Forget about student loan debt. There's a far more serious debt that occurs earlier in a young person's life, one that - according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) - could endanger their safety, along with the safety of those sharing the road with them.

As demands on teenagers' schedules increase, it is easy for sleep to fall off the priority list. Research shows that getting plenty of sleep helps teens complete tasks more efficiently, think clearly and creatively all day long-and stay alert while driving.

"Sleep debt"

When young people do not get enough quality sleep, they begin to accumulate "sleep debt." This can result from a late night of studying, getting up early for sports practice, or fragmenting sleep by using a cell phone during the night. 

Sleep debt accumulates over time and, ultimately, can affect a person's ability to think and perform, or safely operate a vehicle-this deficit, while a concern for all people, is particularly risky for teens. Sleep debt is linked to high-risk behaviors, such as texting while driving, drinking and driving, and not wearing a seatbelt.

Webinar addresses the problem

The NTSB is holding a free webinar on Wednesday, Aug. 23rd from 2 - 3 p.m. EST entitled, "Wake Up to Teen Drowsy Driving: Don't Send Them Back to School in 'Debt'"

In this webinar, Jana Price, PhD, a senior human performance investigator with the NTSB's Office of Highway Safety, and Terry Cralle, MS, RN, Certified Clinical Sleep Educator, will provide an overview of teens and sleep, define sleep debt, highlight drowsy driving-related crashes involving young drivers, and offer solutions and preventative measures. 

Click here for registration information.