Research carried out by Austin Health in Victoria, Australia, means police could soon be able to test drivers for drowsiness.
Fatigue is a factor in up to a third of serious traffic collisions in Victoria, killing about 50 people and seriously injuring a further 300 in Victoria annually.
Experts believe technology could hold the key to changing driver behaviour toward getting behind the wheel while tired.
Research lead, Austin Health and Institute for Breathing and Sleep, sleep and respiratory specialist Associate Professor Mark Howard and his team have tested the technology, which involves using “smart glasses” to track eye movements, including the duration of blinks and how eyes scan the road, to accurately measure driver fatigue levels in both laboratories and off-road driving simulations.
Researchers studied drowsiness in night-shift workers during driving tests and found a tenfold increase in ‘microsleeps’ and double the number of lane crossings.
They also found drivers struggled to keep their eyes open and had more trouble staying in the middle of a lane.
Prof Howard says they are now working on translating technology calibrated for each driver to a one-size-fits-all-test that police could use to scientifically determine in a roadside test if someone is too tired to drive.
Associate Prof Howard said a big part of the problem is a lack of awareness about tired driving.
“Usually there has been simple messaging for this; if you feel fatigued stop driving. But that means different things to different people,” he said.
He said raising awareness of what it means to be tired will be key to reducing deaths.