When Teens Drive After Dark: What Parents Should Know

Parents in Illinois want their teens to be safe behind the wheel, and the graduated driver’s license program has proven successful in decreasing the number of teen crash fatalities since it went into effect. Statistics indicate that facets of the program have helped to lower teen driving deaths by 55 percent, according to the Illinois Secretary of State office.

Researchers indicate that parents can protect their teens by learning about the developmental stages of adolescents and how these affect driving skills. In a recent story in the Washington Times Reporter, an SUV rollover injured six and killed one teen on a curvy stretch of road that poses many dangers at night. A Chicago car accident lawyer is typically able to relate many anecdotal stories about accidents after dark involving teen drivers.

Effects of sleep deprivation

Ensuring that a teen gets adequate sleep may be one of the most significant ways parents can reduce the risk of an accident. Unfortunately, adolescents require more hours of sleep at the same time that their internal clocks are changing and preventing them from falling asleep as quickly at night. School schedules and academic and extracurricular requirements make sleep even more difficult. A Chicago car accident lawyer may be aware that only about 8 percent of high school students get the recommended 9 hours of sleep each night, according to the Adolescent Journal of Health. The result is a lack of alertness that reduces a young person’s capacity to focus on the details involved in safe driving.

According to an article in the National Center for Biotechnology Information, teens who drive drowsy experience a significant drop in performance. In fact, a teen who has been awake for 17 hours has the same performance level as a person with a blood alcohol content of .05 percent. At 24 hours, the level is equal to a .10 percent BAC. Aside from these alarming statistics, researchers warn that the morning hours are most dangerous. The highest percentage of accidents caused by teens who fall asleep at the wheel occurs between 6 and 8 a.m. Some high schools have adopted a later start time to try to combat this issue.

How parents can help

One way that parents can help teens get more sleep is to restrict or eliminate the use of electronic devices at night. A study by the National Sleep Foundation reported that teens who have more than three electronic devices in their bedrooms lose approximately 30 minutes of sleep each night. When there is already a sleep deficit, this factor can contribute significantly to teens falling asleep behind the wheel.

Even one teen crash fatality is too many. A Chicago car accident lawyer encourages parents of young drivers to promote healthy nighttime routines so that teens are able to maximize the number of hours they can sleep.