Tired Drivers Account For 100,000 Police-Reported Crashes Per Year
Drowsiness accounts for more than 1,500 auto-related deaths per year in the U.S., according to a report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). To prevent this problem, Ford Motor Company has announced findings from a comprehensive five-month study, resulting in new technology designed to keep drowsy drivers awake.
The study is the most complete controlled laboratory research ever conducted on the difficult problem of drowsiness behind the wheel. Subjects were required to stay up all night and were not allowed to drink caffeine after 6:00 p.m. the night before. The sleep-deprived drivers were then sent on a three-hour drive — not behind the wheel of a car — but behind the wheel of Ford's VIRTTEX driver simulator.
So many drivers veered off the virtual track during the test that there would have been numerous serious accidents had they actually been on the road. A drowsy driver moving at 70 miles-per-hour will travel nearly the length of a football field if he falls asleep for even two and a half seconds.
As the drowsy subjects drove, researchers experimented with several methods of keeping them alert — such as the use of various lights and sounds. Ford expects to use what it learned from the study in new technology to be introduced into its cars — beginning with its Volvo brand.
According to the National Sleep Foundation's (NSF) 2002 "Sleep in America" poll, about one-half of adult drivers (about 100 million people) say they've driven a vehicle in the past year while feeling drowsy. Almost two in ten people (about 32 million) have actually fallen asleep at the wheel. One percent (approximately two million drivers) had an accident because they dozed off or were too tired to drive.