Dr. Edward F. Dragan, Education Expert, Consultant and Founder of Education Management Consulting, LLC, Exposes Graduation Night's Silent Killer

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Dr. Edward F. Dragan reveals protecting our children on graduation night means more than keeping illicit drugs and alcohol out of their hands. Schools and parents embrace chaperoned all-nght "safe alternative" graduation events but often neglect to consider graduation night's growing "silent killer," the potentially lethal combination of sleep deprivation and driving. More and more of our children are falling prey to drowsy driving each year after "safe" all-night graduation parties.

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Keeping Kids Safe: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know

Dr. Edward F. Dragan, writer of the soon-to-be published book, "Keeping Kids Safe: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know," exposes graduation night's silent killer.

Dr. Dragan, education expert and consultant, exposes the combination of sleep deprivation and driving as the overlooked silent killer among graduating high school students. All-night school sponsored graduation events are popular because they reduce the incidence of alcohol and drug abuse by students who might otherwise attend unsupervised events. However, these alternative "safe" events potentially expose students to the equivalent danger of drowsy driving.

Drowsy driving is the is the second biggest killer on our nation's roads. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration puts the number of such accidents at 100,000 per year of which approximately, 1600 result in fatalities and 71,000 in injuries.

Research has shown that the effects of sleep deprivation are similar to the effects of alcohol intoxication. One such study was reported in 1997 by Dawson and Reid of Australia's National Center for Sleep Research. They found that subjects kept awake for 17 hours performed on cognitive-psychomotor tests the same as a rested person with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05 percent.

At 24 hours of sustained wakefulness, performance was equivalent to a BAC of 0.10 percent. In 16 states drivers are considered drunk with a BAC of 0.08; the remaining states set a level of 0.10.

Many schools and parents fail to consider that allowing students to drive after staying up all night is equally as dangerous as allowing students to driver under the influence of alcohol. Data gathered through a national survey, conducted by Education Management Consulting, LLC, of more than 300 high schools revealed that fatigue and sleep deprivation are generally not considered risks by the planners of all-night graduation parties.

Rather, the focus was on sponsoring a supervised alcohol and drug free event. Typically, event planners keep high school graduates entertained from the beginning of the party until the next morning with a variety of activities, including music, dancing, and competitive events. For many graduates taking part in these events means staying awake for 24 hours. When they leave in the morning- unchecked and unsupervised- their condition is similar to being impaired by alcohol or drugs.

Dr. Dragan said students need not be placed in this life threatening situation. School leaders have a duty to to protect students from known risks, and that includes the clear risk of driving while drowsy.

Fortunately, a few easy and effective precautions can protect students, Dr. Dragan said. First, consider transporting students in school buses, or leased buses to the event and home after the event. For little cost, the school can provide safe transportation after a fun-filled, sleep deprived night for graduates. Even if transportation is provided, adopt clear procedures to protect students from driving while sleep deprived. Specify that under no circumstances will any student, faculty member, or parent chaperon be allowed to drive after attending an all-night graduation party.

Says Dr. Dragan: "No reasonable educator would allow an intoxicated student to get behind the wheel of an automobile and drive away. Why allow a sleep deprived student to do the same? Assessing the risk and planning contingencies for prom and graduation events will help keep students safe, and protect schools from liability."

Edward F. Dragan, Ed.D. is the founder of Education Management Consulting, LLC, providing consultation to school administrators and education expert witness services to attorneys on education-related issues including school management, safety, bullying, sexual harassment, child custody, and special education . His book, Keeping Kids Safe in School: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know, is scheduled for publication in 2007.

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Edward F. Dragan, Ed.D.
Education Management Consulting, LLC


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