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Drowsy Driving Prevention Week

Tuesday, October 22, 2013 by Chris Hocking

In an effort to reduce the number of fatigue-related road accidents and to save lives, the US National Sleep Foundation (NSF) is declaring November 3-10, 2013 to be Drowsy Driving Prevention Week®.

Now in its seventh year, Drowsy Driving Prevention Week® is an annual campaign to raise awareness and provide public education about the dangers of drowsy driving and countermeasures to reduce the number of fatigue-related crashes and to save lives.

Organisations such as the National Sleep Foundation work hard to raise awareness and educate drivers about sleep safety and the under-reported risks of driving while drowsy. Driver drowsiness is a significant risk factor for all drivers and a known contributing factor to highway crashes. It has been reported drowsy driving involves approximately one in six fatal crashes; one in eight crashes resulting in hospitalisation, and one in 14 crashes in which a vehicle was towed. Most drivers underestimate the risks of drowsy driving and overestimate their ability to recognise it and take appropriate action, which makes for a potentially deadly combination.

Fatigue, often referred to as drowsiness or sleepiness, is recognised by many government and industry authorities as a workplace health and safety hazard. For safety critical tasks, such as driving or using heavy vehicles and machinery, the effective management of fatigue-related risk is crucial.

Most people are aware of the dangers of driving while intoxicated, but many don't realise fatigue also impairs performance, judgement and reaction times in much the same way as alcohol intoxication or sedative drugs. Studies show being awake for 17 hours results in an impairment equivalent to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05, the legal limit on Australian roads. Being awake for more than 20 hours results in an impairment comparable to a BAC of 0.08, the legal limit in all American states.

Optalert and Drowsy Driving Prevention

Optalert is the only safety system in the world continuously providing objective, scientifically-validated alertness information to both drivers and supervisors in real-time. The continuous flow of information offers two layers of protection against the dangers of fatigue and allows all parties to monitor the associated risk and initiate proactive measures before it reaches dangerous levels.

The Optalert system displays real-time information about driver alertness levels and the associated risk of a fatigue-related incident. The system displays a score (0 to 10) each minute using the validated Johns Drowsiness Scale (JDS), where 0 = 'very alert' and 10 = 'very drowsy'. JDS scores between 0 and 4.4 are considered low risk. Once scores exceed 4.5, auditory warnings are given to drivers, first at a medium level of risk, with JDS scores between 4.5 and 4.9, and again at high risk levels with scores of 5 and above.

Independent research has shown JDS scores at medium risk levels indicate performance impairment corresponding to a BAC level of 0.05. High risk JDS scores above 5.0 indicate performance impairment comparable to a BAC level of 0.08.

Optalert technology is assisting organisations in their quest for drowsy driving prevention by providing important data to understand how fatigue may be affecting the safety of their employees. This information allows organisations to identify areas of risk and make safety decisions based on objective data.

We encourage all readers of this blog to play their part in keeping drowsy drivers off the road and help raise awareness by telling colleagues, friends and family about the dangers of drowsy driving.

Optalert supports the NSF in spreading the word about Drowsy Driving Prevention Week®. For more information, visit please visit the US National Sleep Foundation website

By Dr Andrew Tucker
General Manager Scientific Research

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