Tobi Oyedeji's After-Prom Accident: Sleep Deprivation Can Be As Bad As Drinking For Teens

Bellaire High's Tobi Oyedeji
Bellaire High's Tobi Oyedeji

Houston police are still investigating Sunday's early-morning crash caused by a Bellaire teen coming home from the school's official after-prom party, and the school itself is still in shock at the death of a popular, hard-working basketball star.

(The family of the 50-year-old nurse also killed in the wreck is also grieving, of course.)

The Bellaire party, at Dave & Buster's, was designed to help students have an alcohol- and drug-free party choice after the prom.

But with kids driving away from it at 6 in the morning, was enough attention being paid to sleep deprivation?

From the National Academy of Sciences:

The effects of sleepiness on driving are striking. After 17 hours awake (for example, a teen who woke up at 6:30 a.m. and is still socializing at 11:30 p.m.), a teen's performance is impaired to the same extent that it would be with a blood alcohol content of 0.05 percent.

Driving home from the prom at 6:30 in the morning (after 24 hours awake), a teen's driving would be impaired as much as it would be with a blood alcohol content of 0.10 percent. Apart from late-night driving and unusual circumstances that cause extensive sleep deprivation, teens are at their sleepiest in the morning, and the rate of fall-asleep crashes for 16- to 25-year-olds confirms this, peaking between 6 and 8 in the morning (Pack et al., 1995).

We asked HISD spokesman Norm Uhl if the district had any policies regarding sleep deprivation -- in other words, are chaperones briefed on it, is there a system for giving kids rides home or having them picked up.

He said:

The cause of the accident is not known. There is only speculation on the cause at this point. Remember, that the after-prom events were created to provide a safe, alcohol-free, supervised event. Obviously, teens are going to continue to celebrate after the prom, so this provides a safe alternative to students being left to their own devices. The Bellaire event is parent sponsored and parent chaperoned.

So there's that, for what it's worth.

Here's a chart of crashes involving sleep deprivation, by age:

Teens are the most likely to fall asleep while driving
Teens are the most likely to fall asleep while driving


Just one more thing for parents to worry about on prom night -- you kids can be sober, drug-free and still have elements working against them.


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