Night Shift Workers More Likely to Drive Drowsy

Posted on

A recent study undertaken by Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) found that night shift workers are 37.5 percent more likely to crash while commuting home than they would be if they had not worked a night shift. The study, which was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, compared driver performance after working a night shift to the performance of the same drivers, at the same time, but after a good night’s sleep. This study confirms that drowsy driving can be extremely dangerous for everyone on the road.

For this study, 16 night shift workers completed two, two-hour driving sessions. Prior to the first session, the drivers slept about 7.6 hours the night before, with no night shift work. Prior to the second session, drivers were tested immediately following a night shift. Both sessions were tested at the same time of day. Researchers measured brief micro-sleep episodes with an EEG, and partial eyelid closure with slow eye movements, which indicate that a person is transitioning from a wakeful state to sleep.

According to the author of this study, Charles A. Czeisler, PhD, MD, FRCP and Chief of the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at BWH, during the study, night shift workers were crossing over the middle line and having other safety and alertness issues. Forty percent of the driving trips had to be terminated early because participants failed to maintain safe control of their vehicles. More than half of the drivers who participated in the study self-reported that they nodded off behind the wheel at least once a week on their way home from work. The results of the study confirmed this.

In addition to finding that participants showed increased drowsiness, decreased performance and an increased risk of near-crashes, the study found that the risk of micro-sleep episodes increased after driving more than 30 minutes. The study further found that even veteran night shift workers were vulnerable to these risks. Researchers claim that night shift workers are working against their natural circadian rhythms and can’t sleep as well during the day to make up for lost sleep, further exacerbating the cycle of drowsy driving.

According to Dr. Czeisler, these results explain why night shift workers are involved in so many more car accidents than day workers. He advised all night shift workers to seek an alternate form of transportation every night after work. However, in reality, this is probably not feasible for most night shift workers. Bus and train services may not run during the early morning hours when many night shift workers need transportation. And many people work overnight in remote areas where there is no access to public transportation. Most cannot afford to take a taxi every day, especially those with a long commute.

Maryland Car Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Victims of Drowsy Driving

Drowsy drivers should not put others on the road at risk. If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident caused by a drowsy driver, the experienced Maryland car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton can help. We have successfully obtained over $100 million in verdicts and settlements for accident victims and their families. Contact us online or call 800-547-4LAW (4529) today to schedule your free consultation. A qualified member of our legal team is available to take your call and answer your questions 24 hours a day.

Our offices are located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Towson, allowing us to represent injured accident victims and their families throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood and Elkridge.