You might know by now that distracted driving is dangerous. If you don’t know by now, then you probably should. Statistics and research has shown that distracted driving is as likely to cause a serious accident as drunk driving.
But, what constitutes distracted driving exactly? There are many answers to that question because distracted driving can come in a number of forms. Putting on another layer of mascara, eating, shaving, and fiddling with the radio knobs are all distractions that can impair driving and result in accidents. But, there is a much bigger culprit: cellphone and smartphone use.
In this technological age, smartphones have become an extension of our lives. Gone are the days of relying on a planner or waiting until you get in to work to check your email. Smartphones make all of that capable from the palm of your hand. Teens and young adults are especially familiar with smartphones and all the communication and Internet capability at their fingertips, which is likely the reason why teenagers scrolling and typing behind the wheel cause a larger majority of distracted driving car accidents.
Technological distraction behind the wheel isn’t just a young adult problem: nearly 50% of adults admit to texting or using their phone while driving. And accident statistics truly prove it. Distracted driving causes 25% of the total amount of accidents that happen every year, that’s about 1.6 million.
States have caught on to the dangers of hand-held smartphone use while driving and most states have passed laws that prohibit the use of a handheld device behind the wheel. The state of Alaska has banned texting for all drivers, under any circumstance.
Once thought to be a safer alternative to using a handheld phone while driving is using hands-free Bluetooth devices and voice command to answer calls, texts, emails, you name it, all while driving. You’re not looking at the phone; you’re looking at the road and responding to messages without touching anything other than the wheel. Distraction problem solved, right? Not quite. Recent studies revealed that hands-free technology is just as distracting as using a hand-held device, if not more distracting.
When using a hand-free device, it’s more than just a quick glance at a message or email; it makes for more consistent use of the device behind the wheel. Your hands are on the wheel and your eyes are on the road, but your mind is on the virtual conversation you’re having or going to have. That’s the key danger of distracted driving, right there.
Time has shown that laws and regulations can’t easily solve these problems. Studies have even shown that smart technology is actually addicting and the messages we receive can release dopamine in our brains that makes us crave more. We now know that drivers won’t easily be able to quell the urge to pick up the phone, or talk to Bluetooth, at even the anticipation of a vibration or notification. So, what is there to do?
Some experts suggest the use of more preventative technology to solve the distraction of technology. Technology to stop technology. Sounds a little odd, right? But, it could work. Whether it’s an app or a self-driving car, there is plenty of technology being developed that is meant to promote safer driving and prevent car accidents. At Kelley & Canterbury, L.L.C., we try to keep up with the best safety practices for driving and contribute to the conversation in order keep Alaskans safe on the road and less susceptible to car accidents.
Below, we describe some of the technological innovations that are meant to prevent technological distractions, or at least make them less dangerous. But, are these new technologies actually preventing, or are they just promoting distracted driving behind the wheel? We’ll let you decide.
New Software from Apple: Locking Down Phones in the Car
Apple, the largest and most successful producer of the smartphones that fuel us today (the iPhone), has released a new patent meant to restrict the ability to use the phone’s communication features while driving.
According to a report from NPR, the patent would lock certain phone function in one of three ways: a censor installed in the phone that detects when the phone is moving at driving speed, using a “scenery analyzer” to determine whether the phone is in a tucked-away place in the car, or a mechanism that completely shuts down texting for a period of time.
This patent is not a brand new idea. Applications such as DriveAssistT and TEXTL8R were developed by Aegis mobility to block calls and texts while driving. But, despite the fact that this is nothing original, Apple’s patent has the potential to make bigger changes — and ones that resonate — than the software that came before. Apple has a greater influence than app developers. If the franchise adds the patent to the phone so that it is automatically installed when the phone is purchased, habits could change much more quickly than when drivers, or parents of driver, must decide to download an app or software on their own.
But, how easy will it be to turn off this new function? Will it rely heavily on the driver’s own discipline, which has proven to falter? Time will tell.
Smart Car Technology
Our phones aren’t the only devices that are getting smarter: smart cars are rolling out on the market. Many of these vehicles have safety technology built-in to prevent car accidents from happening with very little effort or input from the driver.
The technology can be as simple as blind spot detectors, which notify a driver when another vehicle is in or approaching their blind spot. Other systems have the ability to warn the driver, or take temporary control of the steering, if the vehicle begins to veer lanes. Maybe you’ve heard about the technology that gives a vehicle the ability to parallel park on it’s own, with absolutely no help from the driver.
Taking all these smaller systems a step further is the release of complete self-driving cars. Computer operated vehicles have the potential to take over every driving responsibility from the human with the license. That means the car will determine when it’s time to slow down, speed up, stop, turn, and avoid an accident — not you.
The ability to siphon off some driving responsibility on the vehicle, and rely a little more on these technologies for safe driving, may leave driver’s hands free to send an email or two, or three, with less concern. While it’s true that this innovative driving technology has the potential to increase safety on the road by essentially being an extra set of eyes for the driver, there are potential dangers as well.
According to a source from an Aol Autos article, there is the risk that drivers will become too reliant on these systems. After all, this technology isn’t foolproof. Researchers have found that blind spot detectors and lane departure warning systems aren’t always accurate, especially when vehicles are moving fast, and sometimes failed to alert the driver at all.
As cars get smarter it is important to recognize that a computer’s reaction ability is till limited compared to the human mind. If you purchase, or already have, a vehicle with these smart safety technologies, we encourage you to continue to keep your full attention on the road.
Whether you think technologies such as these prevent or promote distracted driving, that’s your call. But, keep in mind how quickly a car accident can change your life. If you’ve been injured in a car accident, caused by another distracted driver, then you know this firsthand.
The car accident attorneys here at Kelley & Canterbury, L.L.C. wish you safe travels behind the wheel in Anchorage.