April 18, 2019 2:07 pm
Updated: April 18, 2019 2:15 pm

Sleepy drivers get wake-up call with new impairment suit

WATCH: Deb Matejicka tries out Ford Canada's new sleep suit at the Calgary International Auto and Truck Show. The impairment suit is intended to simulate the effects of driving while fatigued.

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From the time we learn to drive, we’re schooled on the dangers of drinking and driving and, more recently, of driving while under the influence of drugs or while distracted.

There is however very little being taught about the risks associated of driving tired, even though nearly 20 per cent of all fatal car crashes in Canada involve driver fatigue, according to a report released by the Canadian Council of Motor Transportation Administrators (CCMTA) in 2010.

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Only speed and alcohol-impaired driving cause more fatal crashes than sleep-deprived drivers.

“We talk a lot about… drinking while driving and we talk about, ‘You don’t use drugs while driving but no one really talks about, ‘Hey, what if you’ve been driving too long and you start to get sleepy?'” Ford Canada representative Tim Tubman said.

That lack of education prompted Ford to come up with its latest impairment suit — the sleep suit — which, according to Tubman, “was brought out by Ford to simulate driver fatigue.”

Made up of weights that are strapped onto one arm and the opposite ankle, the sleep suit also incorporates a weighted helmet and a weighted vest that fits over the torso.

“It simulates that imbalance that you get,” explained Tubman.

“That heaviness that you get in your body and then also too that prolonged blinking that do when you get tired.”

That “prolonged blinking” comes courtesy a pair of hi-tech glasses. Controlled via a remote app, the glasses will shade over intermittently for varying amounts of time – anywhere from one second to a few.

“The body wants to shut down and have a nap and it’s going to try and force itself to do that,” said Tubman.

Ford recently unveiled the suit at the Calgary International Auto and Truck Show and will begin using it in its Ford Driving Skills for Life driver training program for teens and novice drivers.

Transport Canada lists a number of warning signs of fatigue including:

  • blinking or yawning frequently;
  • closing eyes for a moment or going out of focus;
  • having wandering or disconnected thoughts;
  • realizing that you have slowed down unintentionally;
  • braking too late;
  • not being able to remember driving the last few kilometers;
  • drifting over the centre line onto the other side of the road.

Transport Canada also offers a number tips to manage fatigue when behind the wheel:

  • sleep well prior to long road trips;
  • share the driving with other passengers;
  • take regular rest stops every couple of hours and do some exercise;
  • eat light meals or fruit throughout the journey and drink water;
  • if one feels tired during the trip, a nap of 20-40 minutes is an effective way of reducing sleepiness.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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