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Night Shift Workers at Higher Risk for Drowsy Driving Crashes

Research published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals an increased risk of drowsy driving related motor vehicle crashes when operating a motor vehicle during the daytime following night shift work.

In the study, 16 night shift workers completed a pair of 2-hour driving sessions on a closed track. Prior to one session, participants slept approximately 7.6 hours the night before, with no shift work. Prior to the other session, participants were tested after working a night shift. Measures of drowsiness were collected, including brief micro-sleep episodes measured by an electroencephalogram, and partial eyelid closure with slow eye movements.

The results of each session were compared, resulting in the following findings:

  • Post-night shift drives resulted in increased driver drowsiness, deteriorating driving performance, and increased risk of near-crashes
  • Over one third of the post-night shift drives required emergency braking maneuvers, and all had a significantly higher rate of lane excursions
  • Almost half of the post-night shift drives were terminated early because the participants failed to maintain control of the vehicle
  • Sleep-related impairment was evident within the first 15 minutes of driving
  • Post-night shift drivers had longer blink duration and an increased number of slow eye movements
  • Post-night shift drivers showed increased drowsiness, impairment, and crash risk over the duration of the drive

In sum, with over 9.5 million Americans, or 15 percent of the workforce, working overnight or rotating shifts, the above results are significant. If you or someone you know was injured in an accident, you should contact the Bottar Leone, PLLC attorneys.

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