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Teens: 3 Things You Didn’t Know Could Impair You

by Jane Wangersky | March 27th, 2015 | Safety, Teens

teen driving (400x400)Everyone, parents and teens, knows that driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs — even over-the-counter drugs — is risky. But there are other ordinary issues and activities that can also impair someone to the point where they shouldn’t operate a vehicle. Parents may not be any more aware of this than teens — I know I wasn’t — but they can read on and try dropping some of this info into the conversation at home. If any teens are reading this themselves, that’s even better.

You can become impaired by:

  • Sleep deprivation: This study found “After 17 to 19 hours without sleep . . . performance on some tests was equivalent or worse than that at a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of 0.05%.” So, if you get up at seven and stay up, some time between midnight and two the next morning you’ll be too fatigued to drive safely, whether you feel it or not.
  • Cold: Two hours in a temperature of 50℉ or less can impair your cognitive function, these researchers found. This can go on even an hour after you’ve warmed up again. There’s a good reason for sitting in the ski lodge drinking hot chocolate: It makes you smart enough to get home safely. Though there’s no established scale of how cold exposure equates to drinks, at least we know it makes a difference. Furthermore, this shows that right after coming in from skiing or skating may not be the best time for teens to study or do homework. Parents might consider that, anyway.
  • Boating: It’s a no-brainer that drinking and operating a boat don’t mix. (In fact, it can be worse than drinking and driving — the U.S. Coast Guard says “A boat operator is likely to become impaired more quickly than a driver, drink for drink,” and also notes that drunk passengers are at risk for falling overboard.) But even without any alcohol, the sensory environment on a boat – motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray – can have an effect. The U.S. Army and other government sources report, “Research shows that four hours of boating produces fatigue that simulates drunkenness.”

These three ordinary things can leave you impaired when you haven’t touched a drop or taken a single pill — which is not to say you should, or even can, try to cut them out of your life completely. Just be aware that you’ll feel their effects and you need to allow for recovery.

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