Simulator Sheds Light on Drowsy Driving

Aug 25, 2010

Drowsy drivers are a major problem in the fleet world, especially in long-haul trucking.  Now a new study hopes to find new ways of combating this issue:

The Atlanta Sleep Medicine Clinic, in association with NeuroTrials Research, recently received a driving simulator to test new sleep medications. The clinic is the only accredited sleep disorders center in Georgia to house a driving simulator.

The Atlanta Sleep Medicine Clinic will be testing patients on their alertness and reaction time during monotonous drives and on curvy roads. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year. The driving simulator gives physicians the opportunity to safely study the science behind drowsy driving.

"We're excited to be using the driving simulator to test the effects of sleep medications as well as sleep disorders on everyday tasks that impact the health and safety of our patients," said Carlo Noble, the sleep lab coordinator.

Designed to reflect the look and feel of the driver's seat, study participants will easily recognize the positioning of familiar objects. Positioned behind the wheel, three computer monitors mimic the range of vision from a real vehicle. Two cameras, one facing study participants and one facing the screens, record the simulation.

Sleep technicians at the clinic monitor patients during their drive. One technician sits with the study participant inside the room during the simulation. Technicians do not intervene unless a participant falls asleep during the drive and "crashes."

"We are proud to be contributing to the science of sleep-wake disorders by utilizing the latest innovative, experimental techniques to assess the effects of new medications on sleep disorders," said Dr. Russell Rosenberg, director of the Atlanta Sleep Medicine Clinic. "Improving sleep quality and treating chronic sleep disorders can lead to better health and increased public safety."

[via Automotive Fleet]

Photo courtesy of jithesh and re-used under the Creative Commons license.