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Researchers can identify if someone has been awake for 24 hours or longer with 99pc accuracy through five biomarkers in blood.

Sleepy drivers could have their blood tested for tiredness after crashes, according to new research.

The study, funded by the Australian Government Office of Road Safety, found that the blood test could be available within two years and could enable drivers to be prosecuted for driving while overly tired, The Guardian reported.

Around half of UK drivers have admitted to driving on less than five hours’ sleep and experts suggest that a quarter of fatal and serious crashes in the UK are fatigue-related.

Speaking to BBC’s Today programme, Prof Clare Anderson, associate professor of psychology at Monash University in Melbourne, said: “We’ve been running laboratory studies to try to see if we can take a blood sample to determine how long somebody has been awake and in a laboratory environment we can detect if somebody’s been awake for 24 hours with almost perfect accuracy.”

Her team have identified five biomarkers in the blood which can identify if someone has been awake for 24 hours or longer with 99 per cent accuracy.


“We’re not obviously doing this with the primary aim of prosecuting motorists that are tired – we think it’s really important to develop new tools and systems to detect how long somebody’s been awake and one of those approaches might be in the context of driving,” Prof Anderson added.

Forensic analysis

She said that the tests could also be important “for forensic analysis where crashes have already happened and blood samples can be easily taken” but that “much more work needs to be done” before a tool akin to a breathalyser would be available.


She said this was because a forensic test with a blood sample was a “much more controlled test”.

“In terms of the roadside test like a breathalyser, it’s a test that occurs in real time, you can’t stop somebody on the side of the road and wait for hours for the thing to process; it’s got to be a test that’s less than five minutes in duration, it’s got to be really highly accurate,” she said, adding that this could not be a test where false positives occurred, especially if the results were to be used in a legal context.


They would need to ensure that the test would not be affected by other factors such as adrenaline, she added.

However, Prof Shantha Rajaratnam, also at Monash University, said that with the right investment to be able to scale the technology he believed that it could be implemented within five years in industries such as trucking, commercial aviation and mining.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “Drivers have a responsibility to ensure they are awake and alert on the road and should seek rest when feeling tired. The Government is not considering this type of testing, but we always note new ideas to make our roads safer.”

Experts have suggested sleep deprivation could be as harmful as driving under the influence of alcohol.


Prof Derk-Jan Dijk, director of the Surrey Sleep Research centre, told The Guardian that legislation was “a scary concept for people, because so many sleep badly, but I think it is reasonable to compare it to drink-driving. If you haven’t slept for more than four hours you shouldn’t be at the wheel”.

Source: The Telegraph


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