Validating an Objective Roadside Tool to Assess Driver Fatigue

Principal Investigator(s):

Nichole Morris, Director, Mechanical Engineering


Project summary:

Fatigue not only impairs reaction time, attention, and risk assessment, but it also leads to increased micro-sleeping, falling asleep at the wheel, and lane drifting, all of which negatively affect safe driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conservatively estimates 37,000 injuries and 900 deaths caused by drowsy driving each year in the United States, making it a leading preventable cause of road deaths. In 2015, 482 crashes were attributed to drowsy driving in Minnesota; however, these rates may be underestimated given that law enforcement lack an objective tool to determine fatigue-involved crashes. Moreover, the Automobile Association of America (AAA) found in a recent study of dashcam recordings that nearly 10 percent of crashes are attributed to drowsy driving. Commercial truck drivers, who often work irregular, long shifts under monotonous conditions, are over-represented in fatal, sleep-related crashes. Similar work schedules are also common among snowplow drivers who must respond to demanding snow emergencies, not bound by hours of service regulations, which can further exacerbate fatigue. These findings highlight the need for an objective roadside tool to detect driver fatigue. Notably, law enforcement officers (e.g., Minnesota State Patrol) currently lack an objective tool to assess fatigue, among other types of impaired driving. The project aims to validate critical flicker frequency (CFF)--a reliable and valid psychophysical technique that measures an individual's level of alertness--as an objective roadside tool to assess fatigue. The goals of this project are: 1) Collect a large sampling of CFF responses to compare to self-reported sleep schedules 2) Develop a sensitive driving measurement test for driver fatigue that can be applied to other types of impairment 3) Validate the accuracy of the measurement tool to assess impairment among drivers who are experiencing acute driver fatigue (i.e., 34 hours of prolonged wakefulness).

Project details: