Drowsy driving is a serious problem that affects tens of thousands of Americans on a yearly basis. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found that drowsy driving causes more than 70,000 accidents and about 800 deaths per year. And unfortunately, this is a problem that doesn’t seem to be getting any better over time. Despite the awareness surrounding it, drowsy drivers continue to cause problems out on the road.
Why is that? A group of researchers at RMIT University in Australia believe they may have found one of the reasons why so many people struggle to stay awake when they’re behind the wheel.
According to a study that they published in the Ergonomics journal recently, the vibrations that are caused by a car’s engine when it’s running may be lulling many drivers to sleep.
Even though people may not necessarily realize it, those vibrations may be relaxing their minds and bodies and causing them to nod off when they’re supposed to be driving.
The researchers who conducted the study asked 15 volunteers to sit inside of a virtual simulator that made it feel like they were driving. Some of them were exposed to vibrations while others were not. Those who experienced the vibrations in the simulator reported feeling tired, and it appeared to impact their ability to make decisions. It also affected their heart rate and resulted in them feeling drowsy over time.
The researchers are hoping to test their vibration theory out on a larger group of participants sometime in the near future. They’re also hoping to test vibrations at different frequencies to see what impact they have on people. But for now, there does seem to be a strong connection between gentle vibrations and drowsiness in drivers. Identifying that connection more clearly and finding ways to combat it could be one of the keys to reducing accidents involving drowsy drivers.
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