Reducing the Risk of Drowsiness-related Motor Vehicle Collisions Through Innovative Research

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Reducing the risk of drowsiness-related motor vehicle collisions through innovative research

Personal life style and work demands are leading to more sleep-deprivation than ever before. Research shows that about 50-70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders, and on average we are getting 20% less sleep. Sleep deprivation results in increased drowsiness, fatigue, and cognitive deficits, leading to negative impacts on health, safety and performance. In particular, drowsiness and fatigue have detrimental effects on driving performance and road safety. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 3% of all US crash fatalities in 2014 were related to drowsy driving, with an annual average of 83,000 sleep-related crashes. In Canada, the Traffic Injury Research Foundation reported that fatigue related motor vehicle fatalities are on the rise from 4.6% in 2000 to 6.4% in 2013.

Alcohol Countermeasure Systems’ (ACS) research scientist Ali Shahidi Zandi, Ph.D., is researching to address issues of fatigue behind the wheel through a countermeasure to improve road safety. He will be presenting at the 10th International Conference on Managing Fatigue, in San Diego, California. The conference covers research updates and discussions within the fatigue management community. This year’s theme is “Managing Fatigue to Improve Safety, Wellness, and Effectiveness.”

Zandi aims to develop a non-intrusive, reliable, automated detection system that works in real-time to detect the state of vigilance or alertness in drivers with the goal of improving road safety through monitoring eye movements and blinking. These developments are critical for managing fatigue in people and reducing motor vehicle collisions and human fatalities.

“Through infrared technology we analyzed the blinking patterns and eye movements to develop a baseline for eye-related characteristics under the “alert” state and then checked if the individual deviated from that baseline; the more the person deviated, the less vigilant they were,” Ali Shahidi Zandi, Ph.D, Research Scientist— Alcohol Countermeasure Systems (ACS).

For preliminary research, a sustained vigilance task, consisting of a series of consecutive psychomotor vigilance task (PVT) was used, where the research team was able to assess vigilance and lapses in behavioural responding in a highly controlled laboratory setting. Fifteen subjects were asked to participate in two sessions under different sleep requirements (normal sleep and mild sleep restriction). In this study, 25 features were measured, and a Gaussian mixture model (GMM) was employed to estimate the baseline for the alert state.

“The goal of this study was to investigate the characteristics of eye movements and blinking as a correlate of drowsiness, and seeing their relationships to behavioural and physiological measures for vigilance. Eye tracking data was collected using infrared based systems. We wanted to see how effective this approach was in the detection of fatigue and drowsiness. The next step will be evaluation of this methodology in a more real-world situation using a driving simulator,” Ali Shahidi Zandi, Ph.D, Research Scientist— Alcohol Countermeasure Systems (ACS).

An objective, real-time assessment of driver vigilance as a countermeasure for managing fatigue is crucial in order to improve road safety by reducing the risk of drowsiness-related motor vehicle collisions.