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Distracted Driving: Is Technology the Cure?

March 21, 2017

Have you ever pulled up at a red light and seen the driver hunched over, scrolling through their phone? The new unofficial job of the second car in line at a stop light often seems to be honking when the light turns green. Technology has played a huge role in the increased rates of distracted driving in recent years. Many come with large touch screens for music, voice commands for phone calls and texting, or navigation systems that require you to take your eyes off the road to operate them. Even when cars don’t have these built-in distractions, almost every driver has a mobile phone in their pocket that puts all the news, gossip, and adorable pet videos the web has to offer at their fingertips. For most drivers, it seems, the temptation is too much to resist, even when their own safety and that of others on the road is at stake.

Thanks to a few new innovations, though, it seems that the very force that’s fueling distracted driving — technology — may be able to help curb it as well.

Can Texting and Driving Really Cause That Much Harm?

First, we need to better understand the dangers of distracted driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are three primary types of distractions while driving:

  1. Visual: taking your eyes off the road
  2. Manual: taking your hands off the wheel
  3. Cognitive: taking your mind off of the task of driving

These categories can overlap, too. Texting while driving, for instance, involves all three types of distraction at once.

In 2014, 3,179 people were killed and 431,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. If those numbers aren’t alarming enough, experts say that these statistics are going up every year. One distracted driving study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, for instance, did a distracted driving study over a three-year period on 3,500 drivers. Their research discovered that out of 900 severe crashes, 68 percent were from technology-related distractions.

Technology: The Cause and the Cure for Distracted Driving

Can the thing that is distracting us possibly save us from itself? That seems like a contradictory notion, but some experts believe that technology offers the only truly promising avenues to curb distracted driving.

Former aerospace engineer Scott Tibbitts, for example, describes technology as both a disease and its own vaccine. Tibbitts created a device called “Groove” that lets your mobile provider know you are driving and prevents incoming distractions from coming to your phone. This small device plugs into your car and works with a corresponding cell phone app. Groove’s “distraction-free” mode turns on when the car starts moving and turns off about 10 seconds after your car shuts off. In addition, the app has a special function to alert parents if a teen driver unplugs the device or tries to send a text while in the car.

Communications giant AT&T has tried to use advertising messages over the years to stamp out texting and driving. In 2014, for example, celebrities such as Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez teamed up with the telecommunications conglomerate to promote the “hashtag-X” campaign. This campaign tried to promote the practice of sending the letter “X” as a simple form of shorthand to let others know if you were driving or otherwise occupied and couldn’t respond to a message for the time being. Unfortunately, this campaign failed to catch on among young people or make much of an impact on distracted driving rates.

Now, AT&T is shifting its hopes from advertising to technology. The company is promoting a new app called “It Can Wait.” This app works a lot like Groove, except that it doesn’t require its own device — you can simply install the software on your existing mobile phone. The app uses GPS to determine your traveling speed, and it activates whenever you’re traveling faster than 15 miles per hour. During this time, the app holds all incoming texts and calls from your phone and only delivers them once you’ve stopped moving. It can even send an automated text response to people who text you while you’re driving.

Many newer cars also come with crash avoidance systems installed. These systems can actually detect stopped cars, pedestrians, and animals and react accordingly to brake for you. Some features can even detect when you begin to drift out of your lane. Although these features work best in tandem with an attentive driver, they can provide a failsafe when your attention lapses or something distracts you momentarily.

Despite all these promising innovations, though, it’s important to remember that no app or vehicle feature is a substitute for careful, conscientious driving. Perhaps fully automated cars will someday allow us to relax and browse our phones and tablets during our road trips and daily errands — but for now, don’t forget that staying safe is your number one job behind the wheel.

Contact the Law Office of William D. Cook Today

The number of car wrecks involving distracted driving increase every year. If you or a loved one was injured in a car wreck due to distracted driving or some other negligent behavior, contact Attorney Bill Cook today at (800) 757-7757. You can also complete a brief online form, and we will get in touch promptly to discuss your situation. We offer free consultations and, in most instances, we handle cases on a contingent fee basis, which means we advance expenses and that you will not pay a dime until we can resolve your case.

References

Dingus, T. A., Guo, F., Lee, S., Antin, J., Perez, M., Buchanan-King, M., & Hankey, J. (2016, March 8). Driver crash risk factors and prevalence evaluation using naturalistic driving data. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 113 (10), 2636-2641. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4790996/

Distracted driving. (n.d.). National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Retrieved from https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/distracted-driving

Wallace, K. (2016, August 9). Driving while distracted. Can technology solve the problem it caused? CNN. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/04/health/distracted-driving-technology-solution/

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