What should teenagers know about drowsy driving?

April 25th, 2024

Teen driver learning from father

By Dean I Weitzman, Esq.


Drowsy driving is a problem that affects everyone on the roads, drivers and passengers alike. Teenagers should understand the dangers of driving sleepy.

When it comes to driving safety, young people are often associated with such dangers as texting while driving, speeding and driving while intoxicated. These are serious issues that cause many accidents in Pennsylvania and across the country. However, it is important not to overlook the risks that come with being sleep-deprived.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, approximately 5,000 people in the United States are killed in car crashes caused by drowsy driving. Surveys conducted by GHSA, State Farm Insurance and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety have revealed some troubling statistics. About 84 million people are driving while drowsy at any given time, and a large portion have admitted they do so on a regular basis.

In additional studies, Australian researchers equated drowsy driving to drunk driving. During closed-course tests, states the National Sleep Foundation, it was discovered that driving after being awake for 18 hours was about the same as having a .05 percent blood alcohol content. After 24 hours of staying awake, drivers’ impairment levels were equal to a .10 percent blood alcohol content.

Pennsylvania teens spoken to about driving drowsy

How does this information pertain to teen drivers? Young people may be particularly prone to sleep deprivation, due to school and busy social and extra-curricular schedules. Those who have an after-school job may be even more sleep-deprived. According to, about one-third of teenagers in the U.S. have driven while drowsy. Additionally, younger drivers have less experience behind the wheel than older drivers, and they may have difficulty correcting or avoiding a driving mistake due to being sleepy.

Many Pennsylvania educators are concerned about the problem. During Teen Driver Safety Week in October, high school students in Schuylkill County learned about the dangers of drowsy driving. In a positive sign, many teenagers said they understood the dangers and felt they should take precautions to avoid being sleepy behind the wheel.

Preventive precautions

How can teenagers and older drivers avoid causing serious injuries in a drowsy driving accident? Drivers should undertake the following precautions during a trip:

  • Get plenty of sleep the night before a trip.
  • Take a passenger who can switch turns driving or keep the driver awake.
  • Pull over regularly to get out of the vehicle and stretch, which may particularly prevent drowsiness on straight roads.
  • If it becomes necessary, pull into a safe place, such as a rest stop, to take a nap.

Drivers should keep in mind that drowsiness can also occur during short drives through town. It is important to try to avoid being too tired while driving, but accidents caused by others cannot always be prevented. Those who were injured by others may wish to contact an experienced personal injury attorney in Philadelphia to discuss possible compensation.

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