According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20% of automobile accidents are a result of drowsy driving. 1,550 deaths and over 40,000 injuries are caused by sleeplessness driving. However, these numbers sound quite minuscule compared to these monstrous accidents. The disasters listed below all happened because of sleep deprivation and are considered some of the most dangerous accidents in history today.
On March 28, 1979, the near-meltdown of the nuclear reactor at the Three-Mile Island power station outside Harrisburg, PA occurred. This accident happened in the early morning when human circadian rhythms are naturally inclined to slow awakening. Due to lack of sleep, shift workers made a series of irrational judgments, which threatened health, productivity and lives. As this accident is considered one of the most serious nuclear incidents on U.S. soil, the Three-Mile Island disaster sparked scientists’ attention to research more about sleep deprivation and its effects on today’s society.
Named the world’s worst nuclear disaster, Ukraine’s nuclear power plant exploded on April 26, 1986. A systems test, generated by sleep-deprived engineers who were working 13-hour days, destroyed one of the nuclear reactors which caused a fire across Chernobyl, Ukraine. The explosion released a large amount of radiation into the atmosphere as 134 people across the western USSR and Europe were confirmed with radiation poisoning. More than 300,000 people were forced to evacuate the surrounding areas years later.
On March 24, 1989, the supertanker, Exxon Valdez, was traveling from Valdez, Alaska to Los Angeles, California until it ran to the bottom of the Prince William Sound’s Bligh Reef in Alaska. Those who were working on the ship worked 12-14 hour shifts. One mate fell asleep at the wheel, causing the ship to dump 10.9 million gallons of its 53 million gallon cargo. The oil impacted 1,100 miles of U.S. coastline, making it the second largest oil spill in U.S. history.
ExxonMobil took full responsibility for the spill as they cleaned up the mess and compensated whom were affected. They paid $300 million to 11,000 Alaskans and businesses. ExxonMobil paid $2.2 billion for the cleanup of the Prince William Sound, as well as $1 billion in fines with the state and federal governments.
On January 28, 1986, the famous Challenger exploded, killing all seven astronauts on the space shuttle. The explosion was caused by a loose ring seal that allowed burning gas to escape. Engineers recommended that NASA should postpone the launch because of this malfunction. NASA managers ignored the engineers’ recommendation and proceeded, resulting in the explosion. Because of this incident, NASA has implemented workplace napping when necessary to their astronauts.
On May 22, 2010, Air India Express Flight 812 was scheduled to carry a 166 passenger plane from Dubai to Mangalore. Captain Zlatko Glusica was captain of this flight and as his plane approached the city, he had just woken up from a nap in the cockpit when he took control of the plane. His co-pilot warned him that he was nearing the landing at the wrong angle and gave him suggestions on how to fly the plane. The plane missed the landing and burst into flames. There were only 8 survivors of this crash. After a thorough investigation, it was concluded that the captain was suffering from sleep inertia, the physiological state that results a decline in movement and feeling of grogginess by abrupt awakening.