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How night shift workers risk drowsiness on the road

In New York and the rest of the U.S., drowsiness caused by night shifts and rotational shifts has become a public health hazard. Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital have conducted a study to determine how shift work can lead to poor driving performance and sometimes accidents.

A total of 16 night shift workers were selected for the study, which consisted of two driving sessions on a closed driving track. Participants drove after sleeping an average of 7.6 hours the previous night, and then drove for a second time after a normal night shift. In half of all the sessions, drivers failed to maintain control of their vehicle.

The second session saw the worst driver mistakes, with six of the drivers involved in near-crash events and over a third forced to perform emergency stops. Even veteran night shift workers did not fare well, with some reacting in ways that researchers compared to intoxicated driving. On average, researchers picked up signs of drowsiness within the first 15 minutes of a session.

The study concluded by saying that even relatively short commutes could endanger workers and other drivers. According to the study, better education is needed among the more than 9.5 million Americans who work a night shift or rotational shift. These workers should pull over whenever they feel drowsy and, if possible, find alternate transportation.

Still, drivers continue to drive when drowsy and sometimes cause major motor vehicle accidents after falling asleep at the wheel. Victims are left with medical bills, a damaged vehicle and sometimes loss of employment. With the help of a lawyer, though, they may be able to get the compensation they deserve. A lawyer can assess an injury claim, have investigators find proof of the other driver's negligence and negotiate with the insurance company for a settlement. If one can't be reached, a lawyer will usually be ready to litigate.

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