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Ford's 'Sleep Suit' simulates experience of drowsy driving

March 15 was designated as World Sleep Day. To remind drivers of the connection between proper rest and road safety, Ford unveiled a "Sleep Suit" that can simulate the experience of drowsy driving. Oklahoma residents should know that this suit is being integrated into Ford Driving Skills for Life, a free driver training program for 17- to 24-year-olds.

The Sleep Suit consists of goggles, which are connected to a smartphone app, and a cap, a vest and arm and ankle bands, which are weighted. The app allows anyone who puts on the goggles to experience what are called microsleep episodes -- brief moments where the brain shuts down involuntary due to fatigue.

These episodes last half a second at first but get progressively longer, sometimes for as long as 10 seconds. Though drivers may have their eyes open, microsleep has a blinding effect. The other components of the Sleep Suit, which weigh more than 40 pounds altogether, complete the overall effect of sleepiness.

Drowsiness is a major factor in up 20 percent of road accidents. Since adequate sleep is the only solution, drowsy drivers should avoid getting behind the wheel. Moderately drowsy drivers could supplement the nap with coffee or some other caffeinated beverage; although, this is only a short-term remedy.

Though many car accidents are caused by drowsy drivers, it is not always easy to determine drowsiness after the fact. For this reason, drowsy driving accidents may actually be underreported. Still, a victim injured by a negligent driver may want to see a lawyer about filing a claim for damages. If there are good grounds for a claim, legal counsel could negotiate for a fair settlement.

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