Startling Facts About Drowsy Teen Driving

Jul 20, 2022 | Driving Safety

Government data has long confirmed that teen drivers are at the highest risk of any age group of getting into a serious car crash. Their lack of experience behind the wheel, tendency to engage in risky behavior (from not wearing a seat belt to distracted driving), and impulsivity, among other factors, have made such crashes the leading cause of accidental death among drivers between the ages of 15 and 24.

Teens are also more likely to be operating on less sleep than other drivers, notes author Lisa L. Lewis in her new book, The Sleep-Deprived Teen: Why Our Teens Are So Tired, and How Parents and Schools Can Help Them Thrive. In an excerpt of the book published in Slate, Lewis examines the drowsy teen driving phenomenon in, well, eye-opening detail. Here are some key takeaways on the topic:

There are more drowsy driving incidents than the “official” count suggests. Drowsy driving is listed as a factor in about 7 percent of all crashes and more than 16 percent of fatal crashes. However, Lewis cites a study that suggests the number of drowsy crashes is more like 10 percent, and other data indicates that drowsiness may play a role in twice as many crashes as it gets credit for. The discrepancy stems from the fact that it’s not always possible to confirm that fatigue was a factor; also, since alcohol consumption frequently leads to dozing off while driving, many of those fatalities are categorized as drunk driving rather than fatigue-related crashes.

Less sleep equals more likelihood of a crash. Falling asleep at the wheel isn’t the only danger of drowsy driving. Drivers who’ve had only five or six hours of sleep are more prone to lapses in attention or judgment, such as failing to react to a changing traffic signal. The severely sleep-deprived are more likely to lose control of their vehicle, fall into a brief “microsleep,” or overcompensate after drifting out of their lane.

Teens are especially at risk. Many teens simply don’t get enough sleep, and research indicates that the risky driving behavior exhibited by teens increases as they become more sleep-deprived. For example, a teen who’s slept less than six hours is three times more likely to not use a seatbelt as one who’s slept at least eight hours.

Licensing restrictions help. Special state-imposed teen driver licensing requirements, such as those that place restrictions on late-night driving for drivers under 18, have helped to reduce the number of teen crashes over the past three decades. Other proposed policy changes that would lead to later school start times or promote awareness of the hazards of drowsy driving are also seen as encouraging developments that could save lives.


For more than thirty years the attorneys at Franklin D. Azar & Associates have helped thousands of injured people obtain complete and timely compensation for their losses. Our proven track record and expertise have allowed us to grow into the largest personal-injury law firm in Colorado, with offices in Denver, Aurora, Fort Collins, Thornton, Greenwood Village, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo. If you’ve been injured in a bus, car, truck, or motorcycle accident, you may be entitled to compensation.  Please call the car accident attorneys at FDAzar day or night at 800-716-9032, or contact us here for a free consultation and no-obligation evaluation of your case.