In fact, in Australia fatigue is to blame for almost a quarter of highway fatalities and, with a recent study showing that half of Australians don't get enough sleep, it's good to hear that car manufacturers have made the development of in-vehicle alert systems a high priority.
Mercedes-Benz has recently developed Attention Assist, a system which uses the car's engine control unit to monitor changes in steering and other driving habits and, if it detects that the driver may be becoming drowsy, sounds a wake-up alert. More InfoLexus's system has a dashboard-mounted camera to track the driver's face, rather than the vehicle's behaviour, and alerts the driver if his or her movements seem to indicate sleepiness. These cameras are already available on top Lexus models.
Now fitted to all models in Volvo's 2009 range is the Driver Alert Control. A lane-departure system, it monitors and corrects the vehicle's position on the road, then alerts the driver if it detects any drifting between lanes. Saab's system uses two cameras in the cockpit to monitor the driver's eye movement and alerts the driver with a text message in the dash, followed by a stern audio message if he or she doesn't show signs of alertness.
Drivers can also pick up inexpensive over-the-ear gadgets that sound the alarm when it detects that the driver's head is beginning to droop. Priced at the $10 to $20 mark and for sale under brand names like Nap Zapper, No Nap, and Doze Alert, these can also be quite effective in preventing dangerous dozing at the wheel.