It’s no secret that teenagers like to sleep, but what comes as a surprise is that lack of sleep in teens could be tied to risky behaviors including driving skills. According to sleep researchers, sleep deprivation can be as detrimental to a driver’s judgment and reaction time as alcohol, creating a condition something like jet lag. It’s a problem for all drivers, but it’s especially so for an inexperienced teenager. Since maintaining a good driving record counts big time when it comes to insurance premiums, making sure your child gets a good night’s sleep could be the secret to cheap teen car insurance.
A recent study by Italian researcher Dr. Fabio Cirignotta showed that poor sleep quality and being sleepy while driving put teens at increasing risk of car accidents. The study, based on data collected from 339 Italian teens, found that adolescent drivers were twice as likely to have a car crash if they experienced sleepiness while driving or reported having had a poor night’s sleep. In fact, 56% percent of the teens in the study reported having at least one car accident while driving sleepy compared to 35% who had no accidents on their records. Worse, only 6% of the kids said they got the 9.2 hours sleep recommended for weeknights. Most averaged just 7.3 hours a night and said they tried to catch up on needed sleep on weekends. The report, which was originally published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, concluded that the combination of chronic sleep loss and poor sleep quality had a negative effect on alertness.
A study conducted in Virginia in 2010 confirmed the Italian findings, and placed some of the blame on early high school start times. It seems that teens have a natural tendency toward irregular sleep patterns that kicks in beginning at puberty, when the circadian rhythms in many children change. Teens tend to stay up later at night when they feel most alert and then sleep later in the morning. The problem is that over the decades the start time for high schools has gotten earlier and earlier, often as early as 6:30 or 7 a.m. That forces teens to disregard their instinct to sleep later, rousting them out of bed and on the road while their internal clock is actively urging them back to bed. The Virginia study found that in one town, where classes began at 7:20 a.m., there were 65.4 car crashes for every 1,000 teen drivers. In an adjacent town, where classes began at 8:40 a.m., the number went down to 46.2 crashes per 1,000 teen drivers. The study also noted that in both cities the highest incident for teen car crashes was immediately after school let out in the afternoon.
Traffic, weather conditions, distraction and many other things are certainly contributing factors to teen car crashes. But, with 80% of American teens reporting that they don’t get enough sleep, making sure your child gets sufficient sleep before he or she gets behind the wheel may be the secret to cheaper teen car insurance quotes.