Principal Investigator: Aemal Khattak
Driving under fatigued mental conditions is fairly common amongst drivers and especially amongst drivers of commercial motor vehicles. Each year numerous crashes occur due to driver fatigue resulting in loss of valuable life and property. An effective way to reduce such crashes is to remove fatigued drivers from the roads; however, identifying fatigued drivers is a prerequisite to this method. To keep Nebraska's highways safe, the Nebraska State Patrol Carrier Enforcement Division routinely conducts inspections of commercial vehicles to ensure compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety regulations and/or hazardous materials regulations. These inspections involve different levels of driver and vehicle scrutiny. Many times the inspecting officer is guided by signs that may lead to closer examination of possible issues. For example, a driver's slurred speech may convince the officer to administer field sobriety tests. However, the State Patrol currently lacks concrete information on drivers' physical characteristics/signs that may indicate mental fatigue. As such the possibility of missing fatigued commercial drivers exists. The eventual research goal is to identify and correlate easily observable characteristics of drivers to different levels of mental fatigue, e.g., normal, confused, disoriented, sleepy, impaired, etc. As a first step in this direction, research is proposed to: (1) Review the current state of information pertaining to characteristics of fatigued drivers; (2) Study the chain of events starting from stoppage of a commercial vehicle by the State Patrol and ending with case adjudication; and (3) Conduct a national survey of relevant enforcement agencies to assess their practices. Subsequent steps will involve research in collaboration with experts from the medical, psychology, law and other relevant fields. The research team hopes to develop tools that will enable State Patrol officers to make more judicious decisions in the field and thereby further improve public safety.