WARNING SIGNS: Your car may know better than you do when it's time for a much-needed break from driving.
WARNING SIGNS: Your car may know better than you do when it's time for a much-needed break from driving.

Opinion: Driver Fatigue warnings proving their worth

NEW cars are so packed with safety features it often has me wondering how much is necessary and how much is just to add desirable weight to the specification list.  

After all, car companies love nothing more than a bit of one-upmanship over their rivals, and if that means tacking on a feature the competition doesn't have, the PR people have extra reason to get all excited and wax lyrical.  

Problem is - and this truly is a First World problem - buyers can get huffy if they think they've had to pay extra for their car due to a bit of kit they don't deem necessary. "Why would I need emergency city braking? I'm not some Gen Y texting and driving so am quite capable of spotting a stopped car in front, thanks very much."  

When I bought a new car last year I'll admit to having such thoughts. I opted for an extras pack, something manufacturers enjoy offering as they can eulogise about all the features you're getting for a fraction of their individual cost because they're all bundled together.

Woolgoolga, lions volunteer Brian Baker at the reviver driver at Woolgoolga where a break in occurede and money tins were stolen. Photo:Trevor Veale / Coffs Coast Advocate
COFFEE BREAK? Take advantage of much needed Driver Reviver stops Trevor Veale

I stuck a Travel Pack on my car for an additional $1300 (total value was apparently $2070, I'll have you know) because I wanted alloy wheels instead of awful steel ones with plastic covers, plus it was the only way to get the all-important cruise control I rely on for long highway journeys.  

Included in this pack was Fatigue Detection, something that had a value (so said the brochure) of $200. I could have done without that I thought - wish the $200 could have gone on something I'd really find useful, like roof racks for the bike, a chilled drinks holder… even a branded winter coat. How's the car meant to tell when I'm tired, anyway? Waste of money.  

Or so I thought. Credit where it's due, in all my time driving the car the Fatigue Detection warning has never flashed up until an excursion this week. I'd just got off a plane after a 30-hour flight from Europe (with kids in tow meaning I was granted next to no sleep), and had to endure a two-hour drive home from the airport.  

Sure enough, about an hour into the journey Fatigue Detection flickered on with an audible warning. Even through my jet-lagged weariness I was incredibly impressed. The system had recognised I wasn't really at my most alert and suggested I stop and take a break, and really, it was probably spot on correct.  

Driver Reviver is in desperate need of volunteers as another busy holiday period draws near. Pictured are volunteers at the Forest Glen stop, Frances Curby, left, and Kay Fittock. Photo: Brett Wortman / Sunshine Coast Daily
DRINKS? Go on then...thanks ladies. Brett Wortman

Seems this clever system I'd originally wished was never there monitors the driver's movements through the steering wheel, intelligently recognising when they show signs of fatigue. I'd not noticed I was driving any differently on said journey, but the car did. It gave me a literal wake-up call that I may not be safe to drive, and as studies have shown, fatigued drivers can be as likely to have or cause an accident as those who drink drive.   

So, Fatigue Detection system, you have my apologies and now my respect. I may have thought you were an unnecessary expense, but if you save me and my family only once you have paid for yourself a thousand fold.   I'd still have liked those roof-rack bike carriers as well though.