In the ever-increasing traffic on our roads, distractions from mobile devices is becoming a major concern. According to the U.S. government, in 2014 alone 3,179 deaths and 431,000 injuries involved distracted drivers (http://www.distraction.gov/stats-research-laws/facts-and-statistics.html). However, the same technology and tech companies who provide the distractions are working to find solutions. Innovative products are already available to reduce the distractions that mobile technology creates for drivers.
Drivers are ready for change
In a recent driver survey authorized by the National Safety Council , 2,400 people were asked how they would respond to driving an automobile that came with pre-installed technology for blocking incoming or outgoing Wi-Fi signals. Perhaps surprisingly, 55 percent said they would agree to this; nearly twice the number of those who said they would reject it.
Changes in the Marketplace
Either way, the fact is that major wireless providers are already offering their own solutions, and generally for free. These providers include AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon. Each has its own mobile app which can silence your incoming calls and texts, while sending an automated response to let callers know that you’re driving and don’t want to be disturbed. They also use geolocation technology to prevent you from creating texts while your car is moving. However, they don’t necessarily block access to social media sites.
Seeing a growing demand for such products, a tech company called Katasi has come up with its own solution, called Groove. This device plugs into your car and lets your wireless provider know you’re driving. Your wireless service can then block all texting, emails, and social media posts, while also sending the same kind of auto-reply to inform message senders that you’re operating a moving vehicle. When the car comes to a stop, any messages become available.
Another innovative product comes from a Louisiana-based company called Cellcontrol (https://www.cellcontrol.com/). Called Drive ID, it fits under the rearview mirror and is powered by solar panels. It’s advantage is that it can tell who’s driving the vehicle. Only the driver’s phone is restricted, not the passengers, even if the person driving changes. The device can establish a “zone” around the driver’s seat. Another breakthrough is that it can actually record the driver’s performance, such as incidents of speeding or sudden stops, This could be helpful in improving vehicle safety for parents of teen drivers – or the bosses of commercial vehicle drivers.
These innovations could also affect rates for motor vehicle coverage. There are only four states that don’t ban text messaging while driving, and of those that do, only four don’t allow insurance companies to raise premiums based on texting violations (https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/insurance/texting-driving-ticket-car-insurance-rates/). For everyone else, there is always a possibility that points could be added to your license for distracted driving tickets. These typically stay in effect for one to three years. But anti-distraction technology will have to become more widespread, and proven effective, before it means premium discounts.
Perhaps when self-driving vehicles become the norm, driver distractions won’t be an issue. That is still generations away, however. In the meantime, distractions from not only mobile phones but built-in automotive electronics are creating problems, and potentially fatal ones, on roads all over the world. But anti-distraction devices can help to alleviate the problem right now.
Long before autonomous driving technology takes control of your car, the serious nature of the issue may lead to safety mandates. Anti-smartphone technologies could be provided as an option in new vehicles. The most likely drivers to benefit are teens, who also happen to be the highest risk among driver demographics, and get the highest rates. While such devices won’t solve the problem they may go a long way toward reducing the alarming statistics – and saving lives.
By: Vincent Stokes
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