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Tired Teens Prone to Car Crashes
Date:2/18/2010

Italian study shows sleepy students drive anyway and get into accidents,,

THURSDAY, Feb. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Young drivers who are overtired from lack of sleep or poor quality sleep are twice as likely to have a car crash, Italian researchers report.

"We think that adolescents should simply not drive while sleep-deprived, therefore sleep deprivation should be avoided, especially when driving is expected," said lead researcher Dr. Fabio Cirignotta, a neurology professor at the University of Bologna.

For the study, Cirignotta's team collected data on 339 Italian students, aged 18 to 21 (mean age 18.4 years), who had driver's licenses. The students were asked about their sleep habits and traffic accidents.

The researchers found that 80 students had had at least one car accident. Of those, 56 percent said they had driven while sleepy and 15 percent said sleepiness was a prime cause of the accident.

Cirignotta's group found that the young drivers were chronically sleep-deprived. While the students reported needing more than nine hours of sleep a night, they also reported sleeping only an average of 7.3 hours on weeknights.

Only 6 percent of the students said they got the needed 9.2 hours of sleep on weeknights. Most, 58 percent, said they tried to catch up on sleep on the weekend, the researchers found.

The students also reported a variety of sleep problems, including waking up during the night (45 percent), difficulty waking up in the morning (40 percent) and "bad sleep" (19 percent).

Moreover, 64 percent of the students said their lack of sleep made them sleepy during the day.

In addition to lack of sleep, men were more prone to accidents than women, as were those who smoked. The researchers speculate that smoking may be related to trying to stay awake and alert while driving.

"Our findings point to the fact that young people frequently show poor sleep h
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