DETROIT (AP) -- Assessing how tired truckers are has gone high-tech.
The Michigan State Police is testing a lightweight, binocular-like device called EyeCheck, which apparently spots drowsiness by measuring how a driver's eyes respond to light.
''If this (new technology) works, officers won't have to go just with their gut instincts. They'll have sound scientific advice,'' said Lt. Vickie Campbell of the state police's Motor Carrier Division.
Skeptics raise legal and scientific questions, and the courts, for instance, may not accept the results as a reliable measure of fatigue.
''I'll believe it when it's proved scientifically,'' Walter Wierwille, senior transportation research fellow at Virginia Tech, told The Detroit News.
Federal regulators estimate that fatigue among truckers plays a role in nearly 40 percent of fatal crashes involving tractor-trailer rigs.
Federal law lets truckers drive for 10 consecutive hours before having to take an eight-hour break. But the limits often are exceeded as truckers strain to meet deadlines and reap financial incentives.
State police can fine truckers and pull their rigs out of service if they suspect a driver has violated the work-hour limits or improperly maintained log books.
But unlike drunken driving, which can be detected with a breath test, officers now have no proven test for drowsiness.
State police will use two EyeChecks during the summer to test truckers who volunteer for the 36-second exercise during routine traffic stops. Police cannot use the test results to penalize a driver.
The EyeCheck devices cost $7,500 and are on loan from their creators, MCJ Inc. of Rockford, Ill.
In Illinois, the Legislature recently passed a bill authorizing state police to conduct an 18-month pilot project using EyeCheck to test for fatigue and drug use among motorists on a voluntary basis. Minnesota also is working with the technology and could begin testing it in June.
John Hausladen, president of the Minnesota Trucking Association in St. Paul, is concerned that truckers are being unfairly targeted and also about the accuracy of the tests.
''We feel that if truck drivers are going to be tested for fatigue, then every body behind the wheel should be,'' he said. ''Our understanding is that the technology is new, it's in its infancy.''
Anyone who looks into the EyeCheck will see a series of flashes. A laptop computer tethered to the binoculars will measure how long it takes the pupil to react to the light.
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