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Shift work leads to drowsy driving even on short commutes

Night shift work is an unavoidable part of some California industries. In fact, more than 9.5 million people across the U.S. work a night or rotational shift. Studies have shown, though, that disrupting the sleep-wake cycle in this way leads to serious problems like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It also leads to drowsy driving.

Researchers from a Boston hospital coordinated a study to find out just how much of a public hazard drowsy driving is. Sixteen night shift workers were asked to participate in two driving sessions, both on closed driving tracks. The first session was conducted after participants took sufficient rest, the second after they had got off work.

The second session was marked by increased drowsiness, poor driving performance, and a higher risk for near-crashes. A total of six drivers were involved in near-crashes, while over a third had their sessions terminated early after performing emergency brake maneuvers. In half of all the sessions, drivers failed to maintain control of their vehicles.

Even the more experienced night shift workers were not immune to the effects of drowsiness and, according to researchers, reacted in ways comparable to drivers with high blood alcohol concentration. Researchers said that on average, they found signs of drowsiness within the first 15 minutes of observing the drivers.

Drowsy driving is an all too common cause of accidents that result in serious injuries to occupants of other vehicles involved in the collision. People who have been harmed in such a manner might want to have the help of a personal injury attorney when attempting to obtain compensation for medical expenses and other losses.

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