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A Drowsy Disaster

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A Drowsy DisasterNEW YORK – I’m sure you can attest to a minor ‘oops’ when you haven’t had much rest. You might have put your shirt on backwards or put the cereal in the refrigerator (assuming you don’t do that already), or worse – put the milk in a cupboard. Yeah, sour milk isn’t the best aroma in your kitchen but hopefully, that’s the worst that’s happened to you on four or five hours of sleep.

New York car accident attorneys at Cellino & Barnes say it could be a lot worse and in some situations, it is.

“Drowsy driving causes hundreds of accidents each year in New York,” car accident lawyer Steve Barnes said. “It’s truly a safety issue for everyone – especially when you’re working with vehicles or heavy machinery that can be hazardous.”

In fact, some of the worst disasters in the last 100 years can be linked to a lack of sleep. We’re not just talking car crashes – we’re talking Chernobyl-type accidents.

Yes, Chernobyl.

In 1986, an engineer was working a shift of more than 13 hours at a nuclear plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine. Investigators found a flawed reactor design was at the heart of the worst nuclear plant accident in history but it simple human error triggered it. The accident caused 30 deaths and sparked more than 300,000 evacuations.

Similar situations were narrowly avoided in the United States: When an Ohio reactor went into automatic shutdown in 1985, an operator pushed the wrong buttons in the control room, overriding safety functions at the plant. Fortunately, the reactor was stabilized but the lack of sleep would again be a factor in other accidents.

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

More than 10 million gallons of crude oil spilled into the Prince William Sound on the coast of Alaska. The crew piloting the ship had been working around the clock – more than 18 straight hours before the accident. Investigators determined the crew had fallen asleep. Although no one was killed, the waters around the sound remain contaminated today.


Engineers recommended postponing the launch date for the space shuttle Challenger because they wanted to test the “O-ring seals” in low temperatures. Mission managers had only slept for two hours before rejecting that recommendation. On January 28, 1986, one of the O-ring seals failed, triggering an explosion that killed the seven astronauts aboard.

The official accident report noted that “time pressure… increased the potential for sleep loss and judgment errors,” and working “excessive hours, while admirable, raises serious questions when it jeopardizes job performance, particularly when critical management decisions are at stake.”

Since these accidents, our understanding of sleep deprivation has improved but some of the nation’s most respected researchers have concluded that serious accidents were made worse by inadequate response times caused by insufficient rest.

New York car crash attorneys say the same conclusions can be applied to the highway and without the proper amount of rest, your actions behind the wheel can lead to catastrophic consequences.

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