Zombies are everywhere these days. At the movies, on the TV and driving right past you on the road. What? Driving past you on the road? How can that be? Sure we are used to seeing zombies on the big screen and small screen but surely they aren’t real? Actually you are driving past zombies on a daily basis. All right, not real zombies that want to eat your brains, but these zombies are way scarier than the ones you see in movies and TV shows. These are real zombies and just because they don’t want to eat your brains doesn’t mean that they are not dangerous. They are killers, real killers.
Every day people who shouldn’t be behind the wheel because they are exhausted are driving around, risking their life and yours. Many of these zombie drivers are transportation workers, truck, train and bus drivers. People who drive for a living. People who are too tired but drive anyway and risk killing themselves and you.
It is not surprising that lack of sleep seems to have played a role in New York's Metro-North train derailment last year. In fact, sleep plays a role in a number of accidents every year as zombie drivers hit the roads and rails when they shouldn’t. These zombie drivers are a sobering reminder that sleep deprivation is not a personal problem, it is a very public problem, one that puts all of our lives at risk.
While we are all at risk of becoming a zombie driver, the risks for transportation workers is far higher. There are a few reasons for this. The first is that they spend far more time behind the wheel, which increases their odds in a very basic and undeniable way. They spend far more time driving so they are far more likely to be involved in an accident.
The second is that they often do shift work, with irregular hours that can interrupt their sleep patterns. Take the NYC train driver, he had just switched shifts from afternoon to morning. Any time people change their sleep patterns there sleep quality will suffer. The more drastic the shift change, say from a day shift to the graveyard shift, the worse the impact.
Research also shows that tired people who spend many hours driving fall into a zombie like trance state that reduces their reaction times. In this dazed and semi-conscious state, many drivers think that they are awake and continue to undertake tasks related to driving, but have limited memory of their actions and of time elapsing. They become zombie drivers.
Taken together this is extremely concerning. These are people who spend hours on the road or rails each day, who are often having their sleep cycles disturbed and who will then go into a semi-conscious zombie like trance whilst driving. It is up to management of these companies to monitor their drivers and to ensure that their sleep cycles are not too badly impacted by shift changes. Zombies are bad enough on TV, we don’t need them on our roads.
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