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If You've Ever Felt Sleepy While Driving, It May Be Your Car's Fault

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Driver fatigue is one of the leading causes of fatal road accidents. According to researchers from Australia, the cars themselves may be to blame for making drivers feel sleepy while behind the wheel.  ( RMIT University )

Drivers who find themselves sleepy while behind the wheel may have to blame their car, according to a new study by researchers from Australia.

There are many reasons for driver fatigue, such as not yet taking their daily dose of coffee or sleep deprivation. Apparently, cars themselves may also make drivers sleepy, presenting potentially dangerous situations on the road.

Cars May Be Making Drivers Sleepy

A new study by researchers from Australia's RMIT University determined that cars themselves may be making drivers sleepy, due to the natural vibrations of the vehicles.

According to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, up to 6,000 fatal car accidents each year in the United States involve driver fatigue. This represents about 15 percent of the road incidents in the country that resulted in death.

Meanwhile, in the researchers' home country of Australia, one out of every five road accidents resulting in fatalities, or 20 percent, involves driver fatigue.

The study found that when drivers are tired, it does not take much before they start nodding off to sleep. The researchers identified that the vibrations produced by the car seats may further induce sleepiness in the person behind the wheel.

"From 15 minutes of getting in the car, drowsiness has already begun to take hold. In half an hour, it's making a significant impact on your ability to stay concentrated and alert," the researchers wrote.

The study involved 15 volunteers who were hooked up to a driving simulator, while on a seat that the researchers could make vibrate in different frequencies. At low-frequency vibrations of 4 kHz to 7 kHz, the brain enters an early stage of sleep, which is why people in a moving vehicle may fall asleep. Of course, it is bad news if the driver is one of those people.

How To Stop Feeling Sleepy While Driving

The study has its limitations, particularly that only 15 subjects participated and the small range of frequencies for the vibrations. However, it does present something for automobile manufacturers to think about.

According to the researchers, car makers may want to think about creating car seats that minimize the vibrations, to prevent people from falling asleep while driving.

Human factors, including driver sleepiness, are what self-driving cars are looking to eliminate from the equation to create safer roads. However, the technology is apparently not yet ready, as it is still finding itself in the middle of accidents. Drivers who keep getting sleepy should definitely look forward to when self-driving cars are safe enough, so they can rest while the vehicle does all the work for them.

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