The Flemish Traffic Sciences Foundation (VSV) has started a so-called sleep check, in which, among other things, a saliva test is used to see how many motorists are sleepy behind the wheel. According to several studies, this is necessary, since sleep is a major risk factor in traffic.
In total, the VSV is aiming for around four hundred saliva samples, the first of which were already taken last week. In combination with a questionnaire about the sleep patterns of the participants, it should be mapped who was on their way for better knowledge.
The saliva taken will be analyzed next month and tested for the presence of melatonin. This hormone is released as soon as the exposure to light diminishes, which is normally the signal for the body to go to sleep. The VSV wants to announce the results in February 2020.
The role of sleep as a risk factor in traffic is not unknown. In 2003, the Institute for Road Safety Research (SWOV) stated that sleepiness is a problem for all drivers and can lead to "reduced legal capacity and a reduced willingness to act".
Drowsiness may play a role in 20 percent of serious accidents worldwide. At the time, SWOV saw no reason to assume that this percentage is different in the Netherlands.
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Do not drive for more than eight hours in a row
As part of the Promised campaign, the VSV has already put some tips on its website to prevent sleepiness behind the wheel. This varies from not driving at all in the dark to sufficient night's sleep (eight hours) for a long drive and avoiding alcohol before bed.
The foundation also advises people not to drive for more than two consecutive hours, if possible to change with the co-driver and not to set the temperature too high. In addition, it is not a good idea to fixate on a certain arrival time, since this will encourage risk taking.
This corresponds to what the Dutch road safety campaign had previously communicated under the heading 'You can come home with that'.
'Sleepiness in traffic difficult to prevent'
Mark Maaskant of Prodrive Academy, a company that provides road safety and user training, states that fatigue behind the wheel is difficult to prevent.
"Of course you must ensure that you are adequately rested and do not drive for more than two consecutive hours. But the mere example of parents with young children who keep you awake at night indicates that fatigue can also be prevented when you are on time to bed. You can also prevent fatigue at the wheel. "
Based on its own research, the company concluded that driver assistance systems can prevent sleepiness. "Driving on the highway with switched-on driver assistance systems such as adaptive cruise control in combination with active lane assist and automatic transmission results in less fatigue behind the wheel", says Maaskant.
"Tired driver even less alert"
The driver may be less alert because of the driver assistance systems, but Maaskant argues that a tired driver is probably paying less attention.
"I will give an example: the sun is low and shines in your face, you connect in the back of a traffic jam and turn on your emergency lights. With the low sun there is a chance that the following traffic will not see you. What do you prefer now? : a tired driver approaching you at 100 kilometers per hour, or 28 meters per second, or a less alert driver approaching you with the adaptive cruise control switched on? "
When the sun is low, the following traffic may not see the hazard lights.