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Shift work sleep disorder raises risk of traffic crashes by nearly 300%: study

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Columbia, MO — Individuals who develop shift work sleep disorder – a condition involving insomnia or excessive sleepiness as a result of working nontraditional hours – may be almost three times more likely to be involved in a traffic crash, according to a recent study by researchers from the University of Missouri.

The researchers analyzed naturalistic driving study data from the second Strategic Highway Research Program and found that shift work sleep disorder increased crash risk by 296%. Additionally, results show that sleep apnea and insomnia raised the risk of incidents 29% and 33%, respectively. People with sleep disorders were found to be 29% more likely to be inattentive when driving than those without them.


“This discovery has many major implications, including the need to identify engineering countermeasures to help prevent these crashes from happening,” study co-author Praveen Edara, a civil and environmental engineering professor at MU, said in a press release. “Such measures can include the availability of highway rest areas, roadside and in-vehicle messaging to improve a driver’s attention, and how to encourage drivers who may have a late-night work shift to take other modes of transportation, including public transit or ride-share services.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2019, drowsy driving contributed to 697 traffic fatalities, with a majority of incidents occurring between midnight and 6 a.m., or in the late afternoon.

The study was published online April 24 in the journal Safety Science.

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