Researcher’s rare award may help improve road safety

By Doug Nadvornick, WSU Spokane

Kimberly-HonnSPOKANE, Wash. – Truck driver sleep schedules will be studied by a young researcher at Washington State University Spokane who received an unusually large grant for someone so early in her career.

Kimberly Honn, a post-doctoral researcher in the Sleep and Performance Research Center, recently was awarded $1.435 million from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for the “Flexible Sleeper Berth Pilot Program.” Her three-year grant is part of a $2.5 million award to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

“It is very special, almost unique, for a postdoc to get such a big contract at that stage in her career,” said Hans Van Dongen, the center’s director.


Honn and colleagues in Spokane and Virginia will use actigraphs (wrist watch-like devices that measure a person’s movement) and smartphones equipped with performance tests to collect sleep/wake data from 200 or more long-haul truck drivers. The drivers will stop driving and sleep when they’re tired, dividing their required eight hours of daily sleep to allow for naps.

“We will measure their sleep and performance to determine whether a split sleep allowance is beneficial for drivers in the field,” Honn said.

Ultimately, the study may determine whether drivers should be allowed more flexibility in determining their own driving schedules to help improve road safety.

Honn was born and raised in the Spokane Valley area. She earned her Ph.D. in neuroscience at WSU Spokane and B.S. degrees in neuroscience and psychology from WSU Pullman.