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How automakers are preventing drowsy driving accidents

In 2015, over 5,000 people were killed in crashes involving a drowsy driver. Over 60 percent of drivers have admitted to drowsy driving, and likely the actual number is much greater. While tired drivers may not drive as recklessly as those under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the problem is just as great, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. According to NHTSA, drowsy drivers can have slowed reaction time, impaired judgment and poor attention to detail -- any of which could cause a serious crash.

Recognizing the potential dangers of being behind the wheel while tired, automakers are increasingly adding systems to their vehicles that are designed to prevent drowsy driving accidents. All have different ways of determining whether a driver may be losing focus on his or her driving.

Toyota vehicles that have what's called the Toyota Safety Sense P warn drivers when they are swaying out of their lane. It even measures how many times other systems in the vehicle, like the automatic braking system, have been activated during the trip. If it's been an unusual number of times, the TSSP warns the driver that a break may be in order.

Nissan's DAA system also monitors driver behavior. It first establishes a baseline for how a driver usually steers and does other driving maneuvers. It then compares a driver's actions each time he or she is behind the wheel to that baseline. When it senses that drivers aren't as active as usual, it will provide a message that that they should stop. The system even knows how to allow for things like poor road conditions and curves to minimize false detection.

Hyundai has a system in some vehicles that measures the amount of carbon dioxide in the car. Carbon dioxide is produced when people breathe, but if too much accumulates in an enclosed space, it can cause drowsiness. If it reaches a certain level, the vehicle will automatically bring in fresh air via the climate control system.

Some drivers may not like the idea that they're being "watched" in a sense by these systems. However, they can save lives -- both those of the drivers and others on the road.

Source: AutoGuide.com, "How Does Technology that Deters Drowsy Driving Actually Work?," Sami Haj-Assaad, May 19, 2016

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