Cars can have a powerful effect on lulling its occupants to sleep. This can be a great thing if you’re trying to get a baby to settle for a nap or if you’re a passenger and you want to get a rest before you reach your destination. If you’re the one driving, however, this can be a dangerous problem—one that affects many people and can create tragic situations.
There are many factors that can contribute to drowsiness behind the wheel that vary from driver to driver. This includes the duration of the trip, the surroundings, and numerous behaviors, habits, and even medical conditions. Drowsy driving, however, may also be a side effect of simply operating a motor vehicle, as recent study points to a common factor that may contribute to drowsiness after just 15 minutes behind the wheel. That factor is vibration.
Researchers from Melbourne, Australia’s RMIT University found that specific frequencies of vibration may be a prime contributor to drowsy driving and instances of drivers falling asleep behind the wheel. The gentle vibrations of a car, combined with other factors, can have a notable effect on the brain and body, which can cause car occupants to nod off sooner than they may realize. Even when a driver is well rested and alert, the researchers found that signs of drowsiness started to occur within 15 minutes of driving. They also found that concentration and alertness decreased notably after just half an hour.
These results were acquired through a virtual driving simulator, which subjected volunteers to a monotonous stretch of a two-lane highway that also allowed for different levels of vibration as well as no vibration at all. Upon measuring and tracking heart rate, the researchers found that vibration did indeed affect alertness. They also noted that different frequencies had a different impact, with some actually contributing to a driver’s wakefulness and others inducing drowsiness.
While the study was limited to just a small number of volunteers and the researchers have said they would like to continue examining the effects of vibration across more demographics, their findings may lead to precautions that could help reduce occurrences of drowsy driving. Understanding how specific frequencies impact drivers and passengers may enable auto manufacturers to better utilize vibration control in the design of various vehicles.
It would also be interesting to see how vibration might impact one’s alertness levels in other situations, such as in occupational conditions that expose a worker to various frequencies. Such conditions can be controlled using vibration mounts and isolators like those available from www.isolationtech.com. Since vibration is a very common force throughout the modern world, studying and controlling exposure could help keep us all safer and more alert.