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AZ company's weapon to battle drowsy driving is in high gear

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A device that analyzes the driver's face and tracks the blink rate. (Source: CBS 5 News) A device that analyzes the driver's face and tracks the blink rate. (Source: CBS 5 News)
A processor is mounted inside the cab of the vehicle. (Source: CBS 5 News) A processor is mounted inside the cab of the vehicle. (Source: CBS 5 News)
It sends snapshots of the driver's eyes to someone who is watching a monitor. (Source: CBS 5 News) It sends snapshots of the driver's eyes to someone who is watching a monitor. (Source: CBS 5 News)
TUCSON, AZ (CBS5) -

Thousands of crashes, many of them deadly, happen every year. And drowsy driving is to blame.

New technology is being developed in Arizona that could save lives.

Drowsy driving has been a continual problem for Arizona Department of Public Safety officers, said DPS spokesman Bart Graves.

Last year, there were 248 deadly fatigue-related crashes in Arizona. 

"When you have very little sleep, you're reaction time is equal to having a few drinks and getting on the road," Graves said. 

That's apparently happening more and more often. DPS said last year's numbers jumped nearly 16 percent since 2011. 

One Arizona company, Seeing Machines, is trying to prevent that. The company has developed a product that could help get sleepy drivers off the road.

Seeing Machines was founded in Australia. CBS 5 News visited its U.S. headquarters in Tucson.

They make a device that analyzes the driver's face and tracks the blink rate. A processor is mounted inside the cab of the vehicle. It sends out a warning if it thinks the motorist not paying attention.

"It lets the operator know by a vibration and audio alert when they have a fatigue event," said company spokesman Russ Armbrust. 

It also sends snapshots of the driver's eyes to someone who is watching a monitor. They then make the call to get you off the road.

A motorist wearing sunglasses is no deterrent to the processor. 

"It doesn't matter how dark they are," Armbrust said. "This technology will see right through them and continue monitoring your face."

The Seeing Machines devices are common in the mining industry. The company installs them in 3,000-ton haulers, where accidents are almost always fatal.

The company has other plans as well.

"We're going to be going to the company from mining to over-the-road trucking," Armbrust said. "Military aviation and several other industries as well."

This technology could even be in your car in the next few years, keeping an eye on your eyes and telling you not so gently if you're tired to get off the road.

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