Montvale, New Jersey – New data from the 2009 Sleep in America poll from the National Sleep Foundation reveals that as many as 1.9 million U.S. drivers have had a car crash or a near crash due to drowsiness in the past year. Fifty-four per cent have driven while drowsy at least once in the past year, and 28 per cent do so at least once per month.
“Drivers think they can stay awake by sheer force of will and often underestimate their state of tiredness,” said Thomas Balkin, Ph.D., Chairman of the National Sleep Foundation. “The process of falling asleep robs us of self-awareness and awareness of our environment. As a result, we do not recognize the process of actually falling asleep as it is happening and, unfortunately, all it takes is a moment of reduced awareness to cause a car crash.”
Mercedes-Benz has conducted several years of drowsy driving research in which company scientists observed consistent behaviours during early stages of drowsiness behind the wheel. Tests involving 670 drivers revealed that, prior to entering the microsleep phase, drowsy drivers have trouble steering a precise course in their lane and make minor steering corrections both quickly and abruptly. As a result, Mercedes-Benz has developed a new drowsiness-detection system that identifies these behaviours and alerts the driver to the first signs of fatigue.
Tips, countermeasures and warning-signs to prevent drowsy driving, developed by the National Sleep Foundation are available at www.sleepfoundation.org