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Drowsy driving a health hazard in Florida and across U.S.

Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital have stated that over 9.5 million Americans work a night shift or rotational shift. Moreover, 28 percent of these admitted to falling asleep at the wheel at least once in the previous year. Drowsy driving, which is considered a public health hazard, may be more linked to shift work than some people realize.

The same researchers conducted a study to determine how the average night shift affects the average driver. They selected 16 night shift workers to participate in a series of two driving sessions, one after a sufficient night's sleep and the other after a typical night shift. It was this second session that exhibited greater signs of drowsiness and poorer driving performance.

Over a third had their second session terminated prematurely after performing emergency stops. Another six came to the same end after being involved in near-crash events. In fact, half of all sessions ended early when drivers failed to maintain control of their vehicle. Experience in night shift work did not alter the results. Researchers noted that some of the participants' reactions recalled those of intoxicated drivers.

Researchers could detect signs of drowsiness in the participants within the first 15 minutes of each session. As a result, they believe that even short commutes can endanger drivers.

Though the study encourages drivers to pull over at the first sign of drowsiness, many do not heed the call. If the victim of a car accident discovers that the other driver was drowsy or fell asleep, this will provide good grounds for an injury claim. The victim should receive legal counsel before moving forward since a lawyer can assess the claim and factor in any contributory negligence. A firm could hire investigators and other third parties to gather proof of the other driver's negligence. The lawyer can then negotiate for a settlement.

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