Carnegie Mellon University recently found that drivers distracted by their cell phones are more likely to cause an accident than drunk drivers with blood alcohol levels below 0.08%. This distraction can be reduced by using hands-free technology to convert emails and text messages into voice messages. However, listening can distract the brain and cause a 37% drop in parietal activity.
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Distracted driving 101
Distracted driving can take many forms: eating, talking to passengers, caring for pets or children, watching roadside diversions and programming or adjusting electronic devices. Personal grooming is also a common distraction. The most serious distraction while driving is using mobile phones to text or talk.
According to distraction.gov, texting while driving can be dangerous and increase accident risk by 23%. Texting while driving is dangerous because it requires drivers to use their primary functions of visual, manual and cognitive attention away from the road. Drivers spend an average of 4.6 seconds looking at their phones each time they send a message via text. This is equivalent to driving the length a football field blindfolded at 55 mph.
According to the Automobile Association, distracted driving accounts for 25% of all traffic accidents. Distracted drivers were responsible for almost 1.3 million traffic crashes in 2012, 421,000 injuries, and 3328 deaths. The majority of distracted driving fatalities and accidents are caused by teens, drivers younger than 20 years old. Distracted driving can also be a problem for adult drivers who are otherwise safe and responsible.
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Distracted driving – Prevention efforts
The best way to avoid distracted driving is to not do it. Most states in the US do not allow drivers texting while driving. Some states even make it illegal for teens and young people to use their cell phones while driving. The U.S. Department of Transportation encourages states to have stricter laws regarding distracted driving.
We have more options than just the legal penalties to stop distracted driving. Technology solutions have been created over the years that can help parents and individuals who want to stop drivers texting while driving. Textecution, a mobile application that tracks speed and blocks texting, uses the built-in accelerometer of a smartphone to detect if a car is moving faster than 10 mph. CellControl makes a device that attaches directly to the steering column. It prevents any texting from the car’s devices while it is in motion. TextLimit allows parents to control the speed at which their phone’s features are disabled or partially disabled.
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Automakers and the Nationa Highway Transportation Safety Administration are also looking into built-in systems to prevent distracted driving. Eye-tracking systems could alert drivers who look off the road, and b) “tattle,” on distracted drivers by alerting law enforcement. This is similar to the LoJack system which automatically alerts police to any nearby stolen vehicles.
It is ultimately the driver’s responsibility not to text and drive. It is illegal and dangerous. You only have one job as a driver: to drive the vehicle. We strongly recommend that you turn off your smartphone before you begin driving.