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Could a “droopy eyelid detector” stop truck accidents?

December 27, 2014 by Steven M. Gursten

Technology could be part of the solution to preventing truck accidents by helping tired truckers

falling asleep at the wheel

Truck driver fatigue is one of the most common causes of preventable truck accidents. But it’s not a cut and dry issue. Many of our readers have read the letters I’ve posted from truck drivers asking for help. Many truckers are pushed to drive beyond physical – and legal – limits by truck companies trying to cut corners and save money.

These truckers fear this can mean the difference between putting food on the table or standing in the unemployment line. And for lawyers, it can be more difficult to prove a truck wreck was caused by driver fatigue.  Attorneys often rely upon circumstantial arguments based upon logbooks and hours of service violations and sometimes expensive expert testimony. Far too many lawyers just focus on the underlying truck wreck itself, and do not delve deeper and ask why the crash occurred. Causes left unexplored are causes uncorrected – and the profit incentive to cheat and have truckers drive over hours – remain for many trucking companies.

But the science shows a tired truck driver is as impaired as an intoxicated driver. Trucking companies must be held accountable for properly supervising  truck drivers, and to stop encouraging drivers to ignore hours of service safety regulations that were enacted to keep everyone – the truck driver included – safe.

One possible solution is new technology that can help prevent accidents due to fatigued driving.

One, as reported by Bloomberg, begins with the eyes. What’s being called a “droopy eyelid detector” has cameras that monitor eyelids and sound a warning when they droop, jolting the driver to stay alert.

The system was among a handful of technologies that the government recommended adopting in the wake of a 2005 accident involving a jack-knifed Whole Foods truck and a motor coach carrying a high-school marching band that killed five, according to a recent story in Bloomberg, “Droopy Eyelid Detector One Solution to Truck Crashes.”
Since the Whole Foods crash, more than 30,000 people in the U.S. have died in large-truck crashes.

All the while, proposals to mandate such eyelid-monitoring devices, collision-avoidance systems and dozens of other life-saving innovations have languished and remain in review at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

In the wake of the Tracy Morgan truck crash, which thrust the issue of truck driver fatigue back into the news and public spotlight, the Department of Transportation says it’s taking action to use all such tools at its disposal, according to Bloomberg.

Tracy Morgan was nearly killed when the limo bus he was riding in on the New Jersey turnpike was rear-ended by a Georgia trucker driving a Walmart tractor-trailer. Published reports stated the Walmart truck driver may not have slept for at least 24 hours prior to the crash.

Such developments are good news, but it’s disappointing that it takes high-profile tragedies to get the DOT moving faster on making our roads more safe.

Related information:

Website provides fatigue management for truckers in North America

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