Mitigating the risks associated with driver fatigue and distraction continues to be a challenge fleets face in today’s transport industry. In this Expert View, Alastair Protheroe of Seeing Machines, outlines how technology can help.
Driver fatigue and distraction related accidents can cost a transport company upwards of one million pounds per accident and can result in loss of life, damage to assets and a tarnished brand reputation. Fortunately, today technology has evolved to detect driver fatigue and inattention, preventing accidents before they occur, mitigating these risks for heavy vehicle drivers and other road users.
Drowsy driving & micro sleeps
Driver fatigue poses a major risk to commercial fleets and their drivers due to the involuntary nature of fatigue and its ability to occur unexpectedly, as well as it being hard to measure. A micro sleep occurs when a person falls asleep for 2-30 seconds without realising. A survey conducted by Brake and Direct Line discovered that 31% of drivers surveyed admitted to having a micro sleep whilst driving. This is particularly concerning as a six second micro sleep can result in a driver travelling 200m in a heavy vehicle whilst asleep at the wheel. Commercial vehicle drivers are particularly at risk of drowsy driving, with four in ten fatigue related crashes involving a commercial vehicle in the UK. This can be due to a number of factors such as long and tiring shifts, lack of sleep and time of day.
In 2016, out of the 1,445 fatal accidents that occurred on British roads, 37% were due to distracted driving including in-vehicle distractions, external distractions and mobile phone use. A 2012 survey conducted by Brake and Direct Line found that amongst the drivers surveyed there was a higher rate of mobile phone use amongst professional drivers with 55% admitting to talking on the phone compared to 36% of drivers not at work. With research indicating that drivers using a mobile phone are four times more likely to be in a crash and 20 times more likely if they’re texting, this raises serious concern and highlights the need for in-cab intervention such as driver monitoring technology.
Risk mitigation with in-cab technology
An advantage of using driver monitoring systems such as Guardian by Seeing Machines is that they provide fleet operators with the root cause of any safety events, so they can manage the source conditions and prevent these safety events from happening again, and more importantly, from occurring in the first instance.
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 Microsleep Episodes and Related Crashes During Overnight Driving Simulations, University of Applied Sciences Schmalkalden, Germany, 2011
 Flatley, D. & Rayner, L. et al, Sleep-Related Crashes on Sections of Different Road Types in the UK (1995–2001), 2004
 Brake and Direct Line reports on safe driving part 8: At-work drivers, 2012
 Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (2009, July 27). “New Data from VTTI Provides Insight into Cell Phone Use and Driving Distraction.” Blacksburg, VA: Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.