At a recent conference, a researcher from the United Kingdom-based MIRA voiced his concerns about the proliferation of apps that have the potential to distract drivers from their immediate environment, and his opinion is likely shared by anyone who has seen a driver looking down at their phone rather than focusing on the road.
He explained that as more and more information becomes available to a driver through such apps, we must constantly strive to figure out the best way to convey those details. Apps that highlight how much fuel is being consumed by a vehicle, for instance, can remove a driver’s eyes from the road, and that is unacceptable.
The chief electrical engineer for Aston Martin was also on hand to offer his thoughts on the matter. He seems to be in favor of a proposal from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which asks automakers to cut back on in-cabin systems which have the potential to distract a driver. He believes that compliance will follow in the UK if for nothing else than British carmakers opting to come into line with America.
That individual also sees opportunity in a proposal to instill a limit on how loud interior sounds can be. Such a move to cut down on excessive noise from a radio or navigation system would hopefully enable drivers to properly identify outside sounds that could be indicative of an emergency or a need to take evasive action.
This past Friday, police in the city of La Mesa took part in an anti-distracted driving operation made possible through funds supplied by the NHTSA and the California Office of Traffic Safety. For six hours, the Traffic Safety Enforcement Program was in effect, and as a result, 56 people found themselves on the receiving end of a ticket for a cellphone-related violation. The operation was chiefly aimed at those persons caught texting or talking on their phones at the wheel. Although initial fines begin at $20, that number can increase drastically once court costs are taken into account, and if the driver has already been pulled over before for a similar violation, they can expect to pay even more.
For more about the operation, follow this link.
The City Council of Lubbock, Texas, was set to make an initial vote on a texting and driving ban yesterday, but the matter was pulled by the Mayor at the last minute. But instead of pulling it because she’s not in favor of the measure, she instead would like to see the ban expanded to include GPS usage and police officers, as she believes they shouldn’t be exempt from the statute. She cites conversations with local residents for helping her to arrive at her current stance on the matter. If the ban is eventually passed as is, persons caught texting at the wheel would be on the receiving end of a $200 citation.
For more about the potential ban, click here.
Ford has released a survey which seeks to identify dangerous driving behaviors among various demographics, and the information is worth understanding so that we can all remove distraction and other reckless habits from our driving lives.
Penn Schoen Berland administered the study, which surveyed 1,000 people, half of whom were teens and half of whom were adults, although the lion’s share of the research appears to be focused on teen driving habits and parents’ opinions on such.
Around the same amount (62% vs. 61%) of teens copped to letting other passengers or eating and drinking distract them from driving. Just over half admitted to MP3 usage, while 42% said the music they listen to is loud enough to prevent them from hearing other automobiles.
Parents, for their part, largely explained that they had certain concerns about the activities their teens partake in while at the wheel. But despite this, slightly more than a quarter have invested in some sort of safe driving system to improve their teens’ driving.
There was also a distinct difference reported between males and females, with women typically driving safer despite a tendency to use their phones at greater rates than men. That could be because the dangers of a cellphone were eclipsed by the larger percentages of men who admitted to drunk driving, aggressive driving, and speeding.
More evidence continues to arrive which details the danger not just of manual texting while driving, but any kind of distraction that takes one’s focus from the road. It’s becoming increasingly clear that such a distraction can be just as dangerous as removing one’s eyes completely from traffic.
The new evidence, which hails from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and researchers with the University of Utah, is considered the first study that looks this extensively at the impact that distractions have on mental acuity. When such dangers pile up, drivers have been shown to misidentify visual hazards in their environment and react to danger much more slowly.
150 drivers were put through the rigors of a driving simulator and a real-world traffic exercise in Salt Lake City while hooked up to a device that kept track of eye movement, brain waves, and more. During the test, drivers were instructed to speak on the phone, answer emails via voice applications, and listen to books on tape. The more such activities piled up, the less likely a driver was to react in time to obstacles or take visual cues into account.
AAA hopes that these findings can be used to get automakers to cut down on in-car distractions. They’re also urging the NHTSA to issue new guidelines about mental distraction.
Tomorrow, drivers in the city of Soledad might see an increase in the number of officers out on the road due to an anti-distracted driving patrol effort being enacted. Using funds made available from the California Office of Traffic Safety, officers will increase patrols around those areas of the city that tend to be the sight of an increased number of crashes. Officers will be placing especial attention on ticketing those drivers texting or talking on their cellphones. Ahead of the operation, the Soledad Police Department is warning drivers to put their cellphones out of reach prior to driving and to set up a message system telling acquaintances you will be in touch when you’re done driving.
Click here for more information about the operation.
As states make a concerted effort to crack down on distracted driving, you’re seeing lawmakers pass ever-stricter measures on the practice. California is no different, with legislators recently looking into the possibility of banning handheld cellphones and raising the fines an offender could expect to pay.
But other states are attempting to affirm their ability to convict drivers who have been pulled over for committing a cellphone-based offense. A new report looks at the efforts of New Jersey lawmakers to do just that and also wonders about the future legal battle this could create.
Yesterday, the state’s Senate introduced a bill that would require drivers to hand their phones over to officers should a crash involving property damage, injury, or death take place. However, a legal professor at Seton Hall explains that such a move might be an overreach. As opposed to something like seeing a liquor bottle and confiscating that because of the suggestion that the driver is drunk, this measure, she explains, involves actually gaining access to a person’s information.
That professor believes that the United States Supreme Court may eventually have to weigh in on this measure or others like it that have been enacted throughout the country. Citizens interviewed for the story came down on both sides of the issue, with some worrying about the lack of privacy and others seeing a boost to safety.
A group of teenagers from Londonderry, New Hampshire has come up with a device that seeks to curtail distracted driving. Known as the SmartWheel, the technology utilizes a series of sensors placed along the average steering wheel. These sensors can actually determine if a person has only one hand on the wheel or in a position that suggests texting is taking place. If just one hand is placed on the wheel for upwards of three seconds, the wheel will make a noise and light up, essentially telling drivers to get their hand back on the wheel and their eyes on the road. The system has gained the approval of the President of the United States and the entrepreneurs from the TV show “Shark Tank.” The hope is that working with the featured parties on that show will allow the device to make it to the market by the end of 2013.
For more information, click here.
Last week, we brought you word of New York state’s recent approval of a bill that would make distracted driving laws affecting younger drivers far more stringent than they used to be. Now, a new editorial from the staff of the Bakersfield Californian is attempting to get citizens on this coast on board with similar legislation.
The worry is that laws haven’t changed enough to reflect the shifting paradigm of the roads. Texting and driving is increasingly thought to be as hazardous as drunk driving, and yet the editorial claims that distracted driving laws aren’t nearly as strict as those statutes which pertain to intoxication at the wheel.
Whereas drivers younger than 21 face a license suspension until that age if they’re caught being drunk at the wheel, texting offenses are the same across the board no matter the age of the driver: a $20 fine which rises to $159 once costs are taken into account.
There are a couple of solutions. California could take a page out of Alaska’s book and get incredibly tough on distracted drivers. In that state, a first offense might end up costing an individual a whopping $1,000 if they’re caught texting. Or, California could start assessing points to a driver’s license, a situation that could leave to a suspension and heightened insurance premiums.
Distracted driving doesn’t solely pertain to the realm of cellphone usage. Although texting or carrying on a conversation with someone on the other line can certainly take your eyes and mind away from the road, there are certain other activities that pose their own hazards. To avoid such distractions, consider some of the tips provided by AAA Michigan in a new report.
Many drivers have taken to using their phones as a navigation device. However, you can get so caught up in your GPS that you neglect the traffic in front of you. Know your path before you leave, and if you have to use a map function on your phone, considering pulling over first.
Rowdy kids can be a huge distraction, especially if their actions prompt you to repeatedly turn to the backseat. Have kids (and pets) adequately secured before you leave, and if you usually provide them with food or a DVD to watch on the trip, get such items ready prior to starting the car.
Other activities that might take your mind and eyes off the road include personal grooming and eating. To avoid these distractions, give yourself enough time in the morning to get ready and grab a healthy meal. Getting ten more minutes of sleep isn’t worth a potential collision.