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December 8, 2018

Ford Warns About the Dangers of Driving When Tired

After coming up with innovative suits that simulate near-term pregnancy and drunk driving, Ford just came up with a new one that highlights one of the biggest dangers affecting motorists, particular young ones today: driving when tired.

According to statistics, fatigue is a major factor in up to 20 percent of road crashes and remaining awake for periods in excess of 18 hours can greatly impair abilities to a degree that is comparable to exceeding the drink drive limit in many countries.

To gain a better understanding of sleep-deprived driving, Ford has created a new “Sleep Suit” that enables wearers to experience the debilitating effect that tiredness can have.

“Drive when you’re tired and you risk driving like a zombie – becoming a danger to yourself, your passengers, and everyone on the road around you,” said Dr Gundolf Meyer‑Hentschel, CEO, Meyer‑Hentschel Institute, who developed the “Sleep Suit”. “Young adults very often subject themselves to ‘intentional sleep deprivation’ – forcing themselves to stay awake so that they can juggle the demands of busy social lives, long working hours, and studying for exams.”

The suit partly consists of special goggles that simulate extreme exhaustion, including microsleeps–an uncontrollable response to tiredness. Microsleeps can result in those behind the wheel driving blind for 10 seconds or more, sometime with their eyes still open, during which time they may have covered hundreds of meters. What’s worse, there may be no recollection afterwards that this has happened.

Connected to a smartphone app, the goggles can be set to simulate the brain shutting down and the driver effectively seeing nothing ahead of them for half a second, then for increasingly longer periods, up to 10 seconds. Worn together with a specially designed cap, vest, arm, and ankle bands—with a combined weight of more than 18 kilograms—the overall effect offers an insight into the degree to which tired drivers are impaired.

In the US, most drowsy driving crashes are caused by under-25s.

So, what should you do if think that you may be too tired to drive? According to Dr Gundolf Meyer-Hentschel, the best course of action is as follows:
  • Pull over as soon as it is safe to do so
  • Consume a caffeinated drink and nap for 20 minutes
  • Wake up refreshed and ready to hit the road again. (If not, then it is probably time to find another way home or to your destination.)

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