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Swedish Researchers Highlight Role of Fatigue, Slippery Roads in Single-Vehicle Crashes

November 15, 2007

GOTEBORG, Sweden --- A new study in Sweden concludes that driver fatigue, slippery roads and driver inexperience are major causes of serious single-vehicle accidents and should be considered during the design of new vehicle safety features. In the past, much more emphasis has been placed on the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and driving at excessive speeds. Jesper Sandin and Mikael Ljung, who work in the Vehicle Safety Division at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, used the Driving Reliability and Error Analysis Method (DREAM) to dissect the cause and effect of 38 single-vehicle crashes that occurred in Gothenburg. They found that the crashes could be grouped into four scenarios, Science Daily reported. In the first scenario, vehicles drifted off the road or into the oncoming traffic lane because of driver fatigue, sleepiness or distraction. In the second scenario a loss of traction, caused by an undetected slippery road surface, caused even experienced drivers to lose control of their vehicles. The researchers also found that loss of control in driving around a bend was a factor in the third scenario. However, this was due partly to the vehicle's high speed. In this scenario, Science Daily reported, drivers overestimated their driving skills --- or were unfamiliar with the vehicle or the bend ---and lost control. In the final scenario, panicked drivers lost control as they tried to steer themselves out of trouble and over-steered. "Our study demonstrates a methodology that can be used to explain how a combination of factors may increase the risk of single-vehicle crashes," the researchers said. The researchers expressed hope that automakers can use the research to develop sensors for crash prevention and detection --- along with other safety measures such as airbags and pre-tensioning systems --- that take into account the many unpredictable factors involved in single-vehicle crashes.
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