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Device may help alert sleepy drivers

Illinois drivers might be able to purchase a device that will alert them if they are becoming drowsy while behind the wheel. A company called Creative Mode has developed the Steer, a device worn on the wrist that monitors a person's sweat and heartbeat to detect changes indicating the person is falling asleep.

The device first delivers a vibration and then an electric shock. Initially, the team that developed the Steer experimented with using vibrations to alert the driver, but these were not always powerful enough. The team was then surprised to learn that a gentle shock caused no damage or pain but was enough to wake up the driver. The shock is also supposed to increase the levels of hormones that help keep a person awake such as serotonin. This allows the driver to find a place to pull over and get some rest.

Although it does not get the attention that drunk driving does, drowsy driving is responsible for up to 6,000 deadly motor vehicle accidents each year. The founder of Creative Mode says he was alerted to the dangers of driving while fatigued when a friend fell asleep at the wheel and hit a tree. That friend suffered only a broken collarbone, but it made the founder think about how such injuries and deaths could be prevented.

Injuries from an accident caused by a driver who falls asleep can be serious. Drowsy driving can be difficult to prove, but an attorney representing an injured victim can endeavor to do so through the use of eyewitness testimony and the black box technology of the automobile in question.

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