Sleepy Teens can be Dangerous Drivers

Seven to nine hours - that's the recommended amount of sleep every teen is supposed to get. But a new study finds, more than one in five teens gets less.

"Being sleep deprived and driving is probably worse than driving drunk," guessed UVa graduate student Eric Magnuson. Well, maybe not worse, but it's certainly a concern among young drivers like Magnuson, and the people who teach them.
Richard Wharam has been helping Albemarle County students learn to drive for more than 16 years. He says exhausted drivers are dangerous.

"When we fall asleep for two, three seconds at 60 miles an hour you're traveling over a football field," Wharam said.

What happens during those couple of seconds can be deadly. Wharam says 53 percent of teen driving fatalities happen when a driver veers off of the road, and overcorrects.
he demostrates safe offroad recovery.

A new study finds more than 20 percent of young people say they don't get enough sleep, study results that don't surprise Magnuson. He says now more than ever, it's easier to lose track of time and stay up too late.

"I think with rises of things like the computer and the internet its easier to stay up and do things that are entertaining," Magnuson said..

But Wharam says, rather than staying up, teens should be staying alert.

"We need to be aware of the fact that today's traffic congestion is so bad you need to be wide awake and alert and searching and evaluating, predicting the behavior of other drivers you can't be half asleep doing that stuff," Wharam said.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal recently surveyed more than 4,000 teens. More than 800 of them said they didn't get enough sleep. The study linked sleep disturbance to a higher risk of heart disease later in life.


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