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How many times this week have you had to check more than once to get your teen up for school?
For this (and many other reasons), it’s easy to view our teens as lazy and assume they just want to sleep the day away. Parents have no shortage of commitments and responsibilities, sure, but teens are busier than we’d like to think.
To further complicate things, teens actually need more sleep than most adults do and missing just a few hours can mean a higher crash risk on the roads.
Let’s get this straight: sleep is crucial for everyone. When we go without sleep or don’t get as much as we need, we can lose focus and increase our odds of becoming fatigued. Parents might shrug off a few missed hours of sleep each week as normal, but this is a serious risk and a bad example to set for our teens.
The average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep but many are getting much less. Teens, however, need about 8-10 hours of sleep each day in order to focus properly and getting those hours isn’t always easy. School, sports, part-time jobs and after-school activities can get in the way of sleep, as can digital distractions that keep teens up late. So while you might think your teen is just trying to sleep in, their bodies are really aiming to get the full rest they need.
Take drowsy driving risks seriously
Teen drivers already face plenty of barriers to staying safe. Their inexperience alone makes them some of the most dangerous drivers on the road, before you add in cell phone distractions and other risks. So, teens cannot afford to deal with the added risks from drowsy driving.
Studies have shown that being awake for 18 hours straight is the equivalent of having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05% - the legal limit in some states. In fact, losing only two hours of sleep can be similar to having three beers. You wouldn’t let your teen get behind the wheel with any amount of alcohol in their system, so you shouldn’t have a different view on drowsy driving.
Set the example
The good news is that parents can make a difference. If you work with your teen to create and stick to a nightly routine, it will help you both get the sleep you need each day. You set the example in the car so take the same leadership role and set the example you want your teen to follow.
It can also help to plan ahead for these kinds of risks. If your teen works a few nights a week, make it clear that they can always call you for a ride home if they’re too tired to drive. You want your teen to get plenty of practice driving, but you also want those practice hours to be in the best, safest conditions. Sleep can have a big impact on their driving abilities so keep it in mind every time your teen gets behind the wheel.
DriveitHOME™ is an initiative of the National Safety Council, designed by and for parents of newly licensed teen drivers. DriveitHOME™ offers free resources parents can use to help their teen build experience to become safer drivers.
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