Could Wearables Enhance Road Safety?

Posted on April 3rd, 2018
By Steven Gursten

wearables while driving

Wearable technology includes a variety of different smart electronic devices such as fitness trackers, smartwatches and location trackers. Those devices that are capable of tracking activity also have the potential to track alertness. These can help keep drivers awake and may reduce the number of fatigue-related accidents on the road.

What is the potential for enhancing road safety with the use of wearable technology? How far in the future is this technology, or is it already an option?

The Problem of Driving While Fatigued

Driving while fatigued is a very common problem. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were approximately 83,000 crashes every year related to driving while drowsy between 2005 and 2009. Of these there were over 850 fatal crashes and over 35,000 people were injured.

There is a good chance that these estimates are lower than the actual number of wrecks caused by driving while drowsy, because it can be difficult to prove for sure whether fatigue was the cause of an accident. Ongoing research indicates that as many as 16.5 percent of fatal accidents may be caused by a driver who is drowsy.

Most Common Factors in Drowsy Driving

Sleepiness can impact drivers at any time, but the most common time for fatigue-related accidents is between midnight and 6 a.m. or late in the afternoon. These time frames are when circadian rhythms typically drop. Crashes caused by drowsy driving often involve a driver with no passengers running off the road and showing no sign of braking.

Issues That Wearables May Help to Solve

With recent advances in technology, wearables may offer solutions for driver safety, performance and health. The use of wearables may be a solution when a driver starts to feel fatigued by providing a jolt when the driver’s heart rate starts to slow while driving.

Besides helping drivers be more alert, wearables may also help drivers recognize problems with their driving performance, such as hard braking or sudden acceleration. These devices may also alert drivers when they are drifting out of their lane or when there is a vehicle in their blind spot.

Reducing Fatigue-Related Accidents

Steer is a wearable device that doesn’t allow drivers to fall asleep while they are behind the wheel. It catches a driver that is getting drowsy by analyzing skin conductance and heart rate. When the driver starts to doze, this wearable jolts them awake with yellow light and strong vibration.

Once you have been jolted awake, your heart rate will return to normal. Hormones that help wake you up increase, such as cortisol and serotonin. At this point, you have time to ask someone else to take over driving or pull off the road for a little while.

A Much-Needed Solution to Combat Drowsy Drivers

A wearable that can jolt you awake is a great solution for drivers struggling with sleep deprivation, or simply driving long distances and lulled by the monotony of driving for hours and hours. It is safer and more effective than relying on coffee or energy drinks.

This type of wearable has enormous potential to save lives. Driving while exhausted or sleep deprived can be as dangerous as driving drunk.  A driver that is sleepy or actually asleep can quickly lose control of a vehicle and cause catastrophic damage to their own vehicle and health as well as their passengers and everyone else on the road.

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