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Blood test detects drowsy driving

Fleets will be able to test drivers in the future to see if they’re too tired to drive following a scientific breakthrough.

The breakthrough means scientists can now identify sleep deprivation in a blood test

The breakthrough means scientists can now identify sleep deprivation in a blood test

The research – which could also enable police to identify suspected drowsy drivers – has been carried out by scientists at the Sleep Research Centre at the University of Surrey who have developed a blood test to tell whether you have skipped a night’s sleep.

Tests carried out on 36 participants who’d gone through a 40-hour period of sleep deprivation found changes in the expression levels of thousands of genes. A machine learning algorithm identified a subset of 68 genes and with 92% accuracy could detect whether a sample was from a sleep-deprived or well-rested individual.

Simon Archer, Professor of Molecular Biology of Sleep at the University of Surrey, said that identifying these biomarkers is the first step to developing a test which can accurately calculate how much sleep an individual has had.

He added: “The very existence of such biomarkers in the blood after only a period of 24-hour wakefulness shows the physiological impact a lack of sleep can have on our body.”

Previous research in this area from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has shown that drivers who get just one to two hours less than the recommended daily allowance in a 24-hour period nearly double their risk for a car crash.

Chris McClellan of RAM Tracking welcomed the news, saying: “The fast-moving dynamics of working life mean that employers especially have a duty of care to ensure that, where possible, their drivers are alert and fully able to carry out their duties. Vehicle tracking devices allow for the monitoring of driver whereabouts and provides the ability to react quickly if someone has an accident; however, these rigorous tests [that] ensure drivers are alert enough to be on the road can only be a good thing, by both addressing the risk of tired motorists at source, and encouraging more awareness of the issue as a result.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.