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Electronic systems could reduce drowsy driving accidents

Many California roadways feature rumble strips embedded at the edge of the roadway that are designed to rouse motorists who have fallen asleep at the wheel by causing their vehicles to vibrate. These highway safety features have been in use for decades, but new electronic systems becoming available on cars, SUVs and pickup trucks have the potential to reduce further the number of motorists killed and injured in drowsy driving accidents each year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that driver fatigue is a contributory factor in at least 7,500 fatal crashes each year in the United States, and many of these automobile accidents occur late at night or during the early morning hours on fast moving interstate highways. Authorities believe that fatigued or sleeping drivers cause far more accidents, injuries and deaths than official statistics indicate, and they say that an intoxicated or drowsy driver is likely responsible when a vehicle strays off the roadway.

Electronic systems becoming increasingly available on new vehicles help to prevent drowsy driving collisions by alerting drivers about dangerous situations. Cameras and lasers detect other vehicles and drivers are warned about potential collisions by beeps or flashing lights. Some of the more advanced systems even apply the vehicle's brakes automatically. Research indicates that rear-end accidents could be reduced by about 10 percent by such systems, and the technology may also be able to reduce the number of drivers running off the road by about 40 percent.

The injuries suffered in drowsy driving collisions are often serious, and accident victims likely will face lengthy recovery periods during which they are unable to work. A personal injury attorney might assist an injured victim in seeking damages from the negligent driver.

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