How Do Vibrations in Cars Cause Sleepiness?

Drowsy driving is an unending issue because it often results in fatal car accidents. Actions should be taken to address this problem because the rate at which it causes road crashes is at an average of 20% of the total number of road accidents. It is usually associated with driver fatigue, hangovers, or even medications. Dozing off while driving may indeed be caused by these factors, but there is always another side to a story.

An overlooked reason why drivers feel drowsy is the vibrations produced by a running car engine. Vibrations in cars are now considered as a significant cause of sleepiness. With road safety on the line, the correlation between the said vibrations and sleepiness has been studied by researchers who are based at the University of Melbourne. Aiming to support the claim that vibrations in cars with the engine running can lull drivers into a drowsiness state, a study was conducted.

To rebut the common assumption that lack of sleep is the only cause of drowsy driving, another angle, specifically looking into the car’s influence on the driver, has been tapped into. To determine the effects of varying car vibrations on the performance of individuals behind the wheel, a study involving a simulator was undertaken. In the study, fifteen volunteers are to be exposed in a controlled environment which is supposed to mimic driving on a two-lane highway. To replicate common day scenarios, the visuals are close to reality including some traffic, sceneries and even sudden stops. To measure the drowsiness levels of the respondents, the researchers took into consideration both the individual’s heart rate and their respective nervous system responses.

It was found that in a span of fifteen minutes of driving, drowsiness has already been observed. At around thirty minutes, there is a significant effect on the ability of the driver to be alert and stay concentrated on driving. Making it more interesting is the conclusion that drowsiness level, being proportional to the duration of driving, peaks at sixty minutes or an hour. This means that in a long drive, an individual is highly susceptible to drowsiness.

The study did not end in showing the correlation between the two: car vibrations and sleepiness. The research also involved the testing of other levels of frequency which may reverse its effect on the driver. The vibrations on different frequencies were tested mainly to see if it can result in making drivers more alert or awake while driving. These range of frequencies were also taken note of by the researchers so that manufacturers may be able to look into it can produce new cabin designs which can harness the supposed vibration frequencies which can help individuals be more alert.

The study successfully proved that the vibrations produced by the car seats while the engine is running have the ability to lull the brain and body of drivers into a sleep or drowsy state while driving. The said vibrations are gentle at a steady and low frequency. Regardless of the level of alertness of the driver before going behind the wheel, it was found that he or she is still vulnerable to feeling progressively drowsy over the duration of a trip.

Improving road safety by reducing drowsy driving should be an effort from two parties. One, for the individual behind the wheel, he or she should be at an alert state before driving. The driver should consider the length of the trip and his or her capacity to drive factoring in the activities already undertaken for the day and medications if ever applicable. To address this further, awareness of being drowsy is also vital because then, a driver can pull over and take a nap or opt to change driver.

The second party herein is the car manufacturer. Having proven the correlation between the vibrations produced by a running car engine to the sleepiness of a driver, the manufacturers should aim to improve car seat design to reduce the lulling effect to drivers. This is a concern which should not be taken lightly by both parties because it involves not only the driver’s safety but also the safety of those who are along the road with a drowsy driver.

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