Having to stop driving at night because of dangerous sleepiness: awareness, physiology and behaviour

Publisher's full text
Torbjorn Åkerstedt
David Hallvig
Johanna Schwarz
Göran Kecklund

A large number of accidents are due to the driver falling asleep at the wheel, but details of this link have not been studied on a real road. The purpose of the present study was to describe the development of sleepiness indicators, leading to the drive being terminated prematurely by the onboard expert driving instructor because of imminent danger. Eighteen individuals participated during a day drive and a night drive on a motorway (both 90 min). Eight drivers terminated (N) prematurely (after 43 min) because of sleep-related imminent danger [according to the driving instructor or their own judgement (two cases)].

The results showed very high sleepiness ratings (8.5 units on the Karolinska Sleepiness Scale) immediately before termination (<7 at a similar time interval for those 10 who completed the drive). Group N also showed significantly higher levels of sleep intrusions on the electroencephalography/electro-oculography (EEG/EOG) than those who completed the drive (group C). The sleep intrusions were increased in group N during the first 40 min of the night drive. During the day drive, sleep intrusions were increased significantly in group N. The night drive showed significant increases of all sleepiness indicators compared to the day drive, but also reduced speed and driving to the left in the lane. It was concluded that 44% of drivers during late-night driving became dangerously sleepy, and that this group showed higher perceived sleepiness and more sleep intrusions in the EEG/EOG.

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