What’s the Deal With the New European Seatbelts?

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One of the leading factors of automobile accidents is that of driver fatigue. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), it is estimated that driver fatigue was the leading reason behind 5,000 to 6,000 fatal automobile accidents (Read more.) It is often said that driving while fatigued has a very similar effect on the driver’s competency to that of driving under the influence of alcohol. On top of that, an alarming rate of Americans are unaware of the serious consequences that can result from driving while fatigued.

According to a study carried out by the National Sleep Foundation, 60 percent of Americans have admitted to driving while feeling fatigued, while 37 percent of Americans have admitted to actually falling asleep while behind the wheel. The drivers who are most at risk of falling asleep while driving are commercial truck drivers, night shift workers, people who suffer from sleep disorders, and those who may be sleep deprived. Identifying and preventing ill-effects of operating a vehicle while fatigued often falls under the responsibility of the driver to know and understand their body, however, new seatbelt technology may be able to assist in identifying if the driver is too tired to drive.


The Instituto de Biomecánica de Valencia (Biomechanics Institute – IBV) has recently developed driver seat and seat belt technology that is able to determine if a driver enters into a fatigued state. The Harken device, named after the European project it was conceived from, Project Harken, uses intelligent technology embedded in the driver’s seat cover and seatbelt. The embedded technology is able to measure the mechanical effect of the driver’s heartbeat and their breathing activity, all while canceling out the “noise” of the car’s activity, such as engine vibrations and bumps in the road.

Using the data collected from measuring the driver’s heart beat and breathing patterns, the Harken device is able to monitor the driver’s physiological state and alert them if they are beginning to exhibit symptoms of fatigue. This will allow the driver to take the necessary action to make sure they are driving with enough rest, and prevent fatal accidents that are caused by driver fatigue (Read more.) This device can be especially useful in the commercial truck driving industry, where drivers are often required to drive for extended periods of time, and current federal regulations do a poor job at discouraging such behavior.


Until the Harken device technology becomes mainstream, motorists will need to recognize signs of fatigue in themselves. Here are some warning signs to keep in mind on long road trips:

  • Frequent blinking or yawning
  • Disconnecting thoughts or being unable to remember driving the last few miles
  • Missing turns or exits, inability to follow directions
  • Heavy eyelids
  • Drifting in and out of the lane
  • Irritability

Driver fatigue is one of the main causes of severe or fatal accidents, however it is also one of the most preventable, even without the cutting edge technology such as the Harken device. If you, a loved one, or someone you know was seriously injured due to an accident caused by another party’s driver fatigue, you may be entitled to compensation. It is advised to contact experienced counsel immediately following a motor vehicle crash in order to be aware of your legal rights. Laws vary from state-to-state and it is imperative to retain a zealous advocate to fight on your behalf.

Other Sources:

“Research Methodologies and Statistical Approaches to Understanding Driver Fatigue Factors in Motor Carrier Safety and Driver Health” – FMCSA: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/research-and-analysis/research-methodologies-and-statistical-approaches-understanding-driver

“Heavy and Tractor-trailer Truck Drivers” – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/transportation-and-material-moving/print/heavy-and-tractor-trailer-truck-drivers.htm


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