New seatbelt sensors may be able to fight drowsy driving in Tennessee

A driver who yawns frequently, drifts from their lane, feels extremely fatigued or starts to fall asleep behind the wheel of their car poses a safety threat to themselves and other drivers on the road with them in Tennessee. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that approximately 2.5 percent of fatal car accidents and two percent of injurious collisions involve drowsy driving. However, a new sensor system, which is installed into the seatbelt of a vehicle, may prevent the disastrous effects of fatigued driving.

Technology may provide solutions

According to IEEE Spectrum, a European project known as HARKEN has developed this sensor system that can detect driver fatigue even before the driver starts to yawn or their eyelids start to flutter. This system is comprised of a:

  • Seatbelt sensor.
  • Signal-processing unit.
  • Seat cover sensor.

To identify the signs of drowsy driving, the system monitors the driver's heart and respiratory rate. The system is also capable of filtering out body movements, background noise and vehicle vibrations to allow constant monitoring of the driver's systems.

Currently, the new HARKEN system is undergoing closed-track tests. However, researchers hope that the project will begin testing under real traffic conditions as soon as possible.

Some car manufacturers already use similar detection methods

Although this seatbelt sensor system is highly innovative, it is not the first drowsy driver detection system that uses sensors to watch for the signs of driver fatigue. For example, some Lexus models use cameras to watch for the signs of drowsiness and Mercedes-Benz has employed technology in some of their models that uses sensors to monitor erratic driving behavior.

However, since this type of technology is not widespread, many states throughout the country have passed drowsy driving legislation to hold drivers accountable for operating a vehicle in a fatigued state. For example, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, in New Jersey, a driver who has not slept for 24 hours is considered to be driving recklessly and just as dangerous as an intoxicated driver. In Arkansas, fatigued driving is an offense under negligent homicide.

This year, the NCSL states that a senator in Tennessee sponsored a bill that would make drowsy driving a Class E felony. However, no laws prohibiting or providing consequences for drowsy driving in the state currently exist.

Drivers who were injured in an accident caused by a drowsy driver may suffer from severe emotional, physical and financial consequences. If you were involved in an accident caused by a fatigued driver, contact an attorney in your area who can explain to you what your rights are at this time.