Distracted Driving Prevention
Distracted driving prevention has become a topic of massive
interest. This is most notably due to the fact that it leads
to real injuries and even deaths! In fact, every day in the
U.S. over 1,100 people are injured, and 9 people are killed due to
distracted driving. There's no doubt that smartphones are one
of the leading causes, particularly text messaging, and social media
related viewing and messaging. Can you think of anything you
do on your phone that is worth injury or death, or even damaging your
car even if no one is hurt? It's simply not worth it!
As a parent, I am terrified about when the time comes when my kids
start driving. Using smartphones has become such an addiction
for all of us that it really is concerning. Even though I try
to avoid looking at it while in motion, it's still a massive exercise
in will power to not pick it up at a light. I'm impatient,
get bored, or simply want to get a thought out, and I feel that I have
plenty of time while at a light. HOWEVER, the reality is that
even that is distracting. I should be scanning the road for
hazards, and generally paying attention to the flow of traffic, even
when I'm at a stop.
Types of Distraction
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention actually defines three
different types of distraction:
- Visual - When you
eyes off the road.
- Manual - When you
hands off the steering wheel.
- Cognitive - When you
your mind off of driving.
As you can imagine, texting isn't the only culprit. Just
talking on the phone with a Bluetooth headset takes your mind off of
driving. Then there's using a built-in navigation system
(which many now prevent usage while in motion, even when there's a
passenger in the car), eating/drinking, putting on makeup, or even
picking stuff off the floor to hand to your children.
Texting is, however, one of the most dangerous culprits because it
combines Visual, Manual, and Cognitive distractions
simultaneously! It's said that it takes about 5 seconds to
read/send a text message, which means you're taking your eyes off the
road for 5 seconds. That equates to traveling the distance of
a football field when driving at 55 mph!
Who's At Risk?
Obviously anyone who engages in distractions is at risk; however, young
adults (under 20), and teen drivers are statistically at greater risk
distraction-related fatal crashes (according to a study done by the
National Center for Statistics and Analysis). I don't know
about you, but for me the thought of losing a child due to distracted
driving makes me cringe with pain.
Distracted Driving Prevention - What Can We Do?
Both State and Federal laws prohibiting certain distracting activities,
like texting, can help. In addition, laws that require
appropriate education during the graduated driver licensing process
also help. The question then becomes,
sufficient? While I think they are required, and enforcing
them is also critical, I don't think they will have sufficient impact,
particularly on the under 20 population.
This brings us to some
more modern approaches:
- Apps - Of course,
there's an app for
just about everything else, so why not an app that prevents certain
smartphone functions while driving?! Apps that detect that
you're driving, and hold message notifications, and don't allow you to
use messaging related applications can be helpful. Of course
that the driver pro actively agree to such restrictions, and the app
either needs to know you're the driver (as opposed to the passenger),
or require that you actively startup the function (or at least not
disable it from automatically starting up). This can
be prone to app and user errors (whether deliberate or
Hardware - These are devices
that attach to your car that automatically interact with your phone
to prevent undesirable activities while driving. This type of
device is certainly less prone to app issues or user errors.
Implementation requires integration with carriers. It
essentially identifies who's driving, and holds messages and alerts at
the network level, and disables the ability to send outbound
messages. The issue with this approach would arise if you
were to try to implement it for someone (ex. your children) who resists
it. They'll easily circumvent the device by simply removing
Groove for Distracted Driving Prevention
Groove is a new product that takes the hardware approach, and includes
integration with wireless carriers. It's a module that plugs
into a socket under the steering wheel, which is compatible with all
vehicles made after 1996. The website infers that it blocks
messaging while driving, however, doesn't say that it blocks phone
calls. Personally, I think access to send and receive calls
while driving is still important. Not only is it great for
work and family coordination, but also for emergencies, like if your
gets injured, or sick, and you need to divert your planned
route. Without the ability to communicate, any long commute
or traffic would severely stress me out.
The nice thing is that it doesn't require any software installation,
and works on all phone (Android & iPhones). The
FAQ is lacking, and thus it's not clear how it detects who's actually
in the driver's seat. If it's proximity related, that could
allow a passenger to still access messages. On long drives
it's not unusual for my wife to help me check and respond to work
emails, for example. I'm not yet sure how sophisticated
in this domain.
Note that Ready Mobile is the first wireless carrier to announce that
its services are compatible with Groove. I would expect
MVNOs like Kajeet would be next to sign up. They also run on
the Sprint network (like Ready Mobile), and their entire value
proposition is safety as it relates to cell phones and kids.
That said, I haven't seen any announcements in this vein; it's purely
my speculation. You can check out Groove's website at Katasi Groove Distracted Driving Prevention
Distracted Driving Prevention Conclusions
I'm a bit torn on this topic. While I think apps and
easy-to-use hardware solutions can be great tools for willing
participants, I feel that there are some challenges. For
example, there will need to be some level of intelligence or ability to
configure restrictions based on your personal circumstances.
For example, you may be a parent who receives real time messages for
your child's glucose levels. Even if you're driving, you may
still need these to come through so you can respond accordingly,
whether you divert your drive, make a phone call, or pull over to send
a message. This type of message can impact life and death
In addition, if a parent is implementing one of these solutions on a
resistant child or spouse, they're likely to fail, as these
technologies can be
easily circumvented. Overall, I feel that teaching
responsible driving behavior, AND practicing what we preach, will be
true life saver. It's similar to installing a breathalyser
that you must blow into before the car will stop, vs. teaching safe
driving behavior, and behaving responsibly by not drinking and
driving. The latter will always be the most
practical, and yield the greatest results. We simply can't
technology to avoid teaching common sense and responsibility.
That said, I believe smartphone abuse while driving is a far greater
issue than is drinking and driving. Using our phones is just
such a massive part of our day, and is so addicting, that perhaps the
combination of laws, and software/hardware to help enforce certain
behavior will be needed. Or, perhaps in the long run
self-driving cars will be the only true solution to this
problem. What do you think?