Technology is Mitigating Risk from Driver Fatigue and Distraction


Driver fatigue and distraction have long been known to be dangerous, especially for truck drivers who often work long hours. Long before the modern age of handheld technology, drivers were becoming distracted by eating behind the wheel, rummaging around in bags, or even checking their faces in the rear-view mirror for too long. Driver fatigue is especially dangerous as the driver’s full attention is no longer on the road. Distraction and fatigue are issues that some are hoping can be eliminated with the help of technology so that accidents and even deaths can be avoided.

There are two schools of thought on how issues of driver distraction and fatigue can be mitigated. Some technologies measure and act when the truck performs an action that isn’t considered safe and others monitor the driver’s own actions. Both schools of thought have their own merits and drawbacks.

Tech that Monitors the Truck

Similar to how electronic logging devices (ELDs) monitor how long the truck has been in gear and moving, there are new technologies that are measuring other aspects of the trip. Technology like that from Lytx monitors actions like weaving and hard braking. When these types of driving events occur, the system gives the driver an audible alert to let them know that not all is well. After the third such event in quick succession, the system activates a camera and saves footage 8 seconds before and 4 seconds after the event stops. That footage can then be sent off for review and any corrective action needed can be taken.

Tech that Monitors the Driver

Another type of technology that can be used instead of truck monitoring software is driver monitoring software. These new technologies are much more space age and even slightly spooky. Netradyne, a company based in San Diego, is producing a camera system which monitors the driver’s eye positioning, their horizontal and vertical head plane and yawns, and can identify drowsy or distracted driving. If any of the predefined actions indicating distracted/sleepy driving are triggered, an alert (such as a chime or a seat rumble) will occur. These alerts will become more intense with the severity of the event and are designed to be highly annoying to get the driver’s immediate attention.

Besides cameras with sensors monitoring the behavior of drivers, there are also all sort of wearables doing the same thing. Smart watches and even smart headbands are monitoring things like brainwaves, heart rate, etc. This level of tech definitely feels like it’s out of a sci-fi film!

The Future of Driver Fatigue/Distraction

Monitoring the behavior of drivers to help avoid dangerous behavior like falling asleep at the wheel or texting will help to keep our roads safe. There is still a question of which technologies will prove most useful and least invasive to individual driver’s privacy. Depending on the results, it’s likely that all trucks will soon come equipped with advanced monitoring technology like those described above. With the relative success of the ELD Mandate, it’s only a matter of time before similar action is taken to ensure driver fatigue and distraction is reduced on the roads.

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