Driver Alert is a locally-available device that combats the symptoms of fatigue. It uses the same principle as the "dead man's switch" on railway locomotives, where the driver must operate a toggle within a set period after hearing a warning buzzer...

Most questions about safety on the road revolve around the vehicle. How many airbags has it got? What condition are the tyres in? How about the brakes? But what about the condition of the person behind the wheel? A driver traversing long distances is going to get tired sooner or later. Any journey over two hours in duration is likely to result in some level of tiredness; and driver fatigue accounts for about 30 per cent of fatal accidents in country areas.


Given South Africa's notoriously high rate of road fatalities, every effort to increase safety becomes a hit (no pun intended). One such device has been locally developed and patented under the name Driver Alert. Invented by André Brehem, it uses the same principle as the "dead man's switch" on railway locomotives, where the driver must operate a switch within a set period after hearing a warning buzzer, failing which the emergency brakes will be applied.


Instead of applying the brakes, highly dangerous on a road vehicle, a loud siren plus activation of the hazard flashers force the driver to pull over, leave the vehicle and reset a hidden switch. This effectively forces one to "stretch the legs".


The sequence is as follows: When the ignition is switched on, the system starts up by sounding a buzzer after 90 seconds. The driver then pushes the reset button (within 10 seconds) to de-activate. This button can be partially hidden from sight for added theft and hijack protection.


The driver is then allowed freedom for 90 minutes, after which the system starts to check-up on alertness by requiring a reset every 10 minutes. A further option is fitment of a fuel cut-off valve that will progressively starve the engine of fuel, thus bringing the vehicle to a spluttering halt.


While not foolproof, the system maintains driver vigilance on the basis of expectation and anticipation. Local Government authorities have given their support to the system and many further technological enhancements will be added should demand warrant it. At present, trucking companies and transport operators are the main customers, but all road users would benefit.


The same centres that fit Tracker devices can install the system for R1 995. To access the Driver Alert website click here.