Is Technology an Evil Villain or Hero for Drivers?

by Lisa on January 30, 2015

Distracted driving has become public enemy number one. Most states have now approved legislation to limit the use of cell phones. But, while cell phones may have brought the issue of distracted driving to the forefront, it’s hardly the only culprit.

What is Distracted Driving?

For years and years, the driver’s manuals published by state DMV’s referred to distracted driving as not paying attention to the road. Situations referenced included changing the radio station, listening to music with headphones on, or focusing on passengers in the car. The negative impact of being overtired or of certain medications is also almost always referenced in driver’s manuals.

With the advent of cell phones, more and more distracted driving is becoming synonymous with cell phone use., the official US Government website for distracted driving, described distracted driving as “a dangerous epidemic on America’s roadways.”

Recent campaigns have focused on teens, and many graduated driving license programs attack distracted driving head-on by not allowing any cell phone use by drivers under 18 and also limiting the number of passengers in the vehicle of teen drivers. But, some studies point out that it’s actually middle-aged drivers that are the most dangerous when texting and driving. Alan Mozes reported for U.S. News & World Report HealthDay that one recent study completed by researchers at Wayne State University in Detroit found that drivers over the age of 35 are significantly more like than younger drivers to drive outside of their lane while texting.

Cell Phones and Technology As Villain

Cell phones today are considered public enemy number one when it comes to distracted driving. Not only are cell phone beeps and rings distracting, but many seem to find it impossible to ignore the bells and leave the phone alone. There are apps that make noises when a person drives past select stores to announce deals and to attempt to lure them inside. And, many have their phones set to make noise with every single email arrival. So, it’s not just incoming phone calls and texts that tempt a person to pick up the phone “and check”.

A State Farm yearly survey that monitors cell phone usage in cars recently found that “talking on hand-held phones while driving is dropping while surfing the Internet, reading email and scanning social media is rising.” Larry Copeland reported on the State Farm annual survey and its findings in his article Drivers talk on cell phones less but surf, e-mail more.

So, if technology is the big villain, can technology become the hero?

Sarah Perez, a writer for TechCrunch, makes a call for OS providers to create a solution in her article Smartphone Makers Need to put an End to Distracted Driving. She believes the solution is to have the phone stop accepting incoming notifications when it detects it is being driven in a car.

Toyota unveiled at the 2015 Auto Show new technology to help new drivers understand the impacts of distracted driving. In their simulator, drivers are “on the road” and experience common distractions, such as radio, text messages, and passengers. Andrew Hard for Digital Trends wrote about this new technology in his article Toyota’s ‘TeenDrive365’ Uses Oculus Rift tech to teach youngsters about distracted driving.

Entrepreneurs are starting to move into the distracted driving solution space as well. One teenager developed his solution, SMARTwheel, and has already presented it on Shark Tank. He currently has an IndieGogo campaign to raise money for his invention that goes a step further and actually monitors and grades a driver’s performance based on hand placement at the wheel and other factors. Shirley Brady covered this new product in her story CES 2015: Teen-Created Smart Steering Wheel Tackles Distracted Driving for the Brand Channel.

Until Technology Becomes the Hero, Expect New Laws

Until technology evolves into a hero, each state continues to pass legislation to curb dangerous distracted driving. For those studying for your DMV written test, be certain to check your state’s latest and greatest stance on distracted driving, as states are continually fine-tuning and adjusting laws. And very few state laws are identical. Click here to find the most recent laws in your state. If studying for the DMV test and you want to test your knowledge of new laws, offers online practice tests and review sheets.

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