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Drowsy Driving: Using Technology to Combat the Risk

drowsy-driving

When you’re tired, getting behind the wheel can be a very dangerous proposition. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that sleepiness and driver fatigue account for approximately 100,000 crashes and over 70,000 injuries each year. The 2015 figures attribute 824 deaths to drowsy driving, although the actual number is believed to be much higher.

It’s not easy to measure when drowsiness is the reason for an accident, chiefly because it’s revealed through personal admission, not through a test like the ones given to determine if a driver is intoxicated. Even though common sense says excessively tired people should not drive, people continue to do it anyway. In fact, a National Sleep Foundation poll shows that as many as 60 percent of U.S. drivers have operated a vehicle while tired and 37 percent have actually fallen asleep at the wheel. Simply not getting into the driver’s seat when you’re too tired to do so is the real answer to bringing the percentages down, but since this is unrealistic, automakers have begun turning to technology to combat the problem.

Some luxury brands have had drowsiness detection systems for a few years. Now, other less expensive vehicles are starting to introduce similar technology. These systems monitor the steering and drifting, and when a lack of control is detected, an icon of a coffee cup lights up or a voice suggests that the driver pull over for some coffee. Companies such as Nissan, Mazda, Subaru, VW, and Ford are all currently making vehicles with these drowsiness alerts.

Other vehicles offer even fancier features. For example, Mercedes’ “Attention Assist” tries to monitor the driver’s behavior over the first 20 minutes to create a baseline. Then the system continually checks almost 100 criteria such as steering wheel angle and lane deviation. When drowsiness is suspected, this advanced technology alerts the driver of the location of the nearest rest stop. More advanced systems that pay attention to a driver’s head movements, as well as eyeball rotations and blinks, are also coming to market.

A camera-based system that keeps track of eye patterns, heart rates, body temperature, posture, and head movements has been developed by a German automotive component company. Another tech company has used artificial intelligence to learn normal driving behaviors so that the system will take control of the car when the driver deviates from these normal patterns. Another manufacturer is working on an incredible system that uses sensors to scan the face and eyes to detect whether the driver is alert. This particular company is planning to introduce a car that will be able to drive itself up to 35 mph – without any input from the driver.

Whether or not you have a drowsiness detection system in your car, the wisest course is always to stay off the road when you are too sleepy to drive safely. If you find yourself growing drowsy and it is bedtime, stop for the night if possible. If you must keep going, find a safe rest area where you can take a short nap. Studies show that airline pilots demonstrated a 34 percent performance improvement and a 54 percent alertness improvement after a 26-minute nap, when compared to those who had no nap.

Indications that you are too tired to drive include:

  • Difficulty focusing your eyes, blinking frequently, or having heavy eyelids
  • Daydreaming; wandering or disconnected thoughts
  • Trouble remembering the previous few miles driven
  • Repeatedly rubbing eyes or yawning
  • Trouble holding your head up
  • Drifting in and out of the lane, tailgating, or hitting a shoulder or rumble strip.

If you’ve been injured in a vehicle accident, are the survivor of a someone who was killed by a drowsy driver, or have any questions about this topic, you can find out more by experienced Louisiana tired driver accident attorney Chris Roy Jr, founder of the Chris J. Roy, Jr. Law Firm. Having practiced law for nearly 30 years, he takes pride in helping accident victims in Alexandria, Pineville, Rapides Parish, Grant Parish, Avoyelles Parish, Allen Parish, Vernon Parish, and throughout Central Louisiana. Benefit from his assistance and knowledge by contacting the firm for a free initial consultation. Call 1-318-487-9537 to get help today.

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