Though texting while driving, drinking and driving and other forms of “distracted driving” are some of the leading causes of fatal accidents amongst teens, one is often overlooked – “driving while fatigued” or “tired driving.” Odds are, if you have been on a long car trip or haven’t gotten enough sleep the previous night that you have “nodded off behind the wheel.” Surely you snapped right out of it, perhaps jerking the steering wheel a little, and then recuperating to return safely home. Unfortunately for many teens and parents in the United States, driving while fatigued did not play out for them so well.

Last year, the National Sleep Foundation declared November 12 to 18 to be “Drowsy Driving Prevention Week,” in hopes of reducing the number of accidents related to lack of sleep. According to an article on Huffington Post, “More than 40 percent of Americans say they rarely or never get a good night’s sleep,” and this obviously makes for some very sleepy drivers. They recently conducted a poll, of which they found that teenagers aged 18 to 29 were 71 percent likely to drive drowsy, while those aged 30 to 64 were 52 percent liable to do so.

“Driving drunk is like driving tired,” said AAA Foundation president and CEO Peter Kissinger. “Just like alcohol or drugs, sleepiness slows reaction time and impairs judgment, and people often overestimate their ability to deal with it.”

Though relatively obvious, driving fatigued is highly underestimated. Thomas J. Balkin, a sleep researcher and chairman of the National Sleep Foundation, claims that sleep-related crashes were likely to be severe or even fatal. Balkin felt that people who fall asleep behind the wheel have worse crashes because they did not do anything to mitigate the crash – like hitting the brakes or steering away from the collision.

According to Bloomberg, “Drivers should get at least six hours of sleep before a long trip, schedule a break every two hours and travel at times when they are normally awake… Drifting from a lane and tailgating may be signs of drowsiness.”

Since driving has historically remained America’s primary mode of transportation, and most of us average 7 hours of sleep a night, this issue doesn’t seem to being fading anytime soon. There are some steps you can take to avoid fatigued driving.

  • Travel at times when others are normally awake.
  • Avoid taking any prescription medication that could make you drowsy.
  • If you drink caffeine, be sure to ingest it 30 minutes before you hit the road.

Constantly teens are told how not to behave when they are driving, though it often curtails little. This is a highly important topic, however, that statistically affects young drivers the most, so these statistics need to be put out in the open for them to see.