Researchers at Melbourne's Monash University have said that biomarker-based blood tests — which could help law enforcement detect whether drivers are sleep-deprived — may be available in five years.1
Funded by the Australian Government Office of Road Safety, the test to spot drowsy driving could pave the way for laws that would see people prosecuted for driving and causing accidents while fatigued.2
The researchers have identified five biomarkers in blood that can determine whether someone has been awake for 24 hours or longer, with approximately 90% real-world accuracy.3
Lead researcher Clare Anderson has stressed that the markers aren't impacted by elevated levels of caffeine, anxiety, or adrenaline, "which could be affected if somebody has been involved in a motor vehicle crash," making the process unlikely to record false readings post-collision.4
While the rollout of portable roadside tests could begin in five years, it's expected they could be used on drivers taken to a hospital after a crash in just two years' time.5
The development comes after recent research was published suggesting that getting behind the wheel after less than five hours of sleep is as dangerous as being over the legal drink-drive limit.6
Narrative A, as provided by The Conversation. Driver fatigue is one of the major killers on the road, alongside alcohol and speeding, which is why it's so important to treat drowsy driving in the same way as drink-driving to improve road safety and save lives. This state-of-the-art technology could help police identify drowsy drivers in road accidents as well as assist employers in assessing fitness for duty.
Narrative B, as provided by Guardian. Having an accurate blood test for fatigue could be a valuable tool for law enforcement. However, it wouldn't preclude driver responsibility or prove that a crash was caused by driver fatigue. Moreover, while the key to securing a prosecution would be to agree on a threshold to indicate tiredness or the minimum sleep required to drive safely, more must be done to reduce deaths caused by drowsy driving rather than simply penalizing drivers.