023-The nap zapper which set off an alarm in your ear if you fall asleep you while driving, Johannesburg 13.08.2012 Picture:Dumisani Dube

You’re at the wheel. Your eyelids are getting heavier and heavier. Your chin starts to dip towards your chest. You are so sleepy. But suddenly a “BEEP BEEP BEEP” shrieks in your ear. And you’re wide awake again.

That’s the idea behind the Nap Zapper, a product recently imported to South Africa from China. The invention looks like a hearing aid and sits behind your ear. When your head tilts forward, it beeps to wake you.

Company owner Warren Bell said he had decided to import the product after he almost nodded off during a trip.

“It’s extremely loud. In fact, everyone who has used it said it would wake up the dead,” said Bell.

The businessman tested the device in a vehicle and said he had chosen it because the passengers would also realise when their driver was nodding off.

He said they planned to form relationships with the department of transport and had received queries from the mining industry, which was keen to keep employees awake on long shifts.

“We would support anything that helps us reduce fatalities.”

Road Traffic Management Corporation spokesman Ashraf Ismail said fatigue was a major problem on the roads, but it was very difficult to measure its involvement in accidents. He said they based their analysis on the accounts of passengers or eyewitnesses that drivers showed signs of fatigue.

But Ismail was not positive about the Nap Zapper.

“We have seen a number of proposals in our time,” he said, “but we don’t think this will work. We are very careful about what we endorse.”

Ismail said the best principles for staying awake on the road were the simple ones.

He advised people to travel when they were rested, adding that making multiple stops would not help if you were exhausted to begin with. “Fatigue has very little to do with the amount of time you spend behind the wheel of the car - it’s to do with how rested you are before you leave.”

A good front-seat passenger, one who chats to the driver and entertains them, was a must.

“Research has indicated that if your passenger is asleep, there is almost a double chance that you will fall asleep too,” said Ismail.

He also advised that drivers eat healthy foods on the road and avoid greasy food. - The Star