California residents who work during the night shift are more likely than other drivers to get into a motor vehicle accident. This is even if they commute home during daylight hours. According to researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital, interruptions in sleep-wake cycles and inadequate sleep at night are common in people who have to drive home after working during the night. This increases their chances in getting in accidents.
In a released statement, a representative of the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women's Hospital asserts that drowsy driving is a danger to the public, but can be prevented. He goes on to say that it is important for people who work the night shift to be educated about the dangers of drowsy driving and that they should find other means of transportation after working at night.
For the study, 16 people who worked night shifts took part in two driving tests on a closed track. The night before the first driving session, during which they had not worked the night shift, each driver slept an average of 7.6 hours. For the second session, the drivers participated in the driving session after having worked the night before. Micro-sleep episodes measured by EEG and the partial closure of eyes with slow eye movements were used to detect drowsiness. Driving performances were assessed by examining the manner in which drivers navigated in and out of lanes and by using near-crash events and terminated driving sessions caused by the inability to control their vehicles.
It is sometimes difficult to prove that drowsy driving was the proximate cause of a car accident. An attorney representing an injured victim might use eyewitness testimony and the date recorded in some safety system black boxes to pinpoint financial responsibility for a collision.