In the midst of Christmas party season, we often see an increase in awareness campaigns around drink or drug driving. However, it is important not to forget the impact of fatigue when driving.
According to experts, remaining awake for periods in excess of 18 hours can impair abilities to a degree that is comparable to exceeding the drink drive limit in many countries.
Data from the European Commission reveals that fatigue is a significant factor in 10-25% of road incidents. It can be difficult to judge just how tired you are when you get behind the wheel and as a result, it can be easy to underestimate how much tiredness can affect your ability to drive.
In an effort to educate people about the dangers of driving when fatigued, Ford has created a ‘sleep suit’ designed to mimic the way fatigue can affect drivers. They aim to integrate this into their Driving Skills for Life (DFSL) free training programmes for 17-24 year olds.
The suit includes a weighted cap, vest, arm and ankle bands, with a combined weight of over 18kg. In addition to the suit, the wearer dons goggles that connect to an app and darken at random to imitate microsleeping. Microsleeps occur when an individual is intensely fatigued. They can sleep for up to 10 seconds with no realisation or recollection of having been asleep.
Dr Gundolf Meyer-Hentschel, CEO of the Meyer-Hentschel Institute, who designed the suit, said: “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.
“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.”
Jim Graham, Ford DSFL Manager, said: “We were determined to raise awareness of drowsy driving and the ‘Sleep Suit” is the perfect way to demonstrate this.
“Many people have been thankful that a friend or family member has volunteered to be the designated driver on a night out.
“But just because they haven’t been drinking doesn’t mean that they are safe to drive if, for example, they are exhausted after staying up all night.”