Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital have estimated that over 9.5 million Americans work a night shift or rotational shift and that 28 percent of drivers have admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel in the past year. By creating an irregular sleep schedule, shift work can wreak havoc on the body and increase the risk for conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Drowsy driving, though, is a dangerous condition since it puts other people at risk as well. It's considered a public health hazard in Arizona and across the U.S.
The same researchers have conducted a study where 16 night shift workers participated in two driving sessions, the first after sufficient sleep and the second after they were off work. An EEG measured drowsiness during micro-sleep episodes, and driver performance was measured by the number of driver mistakes and reckless actions. The sessions took place on a closed driving track.
In the second session, six of the drivers were involved in near-crash events, while over a third had their sessions terminated early after using their emergency brakes. Half of all the sessions ended with drivers losing control of their vehicles. As a result, researchers are encouraging better education regarding the hazards of drowsy driving. People should find alternate transportation if possible and pull over at the first sign of drowsiness.
When driver fatigue is the cause of a motor vehicle accident, occupants of other vehicles involved in the collision can incur catastrophic injuries that require lengthy periods of medical care and treatment. Victims might want to meet with a personal injury attorney to see how best to seek compensation for these and other losses.