Tech That Stops Distracted Driving
As of 2014, “distracted driving” causes more accidents than drunk driving, according to U. S. government statistics. Some may point fingers at mobile makeup artists, rambunctious children, cheeseburgers, and other distractions. But we all know that mobile phones are the real problem. Read on for some solutions…
How to Stop Distracted Driving
Your odds of running into something (or someone) increase twenty-three times if you are texting behind the wheel. And in fact, each year in the U.S. over 3300 people are killed in crashes involving a distracted driver. That's 9 lives lost, every day.
Eighty-nine percent of Americans think texting or sending email while driving is distracting, dangerous, and should be outlawed. Forty-three States and the District of Columbia have banned texting or all phone use while driving. And yet, plenty of people still do it.
The CDC reported in 2011 that 30% of drivers admitted to reading or sending texts or email messages while driving. I'm sure the problem has gotten worse in the past four years, as mobile phone usage explodes, and more young drivers hit the roads with smartphones. (The average teen sends 60-100 texts per day, and the immediacy of the medium makes it hard to refrain while behind the wheel.)
But let’s not pick on text-based distractions alone. Having a phone glued to the side of your head doesn’t help you look both ways before pulling out from a stop sign or making a turn. Forget “hands free” gimmicks that only help drivers hide what they’re doing from the cops. Several studies have shown there is no difference in accident rates for hands-free vs. hands-on phone use while driving. Conversation or even passively listening to someone talk is a hazardous distraction no matter where the phone is.
Even Verizon has long supported laws to ban phone use while driving. But despite laws and education programs, drivers continue to use phones and cause accidents, even fatalities. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reported over 3,300 deaths and 420,000 injuries involving distraction driving in 2012.
Verizon estimates that over 660,000 of its customers are using their phones while driving at any given moment. No, they are not all teenagers; AT&T reports that 43% of adult customers it surveyed admit to texting while driving. On a personal level, I estimate that two out every ten drivers I see have a phone glued to their skulls; plenty more are looking at their laps, presumably texting (or reading a text message) on the sly. Laws and education aren’t working; maybe technology can stop distracted driving.
Technology to the Rescue?
Way back in the mid-90s, a friend of mine suggested equipping phones and cars with simple, inexpensive circuitry that let them communicate with each other. “If the wheels are turning, the phone won’t work except for 911 calls,” he wished. Of course, it hasn’t happened despite making perfect sense. Heck, modern cars already communicate with phones and other mobile devices; all that’s needed is an app for this particular application. There are some apps that discourage phone use while driving. Here are a few examples:
Live2Txt or “Live To Text” in standard English. It cost $1.99. It blocks incoming (not outgoing) calls and texts with just a click of a button. It’s handy for other “do not disturb” situations, too. People trying to reach you will receive a text message explaining that you’re unavailable temporarily. You can change the settings on your Android or iOS phone to temporarily block texting without Live2Txt, but it’s not pushbutton-easy.
AT&T’s DriveMode is a free app that blocks incoming (but not outgoing) calls and texts when it “detects that you are driving” faster than 20 mph. It probably uses GPS to estimate one’s speed, and blithely ignores the possibility that you could be bicycling, sitting in the passenger seat, or riding a bus or train. It can send a “temporarily unavailable” text, too. It even snitches on teens by notifying parents if the DriveMode app is turned off.
The Canary Project is for helicopter parents who want to be notified when their children use a phone in any way (while driving or not); when they travel too far from home; their current location (yes, of course the GPS location of a teen’s phone reveals the teen’s location) and even when a weather alert is issued for a teen’s location. This is the app to get if you want your kids to be safe and hate you.
There are other distraction-discouraging apps on the market. TXTShield and TextLimit are similar to AT&T DriveMode but are password-protected so teens can’t (easily) disable them; they also cost $3.99 and $24/year, respectively. But they, too, rely on GPS-derived speed for their definition of “driving,” and unless you’re a teenager with controlling parents they are entirely voluntary.
TextBuster is a solution that seems a bit smarter to me. It prevents the teenage driver (but not passengers) from accessing all text, email or internet functions while driving their vehicle only. The TextBuster device attaches to the car's fuse panel or OBDII connector, and communicates with an app on the phone via Bluetooth. When the vehicle is started, the app takes over your phone's screen, allowing only phone calls and GPS navigation. If the app is deleted or disabled, a parent will be notified via text message. (Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems easy enough to defeat this system by simply unplugging the gadget under the dashboard.)
That leaves adults free to kill themselves and other people’s babies. It’s not good enough. Some variant of my friend’s idea, integrated into the electronics of both the car and the phone, is the only solution that will end the carnage. But that would require the cooperation of auto, phone and law makers. And sadly, none of them are likely to go there, because they know it will be an unpopular move.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 28 Apr 2015
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Tech That Stops Distracted Driving (Posted: 28 Apr 2015)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved