New technology will address dangers of drowsy driving

Driving while fatigued can cause accidents, leading to serious injury and even death. Although studies have shown that drowsy driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving, experts say that too many drivers do not take the hazards seriously enough. New technologies under development may help prevent accidents caused by drowsy driving.

Some auto safety technologies that are already available on some vehicles, such as lane-departure warnings and impending-collision detection systems, can help prevent a sleepy driver from causing a crash. Other tools under development specifically address the problem of drowsy driving. Volvo is developing an improvement to its Driver Alert Control system that will use LED lights to monitor the driver’s face for signs of drowsiness. A “smart” steering wheel to detect driver sleepiness is under development by a German firm, and a Bluetooth headset is in development that will monitor drivers’ body movements and blinking to monitor fatigue.

While the technologies hold promise, they have not yet been subjected to rigorous testing. However, tools that have been available for a longer time have indeed improved safety. Studies found that lane-departure warning systems reduced the risk of drivers leaving the roadway by 40 percent.

Experts point out that technology is only part of the solution, and is no substitute for drivers making wise choices. No one should drive when they are sleepy. Until fully autonomous vehicles allow drivers to nap while being transported to their destination, it is simply not safe to drive while fatigued.