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How can drowsy driving among teens be prevented?

If you are the parent of a teen driver in New Jersey, you likely worry about your child driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol or texting while he or she is driving. However, drowsy driving is also an issue about which you should be concerned. According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, drivers age 25 and under are involved in almost half of all drowsy driving related crashes. Experts believe, however, that there are some steps that can be taken to reduce these numbers.

Your teen may be less likely to get behind the wheel while they are tired if schools adapted later start times. Research has shown that when schools start later and kids get more sleep, the benefits are plentiful. One study found that in schools where start times were 8 a.m. or after, drivers aged 16 to 18 were involved in 13 percent fewer crashes. In addition to safer driving practices, increased sleep can help kids get better grades, perform better on tests and maintain healthy weights. It can also help with psychological disorders such as depression.

Later start times for schools are supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which advocates start times for high school and middle school students no earlier than 8:30 a.m. While some school districts across the nation are adopting later start times, the practice has not yet become widespread. In fact, less than 20 percent of 40,000 schools surveyed have a start time earlier than 8:30 a.m.

Another thing that can help your teen reduce his or her risk of a drowsy driving-related crash is a graduated driver’s license. These types of licenses restrict the hours that teens can be on the road. This is important since of all deadly crashes involving 16- and 17-year-old drivers, 39 percent occur at night. Restricting driving times has been shown to reduce those crashes by 40 to 60 percent.

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