Blood test could soon be used to prosecute people driving while tired
| Last updated
A simple blood test could soon be used to test whether a driver who has caused an accident was impaired by a lack of sleep.
However, that seems like it is all about to change with a new blood test that could be available in just two years.
The test will allow it to be easier to legislate against drowsy drivers or their employers in the future.
The research for this blood test has been funded by the Australian Government Office of Road Safety, as many sleep experts are calling for tougher laws on tired drivers.
It comes after new research showed that taking to the wheel on less than five hours' sleep is as dangerous as being over the drink-drive limit in a lot of countries.
As per The Guardian, Prof Clare Anderson, from Monash University, Melbourne Australia, who is leading the efforts in developing this new blood test said: "When you look at the major killers on the road, alcohol is one of them, speeding is another, and fatigue is one of them.
"But even though the solution to fatigue is quite simple, which is to get more sleep, our capacity to manage it is impaired because we don’t have tools to be able to monitor it like we do with alcohol."
In the UK, experts have estimated that 20 percent of all UK vehicle crashes are due to fatigued drivers, while one quarter of fatal and serious crashes also being linked to tiredness.
It is clear that something needs to be done, with Anderson's team identifying five biomarkers in blood that can determine whether someone has been awake for 24 hours or more, with a greater than 99 percent accuracy reported.
"They are really strongly related to how long somebody’s been awake, and they’re consistent across individuals," Anderson said.
"Some of them are lipids, some of them are produced in the gut, so they’re from different parts of the body – which is interesting, because sleep is implicated in a number of different health problems.
"But they are not metabolites that are involved in things like caffeine or anxiety or adrenaline, which could be affected if somebody has been involved in a motor vehicle crash."
However, further work is required on the test to determine whether someone has had two or five hours sleep, for instance.
According to sleep researcher, Dr Madeline Sprajcer, between four to five hours of sleep would be a 'reasonable place to draw that a line in the sand'.
But all going well, it could well be in operation in just two years.