Research has shown time and again that driving with a cell phone reduces concentration and can lead to crashes, but has yet to put a firm link on just how many crashes might be caused directly by electronic distractions. Whatever the studies say, it’s clear that not paying attention behind the wheel for any reason makes driving less safe.
Unfortunately, the need to stay connected is so strong that far too many drivers think they can get away with it.
To counter the rising amount of distracted driving-related crashes, automakers like Ford Motor Co. are striving to help lower distracted driving in any way they can. Ford believes that research is the key to solving the driver distraction issue. It influences public policy, driver education and the development of advanced technologies and vehicle features. As part of its effort to reduce risky driving behavior, in 2001, Ford became the first auto manufacturer in North America to invest in a full-motion-based driving simulator to lead the study of driver reaction and behavior in a controlled and safe laboratory setting.
Technologies to Combat Distraction
Ford isn’t the only one looking into technological advances to lower distracted driving. Here are some of the top distracted driving prevention technologies:
►Cellular lock down – Plenty of applications use a phone's GPS system to block various functionalities (text, email, Web, phone calls) when a driver is moving faster than a certain speed. While all of these applications shut down distracting functionalities like chat, texting and Web surfing, some still allow you to make and receive calls, while others allow you to permit or block certain functionalities like voice dialing. Most these apps also allow a person to track another's whereabouts by pinpointing the phone's location on an online map.
►Safety features for auto DVD players and GPS systems– Built-in automobile DVD players have safety features that disable driver-viewable screens while a car is in motion. Similarly, GPS navigation systems with their turn-by-turn audio directions are a huge improvement over the days when Dad would drive with a paper map in one hand and the steering wheel in the other. Built-in GPS units are equipped with safety features that prevent drivers from keying in data while a vehicle is in motion. Still, the temptation to stare at the GPS screen rather than the road remains. Automobile DVD players and GPS devices can cut down on distractions, if used properly. However, if users bypass the safety features, they can be as dangerous, if not more dangerous, than texting while driving.
►The wave of the future: cars that drive themselves– Using robotics and artificial intelligence software, Google is taking the next step and testing cars that actually drive themselves. Proponents agree that the advantages of robotically driven cars are clear. Robotic drivers never get distracted – they can perceive objects on all sides as well as above and below, and their reaction times are faster than those of human drivers. To date, Google researchers have driven test cars robotically for more than 140,000 miles (225,308 kilometers) with minimal human intervention. The cars perform equally well in city traffic and on the freeway. They stop for stop signs and keep the human driver apprised of conditions, announcing upcoming turns and approaching crosswalks. Production of the "autonomous" cars is still years away, however.
With all of these advancements, however, there are still countless accidents every year that occur from distracted driving. Research on distracted driving reveals some surprising facts:
- 20 percent of injury crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving. (NHTSA).
- Of those killed in distracted-driving-related crashes, 995 involved reports of a cell phone as a distraction (18 percent of fatalities in distraction-related crashes). (NHTSA)
- In 2009, 5,474 people were killed in U.S. roadways and an estimated additional 448,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes that were reported to have involved distracted driving (FARS and GES).
- Using a cell phone while driving, whether it’s hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent (Source: University of Utah).
- Alcohol-impaired drivers are involved in about 1 in 3 crash deaths, resulting in nearly 11,000 deaths in 2009. A recent CDC report discusses drinking and driving and the proven measures that can help.
To learn what the state, employers, health professionals, and you can do to stop drinking and driving, and to read the full article from the CDC, click here. For more information about distracted driving from Summit, visit http://www.safetyontheweb.com.
Katherine McCarthy is the communications coordinator for Summit Training Source Inc. McCarthy researches, writes and manages Summit’s blog, as well as numerous white papers, articles and marketing collateral. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from Grand Valley State University and can be reached at Katherinem@safetyontheweb.com or @SafetyTraining1 on Twitter.
- "Drinking and Driving: A Threat to Everyone." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 04 Oct. 2011. Web. 20 Dec. 2012.
- Grimes, Gerlinda. "Top 5 Distracted Driver Prevention Technologies." Discovery Channel. Discovery Communications, LLC, n.d. Web. 19 Dec. 2012.
- "Reducing Driver Distractions." Ford Motor Company, Aug. 2012. Web. 19 Dec. 2012.
- "What Is Distracted Driving?" Distracted Driving – Get the Facts. U.S. Department of Transportation, n.d. Web. 20 Dec. 2012.