Date registered: Aug 2005
Vehicle: 2003 S430 Sport Edition
Location: Curacao, Netherlands Antilles
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Mercedes developing warning system for motorists
Safety experts at Mercedes-Benz are turning their attentions to one of the principal causes of serious traffic accidents: over-fatigue. The objective of their work is to develop a system that is capable of recognising fatigue in time to warn the driver. Over the course of this development project, the engineers from the Mercedes-Benz Technology Centre have already conducted tests with over 200 motorists, both in the driving simulator and on motorways. The revolutionary new system should be ready for series production in just a few yearsâ€™ time.
According to official statistics in Germany, around 0.5 per cent of all serious traffic accidents are caused by "over-fatigue". Last year, the police put a total of 3034 accidents down to fatigue, including 1786 collisions resulting in personal injury. This equates to some 0.5 per cent of all serious accidents. Experts believe that the true figure is much higher, however, as it is often impossible to detect and verify signs of fatigue by the time accidents are reconstructed. Various scientific studies estimate that between 10 and 20 per cent of serious traffic accidents can be attributed to drowsiness. According to an investigation carried out by insurance companies in Germany, fatigue is responsible for one in four fatal motorway accidents. The probability of being killed in an accident resulting from fatigue is 2.5 times higher than for all other causes of accidents.
These findings are corroborated by accident researchers outside Germany. The American National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that every year over 100,000 accidents are caused by driver fatigue in the US, in which 1500 people are killed and a further 71,000 injured. The NHTSA claims that the risk of an accident or a near-accident occurring increases four to six-fold if driving when tired. Meanwhile, a study into fatigue at the wheel conducted by scientists in Canada established that one in five drivers has at some time nodded off whilst driving.
Two thirds of fatigue-induced accidents occur at night-time, with one in two taking place in light traffic. The majority of incidents of this type happen in the early hours of the morning between 2 and 6 a.m., but they can also occur in the middle of the afternoon.