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Automakers Send Help to Tired Drivers

The dangers of drunk and distracted driving have been pushed to the forefront of the national consciousness over the years. An older and more common problem continues to be the cause of countless car accidents every year: drowsy driving. Several automakers have invested in new technology designed to protect drivers who doze off behind the wheel. It is unclear if any of the options available will prove effective in saving lives.

Ford Motor Company is releasing two models with "lane-keeping technology" as an available option in the next year. Toyota, Lexus and Mercedes have also released systems designed to notify drivers when their vehicle has begun the telltale drift associated with a dozing driver. Most of the systems use cameras to detect when the vehicle is veering out of a lane with the turn signal off. Ford's new system will also give drivers a warning when they are veering within the lane.

While the new technology has promise, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has yet to approve any device or system. According to a deputy administrator with the organization, further testing and research must be conducted before anything earns a recommendation. Others in the field believe this is only the beginning. A staff member at Virginia Tech Transportation Institute indicated that, in the future, all new vehicles will be able to center themselves within the lane without driver assistance.

The warning lights, noises and vibrations emitted by these devices still rely on drivers to heed the message of safety. Tired drivers are generally aware of their condition and believe they can manage it safely. Perhaps, like drunk driving and more recently distracted driving, it will take legislation to force drivers to avoid driving when they are exhausted. Hopefully, the new technology makes the roads safer while increasing people's awareness of the dangers of driving while exhausted.

Source: The New York Times, "Trying to Nudge Drowsy Drivers," by Randall Stross, 21 January 2012

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