Med thumb blurry car lights

With billions of videos, YouTube makes for an excellent barometer of the digital age. It’s no wonder then that scientists have started to make discoveries based on user-submitted videos. Why set up a research experiment when millions of YouTubers are organically showcasing what you’re attempting to study? It’s not a randomized control group, but it’s not nothing.

Ashleigh Filtness, a biological psychologist at Queensland University, used posted YouTube videos of drowsy drivers to understand the public perception of falling asleep behind the wheel.

“Increasing popularity in Youtube meant drivers were being filmed and filming themselves when tired behind the wheel and posting it to online video sharing websites,” according to the study press release.

To quote Seth Meyers: Really?

Apparently, yes, this is something people do. Filtness reviewed 442 YouTube videos uploaded between 2009 and 2014. Of those, one-hundred-and-seven of the videos had been filmed in-vehicle (as opposed to shooting another car) — 15 percent of them recorded by drivers themselves. So, in the other 85 percent of those in-car cases, passengers felt that it was better to capture an impending accident, in which they’d almost certainly be involved, rather than give drivers a few hard pokes.

The sleepy videographers disturbed Filtness too: "Video blogging or vlogging.” she said, “distracts the driver in the same way as texting and mobile phone use.”

Most videos depicted the behavior as dangerous. Viewer responses, the release said, revealed a “mix of both criticism and sympathy for fatigued drivers and a willingness to share advice on staying awake.” From this, Filtness deemed the public perception of drowsy driving as a “common but controllable” behavior.

But the inclination to share videos of drowsy driving could, potentially, be a good thing. While, on one hand, a growing community of people who film themselves actively endanger public safety is a troubling trend, it also offers a platform to share “accurate messages on drowsy driving.”

Sure, there are two sides to every dumb trend. But, do we really think that truth-dissemination will ultimately be the outcome here? Liz Lemon eye-rolls all around.