Drowsy Driving Prevention, Teens Ages 16 to 19 Years

In New York State (NYS) in 2007, 4,440 drowsy driving crashes occurred. This is the equivalent of a crash every two hours. These crashes resulted in 41 deaths. According to 2007 NYS Police crash reports, male drivers ages 16 to 19 years are more likely to be involved in a drowsy driving crash as compared to drivers in any other age group. Female drivers ages 16 to 19 years are more likely to be involved in a drowsy driving crash than female drivers 25 years and older.

The good news is that you, as a parent or caregiver, can play a major role in preventing drowsy driving-related injuries.

What is drowsy driving?

Drowsy driving is nodding off or not paying attention while driving because you are tired. Research shows that driving while tired is comparable to driving with a blood alcohol content of .08, the legal limit of intoxication.

Who is at risk?

Teens and young adults are at a high risk for drowsy driving because they have less driving experience and may not recognize the consequences of driving while tired. Teens need more sleep than adults, but they may not be getting enough sleep because of their busy schedules with school, jobs, sports and other activities.

What are the warning signs?

These are some signs that a driver should pull over in a safe area to nap or switch drivers:

  • Yawning
  • Inability to keep eyes open and head raised
  • Not remembering the last few miles traveled
  • Drifting out of the lane
  • Hitting rumble strips

What can I do to prevent my child from driving while drowsy?

  • You should talk to your teen about why driving drowsy is dangerous.
  • Try to make sure they are getting enough sleep, and keep driving late at night to a minimum. We are most likely to feel fatigued, and our risk of being involved in a drowsy driving-related crash increases between 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 2 a.m. to 6 a.m.
  • Tell them about the warning signs and assure them they can call for a ride if they feel too tired to drive.

Should my child use caffeine and energy drinks to help stay alert

No. Caffeine and energy drinks may give a quick burst of energy, but most take at least 30 minutes to feel the effects and do not last very long. The only thing that really works is good, consistent sleep. Driving with the window open or music turned up is not effective.

What are some tips for staying alert while driving?

Make sure your teen:

  • Sleeps at least eight and a half to nine hours every night.
  • Avoids driving when sleep deprived. Driving while sleep deprived can be as dangerous as driving while intoxicated.
  • Recognizes the warning signs of drowsy driving. These include drifting from lane to lane, yawning repeatedly, having difficulty keeping your eyes open or focused, not remembering the last few miles driven and tailgating or missing traffic signals. Drivers experiencing any of these warning signs should pull over to a well-lit rest area and take a 20 minute nap or switch driving responsibility to another alert licensed driver.

Where can I find more information about drowsy driving