Driver fatigue is one of the top three contributors to fatalities on NSW roads, according to Transport for NSW.
In addition, crashes caused by fatigue are twice as likely to be fatal than other accidents. Approximately three in 10 road crashes in Australia that result in death or serious trauma are a result of driver fatigue.
Driver exhaustion is fast becoming an area of concern for transport authorities. However, the challenge is that the condition is best managed by motorists themselves.
The latest study to come out of the United States may have found a solution to the problem.
What is the study about?
Researchers Drew Morris, June Pilcher and Fred Switzer at Clemson University have revealed that a more a dependable, unobtrusive way to detect fatigue is to observe vehicle movement rather than driver behaviour.
Using 20 volunteers, who had been awake for 26 hours, the trio measured their attentiveness in a vehicle simulator. The test involved driving around 24 kilometres with nine curves.
The academics then went on to deduce that the best way to measure attentiveness is to monitor vehicle behaviour using GPS technology.
"By employing more accurate GPS technology to pinpoint the vehicle's orientation on the road, the driver could be notified if their driving is getting dangerous. The vehicle may even present information like a video game, with a stream of driving statistics," said Mr Morris.
Taking GPS detection beyond fatigue
An effective way to detect driver distraction is to warn them based on how much the car is swerving using GPS, according to Ms Pilcher.
"This kind of technology may work the same way if the inattentiveness is caused by texting, picking up something off the vehicle's floor or any other distraction that can lead to a dangerous situation," she added.
The researcher added that a GPS warning cannot guarantee that an accident won't happen, but it can help reduce the risk of an unfortunate outcome.
"It can provide a warning to a driver who may not believe danger is imminent," she explained.
How dangerous is driver fatigue?
According to the latest figures released by Transport for NSW, in the 12 month period to May 2015, around 42 crashes involved fatigue. This indicates that fewer people died as a result of drunk driving than fatigue.
A motorist who has been awake for approximately 17 hours tends to drive the same way as someone who has a blood alcohol content of 0.05. This level rises to 0.15 after 21 hours of sleep deprivation.
Worse yet, research shows that reaction time, spatial memory and hand-eye coordination is inversely proportional to sleep deprivation. A driver's own judgement of their alertness also tends to decline as exhaustion increases.
This means an office worker going home after spending a long day at work could be at as much risk as someone driving under the influence of alcohol.
These findings have come at a time when Sydney is preparing to host an international event on driver distraction.
As well as driving safely it is important to ensure your vehicle is safe and that your green slip and registration are current. You can check on the expiry of your green slip and registration on this website. To make a green slip comparison check out the green slip calculator.