Drowsy driving common to night shift workers, study says

Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital conducted a study to better understand the link between night shift workers and drowsy driving, the results of which should interest workers in New York. Shift work disrupts the ordinary sleep-wake cycle, which can lead to high blood pressure and a higher risk for conditions like heart disease. It also leaves many feeling drowsy during their daytime commute.

In the study, 16 night shift workers participated in two driving sessions on a closed driving track; the first session determined their driving performance after a normal night's sleep, and the second session was after a night of work. Drowsiness was measured by an EEG during micro-sleep episodes and partial eyelid closure.

There was an increase in drowsiness and poor driving performance during the second session with six of the drivers precipitating a near-crash event and over a third performing emergency brake maneuvers. Half of all sessions ended with drivers losing control of the vehicle. On average, researchers could tell within the first 15 minutes of every session that the driver was drowsy.

This bodes ill for night shift workers, even those with relatively short commutes. Drivers should pull over at the first sign of drowsiness and, in the future, try to find alternate transportation.

Better education is crucial because a drowsy driver is a negligent driver as far as the law is concerned. A person who's injured by a drowsy driver may be able to file a personal injury claim and receive compensation for medical bills, lost wages and vehicle damage. A personal injury attorney might bring in investigators to build up the case and handle all negotiations on the client's behalf.

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