Highway Hypnosis Becomes Latest Worry in Distracted-Driving Fight | Edmunds.com
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Highway Hypnosis Becomes Latest Worry in Distracted-Driving Fight


Just the Facts:
  • Engineers at the Hyundai-Kia Technical Center and the University of Michigan will launch a study aimed at preventing the problem of "highway hypnosis."
  • "You start zoning out and your reaction time slows down," said Joshua Maxwell, an ergonomics engineer at Hyundai-Kia Technical Center, in explaining this latest element of distracted driving.
  • The Korean automakers will work on warning systems to prevent highway hypnosis.

SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Michigan — Engineers at the Hyundai-Kia Technical Center and the University of Michigan will launch a study aimed at preventing the problem of "highway hypnosis."

"About one hour into a long drive, typically on a highway with a straightaway, you start zoning out and your reaction time slows down," said Joshua Maxwell, an ergonomics engineer at Hyundai-Kia Technical Center, in explaining this latest element of distracted driving to Edmunds on Monday. "Your brain goes into an auto-pilot phase."

When a driver is in this mental state it is possible to travel many miles with little recollection of having consciously done so.

The Korean automakers will work on warning systems to prevent highway hypnosis. The study begins in two weeks using volunteer students from the University of Michigan.

Engineers from Hyundai-Kia and the school will measure brainwave activity using electroencephalograph or EEG sensors to determine the early onset of driver drowsiness.

"Current methods of detecting driver drowsiness are noting changes in head position and eyelid activity, both of which require a longer time to determine potential danger," said the two partners in a statement.

Maxwell said the engineers haven't come up with a specific warning system for cars yet.

"It could be visual, audio or haptic," he said. "It might be the coffee cup icon, which is familiar to most people (as a drowsy-driving alert)."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says 3,331 people were killed in distracted-driving-related accidents in 2011 and approximately 387,000 were injured.

Edmunds says: Drivers are about to get a new wake-up call thanks to this study.

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