When teens are sleep deprived, they have an increased risk of car accidents, according to a recent study. This was the finding of a spring 2013 study out of Sydney, Australia that was published online in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
“Less sleep per night significantly increased the risk for crash for young drivers,” the researchers wrote in the American Medical Association journal JAMA Pediatrics.
Young people are particularly at risk for sleep deprivation,” said Alexandra Martiniuk , lead author of a study. “It doesn’t take drastic sleep reductions to increase the risk of crash,” she explained.
The Sleep-Deprived Teen Sleep Study Details
As part of the sleep study, Martiniuk and her colleagues followed the habits of 20,000 newly-minted drivers in Australia aged 17 to 24 for a period of two years. The teens answered questions on the amount of sleep they had each night. The researchers then examined police records on motor vehicle crashes during the next two years after which the young drivers were given their licenses to drive.
The Sleep-Deprived Teen Sleep Study Findings
The young drivers who indicated sleeping six hours or less per night were found to have a 20 percent increased likelihood of being involved in a motor vehicle crash during the two-year period compared to those who reported getting more than six hours of shut eye a night.
Weekends were even worse. Drivers who had six or fewer hours of sleep had a 55 percent increased likelihood of being in a car crash versus those who slept more than six hours.
The authors did note that the short-sleeping young drivers were also found to be more likely to engage in other risky behavior, like using illegal drugs or drinking alcohol.
Significance of the Sleep-Deprived Teen Sleep Study
The alarming, but not surprising findings “may help increase awareness of the impact of reduced sleep hours on crash risk and highlight subgroups of young drivers and times of day for targeted intervention,” the authors of the study write.
Other studies have shown that sleepiness can cause driving impairment at least as much, if not more than, alcohol, reports the National Sleep Foundation. Further, drowsy driving is the cause of one out of six deadly motor vehicle accidents and one out of eight crashes requiring a trip to the hospital.
Parents may want to pay special attention to their teens and sleep by encouraging their teenage children to get enough shut eye, which according to the National Sleep Foundation is 9.25 hours nightly.
Further, the study findings provide more support for the implementation of graduated drivers’ licenses, which are designed to gradually release driving restrictions over time. One particular feature of graduated drivers’ licenses is a restriction on nighttime driving.
Fortunately, there are some things teens can do to avoid dozing and driving, as one of our recent posts points out.
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