For World Sleep Day (March 15), Ford Motor Company is using its "Sleep Suit" to show the effects of drowsy driving. Virginia residents should know that fatigue is behind an estimated one in five road accidents. Experts say that being awake for 18 hours or more can lead to the same level of impairment as that produced by alcohol intoxication.
The Sleep Suit enables people to experience drowsy driving in a safe environment. Participants also put on goggles, which are connected to a smartphone app that can simulate microsleep episodes. These are brief periods lasting from half a second to 10 seconds, during which the brain shuts down as an uncontrollable response to sleepiness. These episodes blind drivers to the road even if their eyes are open.
The other components of the Sleep Suit are a cap, a vest and arm and ankle bands, all specially designed and carefully weighted to complete the overall effect of fatigue on the body. Together, they weigh more than 40 pounds.
Ford is integrating the Sleep Suit in the Ford Driving Skills for Life, a free driver training program available for participants aged 17 to 24. This is an appropriate step because vehicle accidents happen to be the No. 1 cause of death for young Americans. Ford warns drivers that sufficient sleep is the only solution to fatigue.
Since drowsy driving is preventable, it is considered a form of negligence. Victims of motor vehicle accidents who are not to blame for their own injuries may be eligible for compensation. However, they will need to file a third-party insurance claim if they wish to seek that compensation. This is where a lawyer may come in handy.