Sober But Sleepy - Will Your Teen Be Safe To Drive?

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School-sponsored graduation parties and their dangers and what educators, administrators, and parents should know.

Graduation night approaches for America's high school seniors, and many parents will claim their party-going teens' car keys -- not because of alcohol, but because of fatigue.

In many school districts nationwide, the school-sponsored, all-night graduation party has come into vogue as a substance-free outlet for senior celebrations. However, a late night of music and movies still sends partygoers out on the road unfit to drive safely.

The culprit: lack of sleep. Research studies in recent years have demonstrated that the effects of sleep deprivation - including impaired motor coordination, reflexes and judgment - are very similar to that of alcohol use, and just as deadly on the road.

One study found that at 17 hours without sleep, average impairment is roughly equal to a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.05. At 24 hours, the BAC equivalent is 0.10 - legally drunk in all fifty states.

"Unfortunately, sober doesn't automatically mean safe. Parents and school administrators have a responsibility to work together to ensure that their alcohol- and drug-free fun this spring doesn't end in tragedy," says education expert and school liability consultant Edward F. Dragan. "Schools and parents must arrange for the transportation of teens after the all-night party so they arrive home safely."

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, fatigue is the second biggest killer on the highways. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that around 100,000 reported automobile accidents each year are caused by drowsiness and fatigue factors. Of that number, approximately 71,000 result in injury and 1,550 in death.


Edward F. Dragan, Ed.D. is the founder of Education Management Consulting, LLC, providing consultation services to school administrators and attorneys on education-related issues including school management, safety in schools, education lawsuits and school risk assessments.

Dr. Dragan's article on the dangers of teen driving fatigue, "Graduation Night's 'Silent Killer'", appears in the May 2006 issue of the American School Board Journal.

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Edward F. Dragan, Ed.D.