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Drowsy driving a perennial risk with night shift workers

Working the night shift leads to an irregular sleep-wake cycle, which increases the risk for drowsiness, especially when driving. Drowsy driving is a public health hazard in New Jersey and across the U.S. To discover just how much of a danger it is, researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital conducted a study.

In the study, 16 participants were asked to drive for two sessions on closed driving tracks: the first after a full night's sleep, the second after an ordinary night shift. The result was that half of all sessions ended early with drivers losing control of their vehicles. In the second session, drivers betrayed the most signs of drowsiness and poor driving performance. Six out of the 16 drivers were involved in near-crashes, and a third had to end the session early with an emergency braking maneuver.

On average, researchers were able to detect signs of drowsiness within the first 15 minutes of driving. This bodes poorly for night shift workers, as even a short homeward commute can put their life in danger. It's also well known that their lifestyle makes them susceptible to conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Authors of the study have therefore encouraged workers to find alternate forms of transportation.

Still, the number of car accidents caused by drowsy drivers is significant. Those who are injured by such negligent drivers should retain legal counsel. A lawyer could build up evidence for a lawsuit by, for instance, hiring investigators and other experts to reconstruct the accident scene. The lawyer can then begin negotiations with the other driver's insurance company seeking a settlement for medical expenses and other losses.

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