Short sleep duration is common in adolescents and young adults, and is a risk factor for motor vehicle crash.
In the new study “Sleep-Deprived Young Drivers and the Risk for Crash – The Drive Prospective Cohort Study” published in JAMA Pediatrics, this first of its kind study found sleeping less on weekends puts young drivers at greater risk of having a car crash at night.
To read abstract click here
The authors of the study analyzed the association between sleep and motor vehicle crashes in newly licensed people aged between 17 and 24. Measuring a sample size of 20,000, the participants were followed up on average two years after being enrolled in the study.
Beginning in 2003, the researchers analyzed police-reported crash data and driver sub-groups to determine who had an increased crash risk. The study found that less sleep per night significantly increased young drivers’ crash risk and that less sleep on weekends increases run-off road and late night crash risks.
Leon Lack, Professor of Psychology at Flinders University and a sleep expert, said that other studies have shown that younger people tend to be higher risk takers in general.
“Even though, intellectually, they may appreciate they will be sleepy and should not be driving, in reality they may do so anyway,” said Professor Lack.
“We have recently done a nationwide study on sleepiness. As a group, people of this age tend to report more sleepiness. Sleepiness continues to be reported up to about the age of 50 and then tends to decline with older age groups,” he said.
“Sleep need of that younger age group is still quite high, an average of about eight hours a night with individual variations. Younger people are perhaps pushing the boundaries a little more than older people.”
Professor Lack said young people may feel they don’t have enough time for sleep.
“They may have a second job, they may be studying full time, they may be married and if they have young kids, they have a lot of commitments,” he said.
“That, in conjunction with potentially a bit of alcohol and the effect of circadian rhythms on late night driving, can have a very strong effect to produce extreme sleepiness.”