A Wakeup Call for Safer Roads

A Wakeup Call for Safer Roads

"Imagine this scenario," says Dr. Matthew Walker, a renowned sleep expert and professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.

"Two taxis arrive. One driver has a 30% higher likelihood of getting into a crash due to being sleep-deprived. Which would you choose? The answer is obvious, but that's the position we put ourselves in when we neglect our sleep."

Walker and Nissan UX Innovation senior manager Dr. Lucian Gheorghe, who leads Nissan's Brain to Performance programmeOpens in a new tab., are collaborating on analysing drowsy driving and finding ways to help people get a better night's sleep.

Why sleep is important

According to the National Sleep Foundation, drowsy drivers are involved in around 100,000 crashes per year in the United States, resulting in an estimated 71,000 injuries and over $12.5 million in damages1.

To expand on his taxi metaphor, Walker references an AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study2 revealing a connection between sleep hours and crash risk. Compared to drivers who slept at least seven hours in the past 24 hours, drivers who reported they had slept:

  • 6-7 hours had a 1.3 times greater crash rate
  • 5-6 hours had a 1.9 times greater crash rate
  • 4-5 hours had a 4.3 times greater crash rate
  • Less than four hours had an 11.5 times greater crash rate

A solution is within everyone's grasp.

"Sleep is probably the greatest legal performance enhancer not enough people are using," says Walker.


Tips for better sleep

Walker recommends healthy adults try to sleep seven to nine hours a night and says consistency is key.

"If I was going to offer you one suggestion for improved sleep, it is regularity," said Walker. "By going to bed and waking up at the same time, you will anchor your sleep and improve the quantity and the quality of that sleep."

Here are additional things you can do:


Nissan's brain and performance research

Collaborating with the Nissan Formula E teamOpens in a new tab. and non-professional drivers, Nissan's Brain to Performance programme is using an innovative method to improve drivers' focus, reaction time and decision-making ability through targeted brain stimulation.

"If I can find a method to make very good drivers a tiny bit better, then I've got a good chance to help average drivers become better too," said Gheorghe.

The programme has shown impressive results, with participants performing tasks 50% faster and learning racing circuits 50% quicker than a control group.

"There's a clear analogy between muscle changes and brain structure changes," says Gheorghe. "Perform the same task time and again, and certain paths develop in our brains."

Consistency is the key, resonating in both performance training during the day and when the time to sleep arrives at night.

"Regularity will feed your brain those signals of consistency," says Walker. "Brains will respond by producing the greatest quantity and quality of sleep."

Results showed that participants in the Brain to Performance programme slept better. "They performed better because they could concentrate for longer periods of time," says Gheorghe.

A top priority of this research is improving drivers' cognitive performance. Gheorghe envisions Nissan providing driver training in the future to help improve road safety

"I wouldn't be surprised if in a few years you come to the Nissan dealership to have your car checked and instead of reading a magazine while you wait you take part in a highly accelerated brain-training program," says Gheorghe. "Then you go home with a better car, as a better driver, and you sleep better at night — all of which can combine to create safer roads."

Both researchers agree the value of a good night's rest can't be overstated when it comes to enhancing driver performance and ensuring safer roads. Safety is a key pillar within Nissan's drive towards a sustainable future.

"Sleep is not a cost," says Walker. "It's an investment."

  1. thensf.orgOpens in a new tab.
  2. aaafoundation.orgOpens in a new tab.