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NFL blamed for sleepy trash-truck drivers

Strong link between football watching and alcohol consumption —really?

City of San Diego garbage truck
  • City of San Diego garbage truck
  • image from YouTube

The Chargers' extended farewell to San Diego may be complete, but a local company claims in a study released this week the NFL poses an unlikely threat to Americans everywhere in the form of sleepy garbage truck drivers.

Lytx, a San Diego–based firm that provides analytical data on truck fleets through onboard cameras, says an examination of 33,000 garbage trucks over four years (2012-2016) shows a marked spike in incidents of drowsy driving or drivers falling asleep behind the wheel between August and November.

Last year, collisions and near-misses attributed to exhausted drivers rose 112 percent during the four-month period. On Mondays and Tuesdays, the danger of an incident was 170 percent greater than at other times during the year.

The company is attributing the higher accident rate to popular evening broadcasts by the NFL on nights preceding the highest-risk workdays. Even though these games end as early as 10 p.m. on the West Coast, other research has pointed to a strong link between football watching and alcohol consumption.

"Waste drivers have one of the toughest jobs in America, and on top of a strenuous work day, they tend to have very early shifts, heading out to make their rounds before the sun's come up," said Darrell Smith, National Waste and Recycling Association president and CEO in a release accompanying the findings. "Combine that with a late night of watching football, and the risk of drowsy driving is predictable — but solvable."

Lytx suggests employers try "encouraging their drivers to get more sleep on football nights" as a means of mitigating risk.

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Since when don't trash collectors have the right to be alcoholics? They work hard for their hangovers. In light of the early shifts, I suggest we push back the kickoff time by a few hours to accommodate their addiction.

They also get more alcohol in their system by inhaling all the fumes from the liquor, wine and beer bottles.

"Encouraging [the] drivers to get more sleep on football nights" is really going to be effective. I'm sure that they are told that now, and it isn't changing the pattern. This all sounds like the railroad industry where train crews are called at all hours of the day and night on any day of the year. They are cajoled to get plenty of "rest", but with no sleep pattern established, many still fall asleep while on duty. Encouraging behavior modification may be a good idea, but it can't be counted on to make more than a marginal improvement.

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