, pediatric nurse practitioner, Sleep Center, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Clinic in New Berlin

The Sleep Center at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin is the only sleep center in the state dedicated solely to the care of children and teens. The center is one of only two pediatric sleep labs in the country with two locations (Milwaukee and New Berlin) accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and staffed by four board-certified pediatric sleep specialists.

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