Medical experts at the Capital Health Center for Sleep Medicine urge parents to talk with their teen drivers about the importance of sleep and safe driving.
“Drowsiness is similar to alcohol in how it compromises your ability to drive and make decisions, yet many parents of teen drivers seem to focus more on the danger of drunk driving than drowsy driving,” said Dr. Marcella Frank, sleep medicine specialist and medical director of the Capital Health Center for Sleep Medicine.
“When discussing drunk driving with your teen, parents should also talk about the importance of getting nine hours of sleep every night and to pull over or avoid driving if they haven’t gotten enough sleep,” said Dr. Swetha Voddi, sleep medicine specialist at the Capital Health Center for Sleep Medicine.
Experts at Capital Health suggest a number of different strategies to help your teen get into a healthy sleep rhythm, including:
- Select a bedtime ritual, such as a warm bath, listening to calm music or reading a book, and follow the same routine, at the same time, each night.
- Create a relaxing bedroom by removing school materials, computers and televisions and keeping it quiet, dark and cool.
- Set restrictions on screen time (TV, video games, computer, etc.) before bedtime.
- Reduce or eliminate caffeine intake.
- Exercise regularly but not close to bedtime.
The danger of drowsy driving
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates:
- Drivers ages 16 – 24 years are most likely to be involved in a drowsy driving-related motor vehicle accident.
- 1 in 5 fatal accidents in the US involve a fatigued driver.
Read the signs
In January 2013, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released articles on the dangers of drowsy drivers. The CDC study, which was the largest survey ever to examine the topic of drowsy driving, showed risk factors include:
- Men more likely than women to experience drowsy driving
- Snoring (also a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea)
- Sleeping for 6 hours or less per night