Car Safety: Driving while sleepy

I have had this problem not once, but quite a few times. As a part of my business, I have been going to a town roughly 300 km away from Lahore. I go there at an average of once a month at least, for the last 3 years. My head practically slumping down and hitting the steering wheel is not something new for me, given that I try to catch the relatively calmer roads either early in the morning or late at night. This in turn, leads to a not-so-attentive me.

The Hazard: But drowsiness (or tiredness) has nothing much to do with your current state of sleepiness. Sure, it doesn’t help if you have been awake watching re-runs of Punjabi stage shows the previous night, but one can not be too careful when it comes to attentive driving. This is especially true for long-distance driving. (I will give you the keys to my car if you can prove that you fell asleep while driving in one of our cities!)

The hazard is not that you will fall asleep while driving, the hazard is that you will be unable to pay the right amount of attention and get into an accident. This not only endangers your life, but of others on the road as well. Also, your feeling of tiredness not only comes from a bad-night’s sleep but, according to Mercedes press release:

In addition to the lack of a good night’s sleep, one of the most frequent causes of the dangerous phenomenon of nodding off at the wheel is monotony.

I of course, can second that. Nothing lulls you to a good-drive’s sleep than the Motorway at night! And no wonder Mercedes is telling us about this, given that they are set to introduce this great feature (to be rolled out in 2009) called Mercedes Attention Assist. It will, I daringly presume, assist you in paying attention.

The Mercedes Attention Assist: It takes in numerous factors to actually establish that you are tired, and then warns you to take a break. The values recorded by the system not only include the speed and the acceleration but also the angle of the steering wheel, the way that the indicators and pedals are used,

How Mercedes does it

How Mercedes does it

certain driver control actions and various external influences such as a side wind or an uneven road surface. Observation of the steering behavior is particularly significant: tired drivers can be spotted by a series of typical steering wheel movements which they then immediately correct. The new Mercedes assistance system recognizes signs such as these; if the driver’s steering behavior changes and other indicators also point towards encroaching tiredness, the system outputs a warning at an early stage. A warning signal sounds and a symbol in the instrument cluster advises the driver to take a break.

Huh? Warns us to take a break? I know when I am tired, trust me. I don’t take a break not because I am unaware of my tiredness, but because I foolishly think that I can ‘make it’. I think that it is OK and there is no serious hazard to me or to the inhabitants of my car or the pedestrians etc. It is this thinking that gets us into trouble.

But optimistically speaking, it might take that one last signal from the car I am driving to convince to actually stop to take a break and refresh myself.

Car Technology & Car Safety in Pakistan: As car technology evolves, we get to see decent-sized efforts to make the cars safer. After the technology comes out, this takes another gazillion years to reach the Pakistani markets, which is nothing short of pathetic. If you have an air bag on your car’s steering wheel, that’s a good start (majority of the cars being produced in Pakistan fail miserably at safety; some models of cars as famous as Cultus come without even a freakin’ seat belt! Beat that!)

Mercedes Attention Assist via Engadget (LINK)