Getting home at 7 p.m. after practice. Staying up until 3 a.m. doing three hours of homework, two projects due in a week, and studying for two tests for the next day. Waking up at 6:30 in the morning. Unusual? No. Typical, for DCDS students. For these reasons, DCDS students must be extra cautious about drowsy driving. When eyelids start drooping, yawns slip through, and difficulty focusing arises from sleep deprivation, students can lose control at the wheel. The driver was lucky this time, but unfortunately, drowsy drivers are involved in an estimated 21% of fatal crashes, according to the foundation for Traffic Safety.
One of the most important things to obtain in junior year is a driver’s license. Being able to drive as a student means earning the first real independence from parents, which most students find liberating and exciting. However, driving can be very dangerous, especially for teenagers. Research from the Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD study revealed that 56% of licensed teens admit to having driven while drowsy at least once.
It is widely known that most teenagers do not get enough sleep, instead receiving substantially less than the recommended eight or nine hours. Especially at DCDS, most students are sleep deprived for a number of reasons. According to Nationwide Children’s, the biological shift happens in an adolescent’s internal clock of about 2 hours. School, social outings, and extracurricular activities can naturally impede students’ ability to receive adequate amounts of sleep, which increases the risk of a sleep-related crash. According to the National Sleep Foundation, being awake for 18 hours produces impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration of .05, and after 24 hours, the equivalent is .10, which is astonishing knowing the fact that the legal BAC limit is .08.
Recently, junior Matthew Zhang got into a car crash that was caused by drowsy driving. On January 31st, at around 6:30 p.m. after his bowling practice, he fell asleep at the wheel and could not react to the presence of a truck that he was approaching quickly.
“Many of my friends can relate to feeling sleepy while driving after a long day at school,” Zhang said. “I felt sleepy because I was working on the soil analysis lab in my environmental science class until 4:30 in the morning, which, as it turned out, was not even officially due, but since I had felt tired many times before while driving, I did not think much of it. I thought I could power through my sleepiness and make it home, but before I knew it, I had fully fallen asleep.”
He claims that his foot must have still been on the accelerator. This is typical for a drowsy drive as 32% get impatient and 12% tend to drive faster according to the National Sleep Foundation.
“The other car ran away and I had no major injuries, but I was fully shook,” Zhang said. “My car engine also busted and the car became undrivable. I learned that sleep is very important and that ofen times going to bed is more important than finishing a lab that turns out to not be due.”
Besides going to sleep earlier, there are many other ways to avoid drowsy driving. The students should call for a ride if they feel too tired. If this is not possible, then they should take short naps for at least 15 minutes before driving to reduce the risk. Some studies have found that caffeine actually helps, but it does not overcome the effects of being drowsy.
Aside from finding ways to sleep more throughout the day, students can find ways to more effectively utilize time to reduce the amount of sleep taken away by obligations for work.
“There are a lot of productivity apps available on the App Store and Google Play Store that can help you manage your time,” sophomore Josh Zhe said. “Personally, I use the app Fantastical 2. It combines reminders, and a calendar into a single app and includes lots of excellent features such as automatic scheduling for dates entered in an event title.”
Additionally, avoiding procrastination and using precious free blocks can help students squeeze out assignments without dipping into time for sleep. Therefore, although the myriad athletic and academic obligations of students make it difficult to acquire eight hours of sleep, there are measures which can be taken to solve the DCDS sleep epidemic.