Summer is finally here and with the end of the school year, many teens will be out soaking up the sun. From lazy beach days to hiking and camping, there are many exciting activities that teens will be doing as they enjoy their newfound leisure time.
However, with a majority of the time spent out in the sun, fatigue can occur and this can be quite dangerous when teens get behind the wheel.
Falling asleep at the wheel isn’t just limited to late-night excursions and a lack of sleep, and many teens and parents alike may not be aware of the sun’s effect after an extended period under its glaring rays.
Sun-induced fatigue can easily lead to drowsy driving, which can result in a terrible accident.
Here we will discuss what exactly sun fatigue is and how teens can prevent drowsiness before getting behind the wheel.
Summer Season Is Dangerous for Teen Drivers
Fatal teen crashes during the summer months have become a growing epidemic over the years. The 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day are considered the deadliest of the year for teen drivers, according to The Press-Enterprise. Fatal teen driver crashes are approximately 15 percent during this time period compared to the rest of the year.
Over the past five years, more than 1,600 people were killed in crashes involving teen drivers during the summer months, according to the Press-Enterprise. There are a variety of factors that play a role in these deadly crashes including speeding, distracted driving, not wearing a seatbelt, and even drowsy driving.
In 2015, there were more than 1,270 crashes due to drowsy driving with 15 fatalities, according to the Daily Herald.
Drowsy driving is most common during the summer months, especially between the hours of 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Driving drowsy has a tremendous affect on young drivers, because it can cause vision impairment, slower reaction times, lapses in judgment and delays in processing information. Even as little as closing your eyes for a few seconds could result in a horrible accident.
Tragic Loss of Lives Due to Sun Fatigue
In several states, including Utah, there has been an increase in drowsy driving accidents. More than 1,000 drowsy driving-related accidents happen every year in Utah, according to Desert News. Approximately 31 percent of drowsy driving crashes happened in June, July, and August in the state.
One parent has seen the tragic consequences of drowsy driving after a long day in the sun. Salt Lake City resident Lucinda Campbell’s 17-year-old son Tyler died seven years ago due to drowsy driving, according to the Daily Herald.
Tyler and his friend had spent an entire day hiking and exploring the Grand Canyon in the July heat, before getting into their car to return back to Salt Lake City. Tyler fell asleep behind the wheel and the car drifted into the guardrail which resulted in the death of Tyler and his friend.
“I wish I told them to make sure they broke the trip up and plan accordingly. I think if I had realized at the time or had more education on it and had put everything together, how they had been out in the sun, I would’ve insisted they stayed somewhere,” Lucinda told the Daily Herald.
Seven years later, Lucinda is still working to make sure that drivers are aware of their limits and of the dangers of drowsy driving after a long day in the sun, according to the Daily Herald. On Jun. 14, she spoke out about her own personal tragedy at a press conference that Utah transportation representatives held to discuss the dangers of sun fatigue and other factors of drowsy driving.
Extended Sun Exposure Can Lead to Fatigue
Many people may have a hard time believing that spending all day in the sun can actually make you tired. It does. When exposed to direct heat while spending time in the sun, the body is working extra hard to keep cool, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Even though you may be simply sitting down and not performing any physical activity, your body’s effort to maintain a consistent temperature can make you feel tired or sleepy.
“What you don’t realize is your body is working overtime to regulate your temperature. So you’re naturally fatigued when you get behind the wheel of a vehicle when you’ve been out at the lake or the park all day. The sleepiness can happen pretty suddenly when you’re behind the wheel,” John Gleason, spokesman for the Utah Department of Transportation, told the Daily Herald.
Dehydration also plays a factor when it comes to excess sun exposure. Spending too much time in the sun can rapidly dehydrate you, because your body is trying to cool down due to loss of fluids from sweating, according to the NSF. Many people may find it difficult to figure out how much water to drink before being out in the sun and also while out in the sun, which further draws forth signs of exhaustion.
Sunburns can also cause fatigue to set in, because it makes it much more difficult for the body to control its temperature and stay hydrated, according to the NSF. While trying to heal a sunburn, the body will redirect the fluid to the skin’s surface and away from the rest of the body, which makes it harder for you to sweat. This can lead to feeling exhausted.
What Can Be Done to Prevent Drowsy Driving Due to Sun Fatigue?
There are several things that teens and other drivers can do in order to prevent drowsy driving from occurring after an extended period of time out in the sun. Troy Trait, co-founder of the Sleep Smart Drive Smart campaign, recommends the following:
- Drinking plenty of water
- Taking short naps
- Taking breaks in the shade or cool area
- Wearing sunscreen
These steps can help to reduce sun fatigue, but if you still feel tired, do not attempt to drive your car. “If you’re feeling fatigued, don’t get behind the wheel. If you start seeing that your yawns are nonstop, you don’t remember the last 500 yards of driving, your body is subconsciously telling you, “Hey, I’m getting too tired,’” Trait told Desert News.
If you must drive and start experiencing drowsiness, find a safe and clear spot to pull over on the road. Walking around and stretching can help to give you some energy, according to Desert News. Finding a place to take a short nap and having a passenger to help with the driving also helps.
What If an Accident Still Occurs?
Everyone deserves to soak up summer rays and enjoy the great outdoors, and parents can help to make sure that their teens are using safety precautions during the ride back home, so that a fun day in the sun doesn’t take a dangerous turn.
Unfortunately, not everyone may be taking steps to keep safe this summer. If your loved one was injured in a car accident, we may be able to help. To find out what our car accident attorneys may be able to do for you, please fill out our free case evaluation form today.