More Research Points to Link Between Third-Shift Workers and Drowsy Driving

We all have used the expression “dead tired” to describe our weariness at times. But being too tired CAN endanger your life.

A recent study reinforces the dangers of drowsy driving. Conducted by Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine and Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, researchers studied the driving habits of night-shift workers as they completed certain driving tasks on a closed driving track.  Entitled “High Risk of Near-Crash Driving Events Following Night-shift Work,”  and released in late 2016, the report found that the volunteers’ driving was dangerously worse after work than if they’d had a full night’s sleep. Detailed conclusions of the study included:

  • Almost 38 percent of the drives the volunteers performed after a work shift resulted in a near-crash. “Safety observers” who rode in the front passenger seat had to use an emergency brake to prevent one accident. No near-crashes occurred to the volunteers who slept for five hours prior to the test.
  • Almost half of the drives performed after night-shift work had to be prematurely terminated because the driver could not adequately control their vehicle. None of the drivers who had slept at least five hours had any problems.
  • Ocular measures of drowsiness were significantly higher for drivers who had just worked a night shift, compared to those who had slept.
  • Even though there were early signs of drowsiness among drivers coming off a night shift, their near-crashes and drive terminations happened 45 minutes or more after they started driving.

This research, coupled with other studies, underscores the fact that drowsy (or fatigued) driving is a serious problem in the U.S. Research by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reveals that one in 25 adults aged 18 and older say they have fallen asleep behind the wheel in the past 30 days. Those most at risk of drowsy driving are shift workers, commercial truck and bus drivers, people with untreated sleep disorders or who take sleep medications, and anyone who just doesn’t get enough sleep (six hours, according to experts).

Another study specifically applying to drowsy drivers – the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety – found that drivers who get less than six hours of sleep in a 24-hour period are twice as likely to be involved in a car crash. And drivers who got only four hours of sleep or less ran a 400 percent higher risk of being involved in a wreck — the same probability as a drunk driver.

Drowsy driving has had a hand in hundreds of thousands of vehicle wrecks and untold hundreds of deaths over the years. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), between 2005 and 2009, sleep-deprived and fatigued drivers caused

  • 83,000 crashes
  • 37,000 injury accidents
  • 886 fatal wrecks.

Another 2009 report from the Massachusetts Special Commission on Drowsy Driving underscores the life-altering risks. “Asleep at the Wheel” estimates that drowsy driving caused 1.2 million car wrecks, injured a half million people and killed upwards of 8,000 in the several years leading up to 2009.  Some communities (and states) have begun to recognize the drowsy driving problem. New Jersey can charge a driver who has been without sleep for more than 24 hours with reckless driving, and New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission is considering a proposal to reduce driver fatigue by limiting the number of consecutive hours a cab driver can work.

If you’ve been hit by a fatigued or drowsy driver, or are the victim of anyone’s negligence behind the wheel, contact Southeast Kentucky’s Billy Johnson Law Firm through this online form, or call us at 606-433-0682.

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