Prom Time Can Be Dangerous Time On The Road
May 19, 2010 - 10:29:15 AM
(HealthNewsDigest.com) - NEW YORK, – Prom night is an annual rite of spring for teens nationwide. Traffic safety experts warn graduates and parents that this time of celebration can quickly turn into tragedy. An estimated 15,000 young people are killed every year in traffic crashes, with a noticeable spike during prom season.
"The prom night tradition often includes alcohol and late nights, which can be a recipe for disaster when coupled with driving," said David Reich of The National Road Safety Foundation, Inc.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says alcohol is a factor in more than half of all fatal crashes. Many schools have a strict no-alcohol policy, but alcohol may be present at after-parties despite the fact that the partygoers are not of legal drinking age. Safety experts say it's best to designate a driver or make arrangements for safe transportation.
Proms and after-parties often run into the morning, so sleep deprivation can also be a risk factor. "Drowsy driving is as dangerous as drunk driving," said Reich. With lack of proper sleep, the body begins to shut down, causing "micro-sleeps" where the eyes close for a few seconds or longer. During a three-second micro-sleep, a car at highway speed will have traveled more than half the length of a football field – enough to send it off the road or across the divider into oncoming traffic.
Drowsiness is a condition most drivers fail to recognize. There are several signs that should warn a driver to stop and rest:
Difficulty focusing, with frequent blinking
Daydreaming or not remembering the last few miles driven
Head snaps or nodding
Repeated yawning or rubbing eyes
Drifting out of the lane, tailgating or hitting rumble strips
Another danger is distracted driving, which is a factor in nearly 6,000 traffic fatalities every year. "Texting is a major part of life for young people," Reich said, "but the reality is, we can't text and drive safely at the same time."
Experts including U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, who has made distracted driving his agency's priority, urge young people to just let the phone ring. "The message will be waiting for you when you arrive safely," he said. "No call or text message is worth your life or the lives of friends and others on the road."
The National Road Safety Foundation has free films and materials on safe driving. For free downloads of the films "The Aftermath," "Almost Home" and "Recognizing the Drowsy Driver," go to www.nrsf.org. and click on "Free Traffic Safety Programs."
For more than 45 years, the National Road Safety Foundation has produced films and teaching materials that have been used by driver ed teachers, police officers, and health and safety officials to teach of young drivers about the dangers of drinking and driving, speeding and aggressive driving.
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