Validating an objective roadside tool to assess fatigue in snow plow drivers


Stage: RFP

Campaign: Maintenance, Operations and Security

NHTSA estimates that 40,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths are caused by drowsy driving each year in the United States. In 2012, 443 crashes were attributed to drowsy driving in Minnesota alone. Currently, an objective method to assess driver fatigue is not available and subjective assessments used in the past have proven to be problematic. Developing and validating an objective measure of fatigue is paramount for safety efforts, especially for special motorist groups, such as commercial motor vehicle drivers, and more specifically for snow plow drivers. Fatigue has been shown to increase the likelihood that a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) crash is fatal (Bunn, Slavova, Strattman, & Browning, 2005). Moreover, sleep related crashes are known to increase for CMV drivers who work night shifts or unusual work schedules (Stutts, Wilkins, Osberg, & Vaughn, 2003). These types of late and erratic schedules are common among snow plow drivers, especially in the case of unpredictable snow emergencies (Camden, et al, 2014).

The project aims to validate an objective roadside tool to assess fatigue. The roadside tool will utilize a reliable and established visual psychophysics method to measure a person’s state of arousal. The main outcomes of the study will be to: 1) Develop a portable, cost effective, and non-invasive measurement tool to assess fatigue, 2) validate the measurement tool as an accurate indicator of fatigue in individuals working long, non-transportation related, shifts, and 3) develop a standard measurement protocol and re-validate the accuracy of the measurement tool to assess snow plow drivers’ fitness for duty and intermediate alertness levels during long shifts.


Submitted by

Idea Submitted by: Nichole Morris

List your MnDOT Office,District,City, County, Univ. or Other: University of Minnesota, HumanFIRST

Idea Champion - Who at MnDOT/LRRB? : Brad Estochen

Project Type - MnDOT or LRRB / Research, Implementation or TRS: MnDOT Research

Idea Status (moderator): posted on RFP, proposal received

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  1. Comment

    Will the focus be on MnDOT CDL drivers only (versus private haulers)? While snowfighters do work long hours and under tough conditions, I have not heard MnDOT districts raise this concern.

    Comments on this comment

    1. Comment
      NLMORRIS ( Idea Submitter )

      Thank you Steve for your comments. Our long term goal would be to apply this measurement tool to all CDL drivers and, even longer term, potentially to anyone under the suspicion by law enforcement of drowsy driving. Previous work by our research team suggests this method works most reliably when a baseline measurement (i.e. measurement when driver is fully alert) has been taken first to later accurately determine if they are in a fatigued state. It will take more extensive, long term testing across larger populations to collect enough data to potentially establish a threshold that could be applied to all drivers on a first time measurement basis to objectively determine they are fatigued (and hold up in court).

      The reason we have chosen snow plow drivers as the population of interest for this study is first in response to a study recently released by VTTI (funded by MnDOT) examining this issue.

      Beyond being identified as a high risk group for driver fatigue, the MnDOT CDL drivers would be a population that we would be able to collect baseline data from while they are alert in order to reliably detect when they are fatigued.

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