Sleep-deprived driving is one of the major causes of motor vehicle accidents, and it can impair the human brain as much as alcohol can. The American Academy of sleep Medicine (AASM) estimates 80,000 drivers fall asleep behind the wheel every day and 250,000 accidents occur every year related to sleep. Though no exact solution to prevent drowsiness has been found yet, ELI Africa’s goal,through ELI STEM, is to come up with one!
To find a solution to this impediment faced by Mauritian drivers, Michael Chavrimootoo and I set out to survey the taxi drivers at Port Louis, Rose hill and Curepipe. At first the taxi drivers were diffident to answer our questions since they feared clients would come to know that they have to drive in a state of drowsiness and this could adversely affect their work. However, after knowing we are working on system that could finally solve their problem of drowsiness while driving, they became more cooperative and were acquiescent to share their past experiences with us.
Our next target was the late night working employees of different companies at Ebene. The majority of them have been on night shift for the past three months and many of them finish work at 3.00 am. In both cases, they are compelled to work at night and in so doing, they risk their lives and that of other drivers by experiencing micro-sleeps due to fatigue driving.
The survey showed that 62% of taxi drivers admit they had to pull over to make a small nap or sprinkle water on face due to drowsiness and 47% of employees acknowledge to have started to doze off on the wheel! It became more than obvious now to quickly find a solution to this alarming issue.
We came with the idea to start “DON’T FIGHT SLEEP!” AND “Pas precipite to der nier repos” campaigns to raise consciousness among drivers about the impact of drowsiness while driving. The objective of this campaign is to help reduce the number of accidents caused due to drowsy driving.
Besides, we are currently working on a solution that will not only detect drowsiness but will also reduce it. It will have the same effect as coffee on the melatonin, but will not be addictive. Our mission is to have a simple and user friendly device that will not only change lives but will also save them!
By Yuvish Chintaram