A student's quest to develop a micro-sleep detector after a crash that left his friend as a paraplegic is being backed by Bond University.
Hugh Maxey, from Neveritire in the NSW Central West, has been granted a transformer scholarship from the Queensland University, after being motivated by a school rugby teammate, who fell asleep at the wheel in October last year.
Harrison Frear was driving to work when the incident occurred and remains in a Sydney hospital.
“Harrison is a big driving force for me,” Mr Maxey said.
“Before his accident we were playing rugby together, went to the school formal, just high on life.”
The 18-year-old said several carmakers already had systems to monitor driver alertness, including ECG monitors built into seatbelts.
“What I’m proposing is more of a sensor of last resort, monitoring eye activity,” he said.
“Being from a remote area, there's lots of travel.
“I'd have to drive five hours to and from boarding school and sometimes you might be up and back in one day, so that's 10 hours on the road.
“Fatigue is really a big risk.”
Mr Maxey is in his first year studying for a Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Commerce after having moved from Nevertire where his parents and siblings farm wheat and run cattle and sheep.
“It looks a bit like Mars out there at the moment because there hasn't been rain for a long time,” he said.
“Coming to Bond, it was definitely very different to what other people in my family have done.
“They were a bit cautious about whether it was the right decision at the start but once they'd come up here and had a look for themselves they were a lot more supportive of it.”
Mr Maxey said moving from a western town of 225 people to a city on the beach had been an eye-opening experience.
“I had my first rowing session yesterday and absolutely loved it,” he said.
“I’m looking to get some part-time work, exploring some sport and seeing what's out there.”
Mr Maxey and his friend Mr Frear was one his biggest backers.
“He thinks (the micro-sleep detector) is a great idea,” Mr Maxey said.
“He's still in hospital in Sydney. I haven't seen him in person since the event due to the big distances between us but we’ve been FaceTiming and calling.
“An accident like his can happen to anyone, anytime. When you're fatigued your reaction times and critical thinking skills aren't in perfect order.”