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Study explores whether night-shift workers have a higher crash risk

While many of us tend to think of the typical workday as running from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the reality is actually much different for many Americans. Indeed, statistics show that nearly 15 percent of the U.S. workforce -- from medical professionals to factory workers -- either work overnight or rotating shifts.  

For many of these people, the preferred method of transportation to and from their job is not a bus or train, but rather their automobile. While this may seem like a fairly obvious point, consider that statistics show that from 2009 to 2013 drowsy drivers were involved in 13 percent of all motor vehicle accidents resulting in personal injuries and roughly 20 percent of all motor vehicle accidents resulting in fatalities.

Interestingly enough, a group of researchers from the renowned Brigham and Women's Hospital recently conducted a study to determine whether night-shift workers were indeed at an elevated risk of being involved in a car accident.

As part of their study, the researchers selected 16 night-shift workers and had them complete two driving sessions two-hours in length on a closed course during the daytime. The first session was held after the workers slept for an average of 7.6 hours the night before, while the second session was held after the completion of a night shift.

They made the following shocking findings:

  • 37.5 percent of drivers resorted to emergency maneuvers on the driving course after working the night shift
  • It took an average of roughly 15 minutes for signs of sleep-related impairment to become apparent among drivers
  • Almost 50 percent of the test drives conducted after working a night shift were cut short after participants started to struggle with maintaining control   

"It reveals just how dangerous it is to drive home after working all night," said the lead author of the study. "It also shows that these very same people, if they slept the previous night, don't have any of these incidents, so it's not that they're inherently dangerous drivers."

Shockingly, the researchers likened the effect of fatigue to the workers being legally intoxicated and urged them to seriously consider alternative modes of transportation.

Do you or a loved one work a night shift? If so, does this study make you reconsider your transportation options?

To learn more about your rights and your options in the event you've suffered severe injuries in a car accident, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional. 

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