Jiun-Ren Hwang and collaborators from Taiwan and Thailand knew that fatigue in drivers is a common cause of traffic accidents.
However, they could not find any scientific studies that had ever been performed to find out just how long it takes drivers to become fatigued at the wheel. The researches decided to find out for themselves.
The Hwang team studied thirty male drivers between the ages of twenty and twenty-six years. The subjects were placed in a driving simulator and asked to driver for ninety minutes.
Every two kilometers (about 1.2 miles), the researchers tested the drivers with respect to their reaction times. The researchers asked the subjects to hit an indicator button as soon as they saw a red symbol on the screen.
In this way, the researchers could test the subjects’ reaction times (amount of fatigue) at regular intervals while driving.
At about eighty minutes into the test, the reaction times of the subjects had increased by 0.3 seconds over the reaction times at the beginning of the test.
Such slower reaction times, makes it much longer to stop a motorized vehicle, especially when travling at high rates of speed. Thus, it makes it much more likely to be in an accident when a driver is fatigued and sleepy.
The research team includes Jiun-Ren Hwang along with Ping-Huang Ting and Ming-Chang Jeng (all three from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, National Central University, Jhongli, Taiwan), and Ji-Liang Doong (from the Department of Industrial Design, Tatung University, Taipei City, Thailand).
Their results “Driver fatigue and highway driving: A simulator study” appears online beginning March 2, 2008 in the journal Physiology & Behavior.
[This article is based on the New Scientist article “Bad reactions” in the March 15-21, 208 issue of the magazine.]
What can be done to counteract fatigue and sleepiness while driving? Please read on.