With a license in hand and a full social calendar, teens are at increased risk of getting into a motor vehicle crashes. We all counsel our kids on not texting or drinking and driving, but do we talk to them about getting enough sleep before getting behind the wheel?
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics shows that young people who had less than six hours of sleep were at increased risk for crashes. Those who slept less on the weekend were at particular risk of late-night and run-off-the-road crashes, which are fatal twice as often as other crashes.
Auto crashes are the leading cause of unintended death for 16 and 17 year olds in New York state. The period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is the deadliest for drivers ages 15 to 20, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In fact, it has been dubbed the 100 deadliest days because almost a third of teen driver deaths happen in the summer months. It’s not a coincidence that this age group is also more likely to avoid their seat belts and have multiple teens in the car.
Pediatric Emergency Medicine Physician Dr. Anne Brayer shares this advice for parents and loved ones of teens, to help them be safer on the roads.
- Make your teen sign a contract with you in order to earn the right to drive. Either come up with your own rules or simply fill in the blanks on this contract from the CDC.
- Insist on your teen following the law on how many teens are allowed in the car at one time. Don’t know the rules? Here’s a handy guide.
- Insist your teen put away the cell phone while driving. No texting, and we recommend no calls, even with hands-free devices. It’s too distracting.
- Don’t let your teen drive while sleep deprived. And avoid having them drive after dark as much as possible.
- Tell them to always use a seat belt, and make a point to model that behavior for your teens.
- No drinking or drug use and driving. Make sure your teen knows they can always call for a safe ride.
Anne Brayer, M.D., is professor of Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine and pediatric emergency room physician at Golisano Children’s Hospital at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Brayer is the director of the Injury Free Coalition, Rochester chapter, which aims to reduce childhood injuries. Nothing would make her happier than making her job of treating children for avoidable injuries obsolete.