Driver safety has always been an important issue, more so now than ever before. With safety features that range from anti-lock brakes to crumple zone and even impact sensors, it should be no surprise that last year saw a record low in traffic related fatalities. Still, technology has also reared its ugly head to create all sorts of hazards on the roads it is also serving to protect. Drivers are getting increasingly distracted by cell phones while driving. Turn on the TV or check the internet and you probably see a story somewhere about a texting-while-driving accident.
The federal government is considering a ban on phone use while driving and most states have already implemented hands free laws as well. Despite this, the problem continues to grow. The main issue is with the drivers’ mind and not with their hands. Talking on the phone while driving distracts the drivers focus from the road to the phone. It will only get worse, as one study recently showed that while teens know of the dangers of driving and texting, they are still doing it regardless. The temptation to use a phone while driving will only increase as car manufactures start to integrate smart phone technology into their car designs. The Department of Transportation is trying to limit this trend while the public continues to embrace it. Car makers are getting caught in the cross fire.
One the biggest areas that can be improved is that of smartphone integration. Most new cars being sold will have a phone deck or mount that phones can be attached to. A driver would not have to use their hands and could just glance at the phone as needed, whether it is for mapping, an incoming call or anything else. This still doesn’t keep distractions away, but it might limit it, like having a GPS on your dashboard. Dashboards are now having touch screens and computers installed into them as well with the capability to download information into them.
Voice control is emerging as the best option to help control driver distraction. Apple has already had tremendous success with Suri, their voice activated recognition software. Car makers are hoping to successfully integrate similar software into their automobiles. You could keep your hands on the wheel, talk to the car or phone, and hopefully stay focused and alive.
Another interesting option that is being experimented with is installing heads-up-displays (HUD’s) into the windshield of cars. Much like a fighter jet, it would project date onto the windshield for the driver to see. In fact, now they have developed glass with micro imaging capabilities built into it. While this has potential it is still far off from wide spread use. It would also make cracking a windshield an incredibly expensive thing to replace. Once again though, would this distract drivers more than it would help them?
Sadly, the technology is progressing faster than it can produce answers to the questions it creates. None of these answers address the issue of driver distraction, they just hope to curb it. The only real way to do so is to turn the phone and drive without it, but we all know Americans aren’t about to do that.