State Farm Patents Device to Prevent Drowsy Driving
Getting behind the wheel of a car when you’re tired can pose a very serious danger to yourself and to other drivers on the road. Drowsy drivers have slower reaction times and have a harder time focusing on everything that’s going on around them. It’s estimated that drowsy driving caused 72,000 car accidents in 2013, injuring 44,000 people and killing 800. (However, some sources believe that accidents caused by drowsy driving are under-reported, so the number of fatalities may be closer to 6,000 per year.)
Unlike with drinking alcohol, there is no official limit where you are considered too tired to legally drive. So what can be done to keep drowsy drivers off the road and make our roads safer?
State Farm Insurance has the idea of putting wearable technology to work preventing drowsy and distracted driving. Recently, they patented a wearable device that would vibrate to alert drivers who exhibit behavior of being either tired or generally inattentive. These alerts could be received through wireless headsets, smart watches, computer-enhanced glasses, or even clothes that have microprocessors embedded in them. Ideally, State Farm would like the device to use optic sensors to monitor things like a person’s head nods and how long they’re blinking.
The device patented by State Farm could also be used with a heart-rate monitor, an alcohol sensor, or a thermal image capture device to measure whether or not a driver is drunk, sick, or tired and unable to drive safely. It could also keep track of how often a driver checks a mirror, since not checking mirrors often enough could be a sign of being distracted. Over time, the device could monitor driver patterns and behaviors and do things like suggest a driver have a caffeinated drink if they’re going to be driving at a time when they tend to be tired.
Many auto insurance companies have started using technology to monitor other aspects of driver behavior as a way to offer better insurance rates to safer drivers. It’s currently unknown whether or not using this device could help reduce insurance rates.
Although the idea of preventing car accidents by keeping drowsy and otherwise impaired drivers off the road is certainly a wonderful idea in theory, the new technology does have its critics. Many people question whether or not consumers will be comfortable allowing a device to record and track such personal information, even if they do get a discount on their auto insurance.
While selling consumers on this technology might be difficult right now, there are some groups of people who could potentially benefit from it, such as trucking companies and fleet managers. Drivers who drive things like commercial trucks, busses, and tow trucks are at an increased risk of drowsy driving. Although there are many rules and regulations in place to make sure commercial truck drivers get adequate rest, too many drivers or their employers try to circumvent the rules.