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Massachusetts’ Plan to Reduce Risk of Drowsy Teen Driving

It may come as a surprise to learn that teens are more likely to fall asleep at the wheel than their older counterparts. As we age, our ability to quickly relax and fall asleep begins to decrease. However, in teens, this function is still alive and well. Unfortunately, it also makes young drivers vulnerable to falling asleep behind the wheel, especially if they get less than adequate sleep on a regular basis. While teens typically experience less sleep problems than older adults, common behaviors such as staying up late at night and getting up early for summer jobs can increase the risk of drowsy-driving in teens.

In 2002, an Army Reserve Major was killed a week before his wedding by a teen driver who had fallen asleep. This tragedy prompted Massachusetts to begin working with scientists to develop a solution. Teens tend to believe they’re invincible, engage in riskier behaviors, and are often sleep deprived. These risk factors resulted in a 2007 law that aims to keep drowsy teen drivers off the road. In order to accomplish this goal, Massachusetts has imposed one of the strictest penalties imaginable for a new driver – immediate license suspension if caught driving after curfew.

“In young people, when sleep pressure becomes high, the sleep switch is working so well,” said Boston’s Brigham and Women’s hospital’s chief of the divisions of sleep and circadian disorders, Charles Czeisler. “Young people are more vulnerable. It will seize control, and people will sail off the side of the road and into a telephone pole.”

Massachusetts’ Penalties For Junior Drivers Caught Driving After Curfew

  • Any driver between the ages of 16 1/2 and 17 will have his or her license suspended for 60 days if caught driving after 12:30 am and before 5:30 am. A $35 fine will be imposed.
  • The second offense will increase the license suspension period to 180 days. A fine of $75 to $100 will be imposed.
  • The third offense will result in a full year without driving privileges. A fine of $75 to $100 will be imposed.

Since the 2007 inception of this law, there has been a dramatic reduction in crashes involving teen drivers. In fact, a study published in the June issue of the journal Health Affairs, reported that the crash rate for 16 and 17 year old drivers has declined by 19.1 percent. More importantly, the nighttime crash rate declined an additional 28.8 percent, and fatal accidents dropped by more than 39 percent. “Our findings suggest that driving laws that eliminate or effectively deter unsupervised night driving by people younger than eighteen can achieve substantial reductions in motor vehicle crashes,” wrote the journal. “This change is likely driven by mitigating risks posed by sleepiness-related impairment, risk-taking behaviors, and driving alone or driving with young passengers.”

Altman & Altman, LLP – Boston’s Motor Vehicle Accident Attorneys

If you have been injured in any type of motor vehicle accident, you may be facing chronic health problems, overwhelming medical bills, lost wages, and even complete job loss. Although utilizing safe driving practices is vital to reducing your risk of serious injury and death, sometimes things are out of your control. Defensive driving is paramount, but serious accidents can – and do – still happen. At Altman & Altman, LLP, our experienced accident and injury attorneys will evaluate your case to determine the best strategy for moving forward. If you have been injured, we can help. Contact Altman & Altman, LLP today for a free consultation about your case.

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