Bluetooth device in development may prevent drowsy driving

Drowsy drivers cause hundreds of thousands of crashes each year, many fatal. New technology may alert some drivers that they are dangerously fatigued.

In a busy metropolitan area like Los Angeles, traffic never slows down, day or night. This is particularly true during the summer months when people take road trips. Truck drivers spend long hours driving as an everyday part of their job throughout the year. Driving without having adequate rest can end in devastating results, whether a fatigued driver only spent a few minutes in the car or was behind the wheel for hours.

It only takes a second for an overtired driver to nod off and cause a crash. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates there are about 328,000 drowsy driving-related accidents throughout the country each year. Out of these, about 109,000 result in injuries and 6,400 are fatal accidents.

Facts about drowsy driving

According to the National Sleep Foundation, 60 percent of drivers over 18 admitted they had driven while sleep-deprived during the past year, while 13 percent say they drive drowsy once a month or more. More than one-third said they had actually fallen asleep while driving. Certain areas and times, such as driving down long, dull country highways in the middle of the night, can contribute to drowsy driving accidents, although these crashes can occur at any time if a driver is sleepy enough.

Some types of drivers are more likely than others to be sleep-deprived and cause an accident, state the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These include:

•· People who work late or overnight shifts

•· Commercial truck or bus drivers

•· Those with untreated sleep disorders

•· Drivers who use medications that cause drowsiness

•· People who regularly do not get enough sleep

The best way to prevent a drowsy driving accident is to get adequate sleep before driving. However, not everyone observes measures to be safe behind the wheel.

Can new technology alert drivers of drowsiness?

New technologies are being developed all the time that increase consumer safety. One of these, reports Phys.org, is a Bluetooth device that is still in development. The device is being developed by Vigo Technologies and a professor and graduate students from Wichita State University. When fitted over a driver's ear, the device measures blinking and head movement. It causes the driver's smartphone to vibrate, beep and flash to tell the driver he or she is exhibiting dangerous signs of drowsiness. The device's developers say that it may be especially beneficial to the trucking industry.

Driver fatigue may have been a factor that resulted in a tragic accident in Orland, California, in April 2004. A FedEx truck driver crossed lanes on Interstate 5 and ran head-on into a bus carrying high school students, reported Business Insider. Both drivers and five students were among the 10 people killed in the crash, and 39 more were injured. After an extensive investigation, authorities said they found no evidence of alcohol, medication or cellphone use at the time of the crash. They said it was possible the FedEx driver had been overtired.

Drivers everywhere may find hope that modern devices can prevent some drowsy driving accidents from happening. Unfortunately, the fact remains that sleepy drivers cause many crashes every year. If you were injured in an accident caused by a drowsy driver, it may help to contact a personal injury attorney.