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Drowsy Driving: Automotive Technology to the Rescue

We don’t truly know how many people die in car accidents that are due to excessive sleepiness or fatigue, otherwise known as drowsy driving, because the reason is not easily tracked in accident statistics. Drowsiness cannot be measured the way DUI can be; it can only be self-reported by the driver. Despite that fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that roughly 100,000 crashes each year are caused by sleepiness and fatigue, with over 70,000 injuries. In 2015, the NHTSA attributed 824 deaths to drowsy driving, though it is likely the number is significantly higher.

A poll by the National Sleep Foundation revealed that 60 percent of U.S. drivers have driven while sleepy. The number who had actually fallen asleep during the previous year while driving was a disturbing 37 percent.

It seems as if, regardless of warnings, people continue to drive when they should not be on the road. But technology is here—with more advanced systems coming soon—to help reduce this type of vehicular crash.

What Exists Now for Combating Drowsy Driving?

In an effort to fight erratic driving, more expensive vehicles have had certain technologies for years. Such “drowsiness detection systems” or drowsiness alerts generally work by monitoring combinations of steering wheel movements and lane drifting. When the car’s system senses a lack of control, an icon on the dashboard (usually a coffee cup) lights up while playing a sound, such as a voice suggesting that you pull over.

But these systems are no longer limited to the priciest cars. Some variety of drowsiness alerts now appear in makes such as Nissan, Mazda, Subaru, Volkswagen, and Ford, as well as in vehicles made by BMW, Mercedes, Volvo, and Audi.

Mercedes does have a more advanced drowsiness alert system available now. Their Attention Assist keeps track of a driver’s behaviors during the first 20 minutes they are driving to obtain a baseline. Then the system checks the driver’s actions against nearly 100 indexes, such as lane deviation and steering wheel angle. Currently, Attention Assist’s accuracy rate for detecting drowsiness is 80 percent. When it is suspected, the driver is told where the nearest rest stop is.

What Types of Advances Are On the Way?

More advanced systems that pay attention to a driver’s head movements, as well as eyeball rotations and blinks, are also coming to market. These systems may even be combined with automatic driving capabilities in which the car takes control if it senses you are not able to. Some examples of these systems are the following:

  • Bosch, a German company, is creating a camera-based system which keeps track of eye patterns, head movements, your heart rate, your temperature, and your posture.
  • Nvidia, a computer chip supplier to a number of auto makers, is using artificial intelligence (AI) to learn a driver’s normal behaviors so that the system can determine when the driver deviates from the normal patterns. The system is named Co-Pilot, and it will be able to take control of the car if the car has that capability installed.
  • Audi is working on a system named Traffic Jam Pilot that will need to detect whether a driver is alert enough to take the wheel after the car has been operating automatically. Sensors that scan a driver’s face and eyes will ensure that the person behind the wheel is able to take over. This system is needed because Audi is supposed to introduce a car in 2018 that will be able to operate without any driver input, up to 35 mph.

Whether you have a drowsiness detection system in your car or not, 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, first 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 did not nap.

Whatever you do, don’t keep driving if you are drowsy. The need for sleep will eventually win out, perhaps with tragic results.

At McNeely Stephenson, We Believe Justice Matters

If you are thinking about hiring an Indiana car accident lawyer, you should look for an attorney who will give you competent and compassionate representation with a “client first” approach. That’s exactly what you’ll get with proven advocate attorney Mike Stephenson. His entire legal team is committed to doing whatever is necessary to achieve the best possible outcome in your case. While a financial recovery cannot heal all wounds after a devastating accident, it can help ease the burdens caused by overwhelming medical bills, loss of income, and disability. At McNeely Stephenson, we know exactly how to go about handling your car accident claim so that you receive maximum compensation.

If you are online researching the legal rights and resources available to you in the aftermath of a car accident, we hope you’ll hand the worry over to us and let our resources back you up. The initial consultation is always free, so call attorney Mike Stephenson to talk about your questions at 1-317-825-5200. If you prefer, you can use our online contact form.