Distractions among drivers are quickly becoming the leading cause of automobile accidents. Distracted driving is any activity which removes the driver’s attention from the road and other drivers. According to the End Distracted Driving website, at least 10 percent of fatal auto accidents and 15 percent of auto accidents which caused serious injury were directly due to a distracted driver. That being said, distracted driving crashes are vastly under-reported, since drivers involved in auto accidents rarely want to admit they caused the crash by engaging in a distracted driving behavior. The NHTSA estimates that in 2015, there were 3,477 people killed, and another 391,000 injured in auto crashes which involved distracted drivers.
Further, driver distraction is believed to be responsible for more than 58 percent of teenage auto collisions. The University of Utah found that not only are drivers just as impaired when they talk on their cell phone while driving as when they drive with a BAC of 0.08%, those using a cell phone while driving are 5.36 times more likely to be involved in an auto accident than a driver who is not using a cell phone. As an adult driver, you should consider the following statistic carefully to keep your child safe: teens who see their parents engaging in distracted driving behaviors are 2-4 times more likely to do so themselves.
Gadgets to Minimize Distracted Driving
Just as our gadgets contribute to distracted driving, there are now gadgets which can remove these distractions from our daily driving. Below are five of these gadgets which can help you focus on your driving:
- A device known as Groove, works with your mobile carrier, connecting your mobile phone to the “cloud” and plugging in under your steering wheel. Engineer Scott Tibbitts, invented Groove which, once plugged into a port on a vehicle’s steering wheel halts all incoming texts—as well as other wireless distractions—as soon as the vehicle is traveling at 5 mph or faster. GPS data and music are still allowed to reach the driver’s smartphone, however other data is blocked when the driver’s mobile phone service provider is alerted to the fact that the vehicle is in motion. As soon as the vehicle stops, the device ceases blocking. Groove is also able to distinguish the driver’s phone from that of passengers, so other phones are not affected by the device. Tibbitts, along with others, formed Katasi, the Boulder, CO company that developed Groove. Tibbitts says it is clear that distracted driving cannot be stopped through legislation or public service campaigns.
- Seeing Machines has spent more than 17 years focusing on developing highly reliable, real-time human monitoring technology known as the Driver Monitoring System. The DMS monitors basic driver attention, detecting whether a driver is distracted by monitoring their gaze through a small infrared camera mounted on the dashboard. The system is even able to track the driver’s eyes through sunglasses. Raw video from the camera is passed to a main processing element where it is processed in real-time, measuring attention through searching for and tracking the driver’s face and eyes. Sudden head rotations, as well as eye gaze angles are all tracked in both sunshine and darkness. If the driver shifts his or her attention from the road or closes their eyes for more than a specified length of time, the system beings to escalate a series of warnings for the driver to refocus their attention on driving.
- An app known as DriveMode, by AT&T, turns on automatically when the vehicle is moving at anything above 15 mph. DriveMode silences text alerts, however, it does not totally lock the driver’s phone down. Those who text the driver when the phone is under DriveMode will receive a pre-configured response (such as “I’m driving, will get back to you when I stop.”) Like Groove, the DriveMode app allows the driver to continue to be able to access navigation and music, as well as selecting contacts on the phone with a single click. The app is super simple to use, and parents of teen drivers will like the fact that if the teen disables the app the parent will receive a notification. Other carriers have their own apps, similar to DriveMode, like Sprint’s DriveFirst, T-Mobile’s DriveSmart, and Verizon’s DrivingMode. (Some of these apps do not work on iPhones).
- An app known as SafeDrive (for both iPhone and Android) works a bit differently. Rather than preventing you from looking at your phone when you are driving, you get “rewards” when you don’t use your phone. You earn points as you drive—so long as you do not touch your phone—but all those points vanish if you do touch your phone while your car is in motion. The points accrued can be cashed in at gas stations and other retailers, and there are even challenges in place to see which driver can rack up the most miles without using their phone—which results in more points!
- Focus is similar to SafeDrive but can only be used with iPhones, however instead of rewards, you get a voice telling you to pay attention to your driving! SafeDrive engages when you begin driving and if you are brave enough to touch your phone, a stern voice will tell you to “hang up and drive.” If you ignore this stern warning, the app will increase its warnings, even yelling phrases like “lock your phone NOW.”
There are new technological gadgets being developed to help drivers stay safe, but if you absolutely cannot ignore your phone while you drive, you might want to consider MessageLOUD—a service which automatically reads your texts and emails out loud as your drive.