Drowsy driving is a leading cause of car and truck accidents in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Commercial truck drivers and others who spend long periods of time on the road are particularly susceptible to participating in this unsafe driving behavior.
Driving while sleepy can be dangerous for any motorist, but when the driver of an up to 80,000 pound commercial truck is too tired to focus or falls asleep at the wheel, the resulting accidents and injuries can be catastrophic.
In 2017, the Ford Motor Company developed a high-tech trucker cap to help combat the threat fatigued commercial truck drivers pose to public safety. Though the cap is still just a prototype, the technology behind it could potentially save a lot of lives by helping large vehicle operators prevent drowsy driving crashes.
Drowsy Driving Statistics
Drowsy driving is much more common than people realize. The following statistics are concerning. What's worse, they may not illustrate the full scope of the problem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that commonly-circulated drowsy driving statistics are likely underestimates.
- The Department of Transportation estimates fatigue plays a part in roughly 15 percent of trucking accidents.
- From 2009 to 2013, there was an annual average of more than 72,000 police-reported accidents involving drowsy drivers, resulting in more than 41,000 injuries and 800 deaths each year, according to the NHTSA.
- The CDC estimates that drowsy drivers may actually cause up to 6,000 fatal accidents each year.
- The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that seven percent of all car and truck accidents and 16.5 percent of fatal crashes involve a drowsy driver.
- According to an August 2016 Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) report, the estimated annual societal cost of fatigue-related crashes was $109 billion, not including property damage costs.
- Approximately 95 percent of drivers who responded to a 2002 NHTSA-Gallup survey reported they considered drowsy driving by others to be a major threat to roadway safety.
- In the 2002 NHTSA-Gallup survey, 37 percent of drivers admitted to having fallen asleep behind the wheel at least once.
- Shift workers, such as truck drivers, are more likely to drive while drowsy compared to workers with regular daytime schedules—36 percent and 25 percent, respectively, according to a 2002 National Sleep Foundation poll.
Driving while sleepy may not sound serious, but research shows it can be just as impairing as drinking and driving. Too little sleep slows reaction times and makes it hard for drivers to focus on the road. Even missing just one or two hours of sleep can increase a commercial driver's risk of being involved in an accident.
In 2017, Ford Brazil's heavy-truck division partnered with GTB, a Sao Paulo-based creative agency, to develop SafeCap—a high-tech trucker cap designed to prevent drowsy commercial truck drivers from nodding off behind the wheel.
Ford and GTB researchers mapped drivers' head motions to identify movements associated with drowsiness and fatigue. They then equipped a trucker cap with sensors, as well as a built-in accelerometer and gyroscope, enabling it to recognize those dangerous, fatigue-related head movements and alert the driver. The Ford SafeCap can vibrate, sound an alarm, or use flashing lights to get the sleepy driver's attention.
The anti-drowsy driving cap is currently in the testing, patenting, and certification stage. It's unclear when or if Ford plans to actually manufacture the SafeCap for the U.S. market.
Consult an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney
While technological advances like the Ford SafeCap could prevent future truck accidents, they don't do much for individuals who were already hurt in crashes caused by fatigued commercial drivers.
If you were injured in such an accident, the legal team with McGartland Law Firm can help you explore your legal options and fight for whatever compensation you may deserve. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a free case analysis.