Staying Awake at the Wheel

While several factors can adversely affect car safety, few things are more detrimental than falling asleep at the wheel. From blaring the car stereo to rolling down the windows, fatigued drivers employ many tricks to keep themselves awake. But as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicates, these measures don’t always work, as more than 100,000 crashes and 1,500 deaths result from drivers nodding off each year.

In light of this, carmakers have resorted to advancements in technology to keep drivers awake and alert.

Some Volvo and Mercedes models have sleep avoidance technology

The New York Times recently reviewed some of the instruments used by automakers, like Volvo and Mercedes. For instance, Volvo has equipped its XC60 with technology that monitors the way in which drivers interact with the steering wheel. The newspaper says the car will blare warning sounds if the monitoring system detects “micro corrections” inattentive drivers tend to make. However, since the system is so sensitive, the newspaper states users often wind up disabling the system because it will make noises even when they’re very much awake.

The Anti Sleep Pilot

According to the source, one of the better devices doesn’t come with the car but is instead purchased separately. For $179—or $19.99 for the app if drivers have an iPhone—drivers can buy what’s called the Anti Sleep Pilot. Shaped like a giant Oreo, drivers affix the device to their dashboard.

By keeping track of the amount of time the driver has been behind the wheel without resting, the device issues flashing lights and warning sounds based on a variety of factors which determine the risk the driver is at for falling asleep. The device determines this by asking the user a variety of questions to measure fatigue risk, such as the motorist’s sleeping habits, age and type of driving. The more lights flash and sounds blare, the higher the risk someone is for nodding off.

Pull over and take a nap

Ultimately, while the device is meant to keep drivers awake, it primarily serves as a reminder that the only real cure to not falling asleep at the wheel is to pull over and rest, especially during long road trips.

The NHTSA recommends three countermeasures to fatigued driving: get enough sleep before driving, not drinking even small amounts of alcohol—especially when sleepy—and not driving between midnight and 6 a.m. if at all possible.

Further, while noise-making gadgets may have their use, pulling over and resting for 15 to 20 minutes may be the best defense to grogginess.

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