We all know about the dangers of driving under the influnce of alcohol or drugs, but how about driving whilst tired?

Drivers falling asleep behind the wheel are said to cause more than 100,000 accidents per year in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It's also responsible for over 1,500 deaths each year.

Driving tired severely increases reaction time and your attention span, and at high speeds on the freeway a sleepy driver may cover worrying distances in a state of semi slumber, with little chance of dealing with any scenarios that may arise.

A new $179 gadget called the Anti Sleep Pilot may be a cost-effective way to help drivers avoid potential danger. In contrast to systems that scan the driver's eyes or measure inputs on the controls, the Anti Sleep Pilot needs occasional interaction.

The device determines your risk of falling alseep my asking a series of questions such as your age, journey plans and sleeping habits, and it calculates a safe driving time before a break is required.

Every 15 minutes the device beeps, and you're required to touch it to prove you're paying attention. If you take a little time to press it, the beeps will become more regular until such time as it decides you need a rest, which will be indicated by a louder alarm and displaying lights.

The device is also available as a downloadable iPhone app that contains most of the features of the full Anti Sleep Pilot, but at only $19.99 it's even less of a financial commitment.

Naturally though, there's a subtext to this story - if you're planning a long journey, get plenty of rest beforehand, and if you start to feel tired, don't put off resting until later, because you may not get to enjoy it...

[New York Times]