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Raising awareness over the dangers of driving while drowsy

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WATCH: Drowsy driving could be just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Global's Laura Casella finds out about new methods being tested to keep drivers awake and aware on the road – Jan 17, 2019

With the recent legalization of cannabis, there have been multiple warnings about driving while high. But, drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Dr. Charles M. Morin, director or the Center for Studies on Sleep Disorders, and Christine Hollander, communication manager for Ford Canada, spoke to Global’s Laura Casella to raise awareness about the dangers of falling asleep behind the wheel.

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After speeding and alcohol, the third leading cause of death on Quebec roads is fatigue.

“Clearly, we need to work on raising awareness in the population,” Morin says. “The first step, [is] not to drive while drowsy or sleepy.”

Drivers will often get behind the wheel of a car and reach their destination, but then question how they got there.

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“Often time people underestimate their degree of attention or sleepiness,” Morin says.

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Drivers often don’t realize the effects surrounding fatigue while driving, but the consequences can be detrimental.

“The main consequences are slower reaction time, lapses in attention, even sometimes micro-sleep episodes,” he says.

Micro-sleep episodes are when someone has their eyes open but, they are essentially asleep for a few seconds. “Naturally, this increases the risk for accidents on the road,” Morin says.

Despite wanting to reach their destination, drivers should also listen to signs and know when it’s time to pull over.

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“When you start yawning and yawning, if your eyes are itchy, if you forget an exit, that’s a big sign,” he says.

To teach drivers about the dangers of driving while tired, Ford Canada has developed a drowsy suit.

“It’s a suit that we use for our driving skills for life program where we invite young drivers from 17-21 [years-old] to come and experience good driving skills, but also create awareness on either drunk driving, drug driving or driving with a hangover,” Hollander says.
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Drowsy driving suit. Global News

The suit emulates the effects of being tired, by weighing down your body. “There’s about 10 kilos on the chest,” she says.

There is also weight on your wrist, ankle and head.

“But most important are the glasses,” Hollander says. “What the glasses do is simulate micro-sleep.”

Once the students have on the glasses, which darken the room, they are asked to walk around.

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The lights are dimmed making the room darker, so the students stop. Later, the lights are turned on. Hollander says this “startles the students.”

It imitates what it’s like to micro-sleep. “They realize, ‘oh my God, this could happen while driving,'” she says.

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Ford Canada not only tries to create awareness with students but also with the population. The sleepsuit will be available to try at the Salon D’Autos at the Palais des Congrès this weekend.

“People tend to underestimate their degree of sleepiness when they take the wheel, so that’s why it’s very important to raise this awareness about the danger of driving while sleepy,” Morin says.

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