In South Africa we often advise motorists to avoid driving late at night. The reasoning behind this has much to do with local driving conditions and some unique threats from the side of the road. These include:
- The difficulty in spotting potholes in the surface of the roads
- Obstructions such as rocks, debris and broken tyres on the road surface
- Broken fences and animals crossing the roads
- Drunk pedestrians crossing the road
It is however not only these threats that remain a cause for concern – the mere act of prolonged driving at night can be a threat!
Study on night-time driving
A new European study published recently reports that prolonged night-time driving can be just as hazardous as driving drunk.
Researchers at Utrecht University in the Netherlands found that driving for just three hours at night was similar to being drunk. Even two hours behind the wheel after dark was like having a strong buzz.
How was the study performed?
Conducting the test on men aged 21 to 25, the researchers supervised their driving skills at various shifts between 9 pm and 5 am. After two hours of night-time driving, the subjects made errors similar to those made with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05. The more they drove, the more their driving resembled that of someone who was intoxicated. Three hours behind the wheel was comparable to a BAC of 0.08 percent.
Driving 4.5 hours at night was akin to reaching a BAC of 0.10 percent — for a man weighing about 80 kilos (176 pounds) that is about the same as drinking four alcoholic beverages in an hour. Blasting the stereo at high decibels and opening the window for a blast of air had little effect, researchers said.
The researchers estimate that as much as 20 percent of vehicle accidents in industrialized countries can be attributed to sleepiness.
Driver Fatigue and technology such as Eyetracker
In an effort to help the problem, a new system is being developed by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology in Germany called Eyetracker. The Eyetracker, when mounted on your dashboard, uses cameras to track the spatial positioning of your pupils and line of vision, and can detect when you’re getting drowsy, to which the system responds with a warning to snap you awake.
The system isn’t retailing just yet but was presented at an industry trade show in November 2010.
We would like to urge road users to be alert to the dangers of driver fatigue and drowsiness. Ensure that you are well rested before starting your journey and do everything necessary to remain vigilant and alert at all times! Stay Switched On!!
For information on Fatigue and Road Safety also view the following: