Distracted driving is a major problem that is blamed for thousands of car accidents each year in our country.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1,060 people are injured and nine are killed each day in distracted driving accidents. These crashes are happening on city streets, freeways and country roads.
Is there a solution?
While states like Virginia are passing a patchwork of distracted driving laws in an effort to prevent these accidents, many drivers still e-mail, text and talk while driving.
This has led many to wonder if we should turn to technology to save us. Many app developers think this is the right approach.
Virginia’s Approach to Distracted Driving
In Virginia, texting is banned for all drivers. As Distraction.gov describes, the law in our state is a “primary” one. This means that an officer who witnesses you texting can pull you over without having to witness another driving infraction.
Still, talking on hand-held phones is only banned for school bus drivers and novice drivers, or teens, in Virginia. For the rest of us, talking on the phone is allowed – and it is prevalent.
Apps Aimed at Reducing Distractions
There are numerous phone applications, or apps, that have been designed for the sole purpose of eliminating or reducing driver distractions. Some are designed for parents to monitor their teen drivers. Others have been created for all drivers regardless of their age and experience.
Consumer Reports reviewed three such apps – each one from a major cell phone company. The magazine found shortcomings among all three: AT&T DriveMode, Sprint Drive First and Verizon Safely Go. However, it also found redeeming qualities.
Both the AT&T and Sprint apps automatically started when the vehicle reached 10 mph. The Verizon app, however, had to be turned on manually every time the driver entered the car. It was active only when the vehicle reached speeds faster than 25 mph.
In all three apps, there were also “work-arounds,” where drivers could place messaging as one of their allowable apps and text while driving even when the app was blocking other phone functions.
Apps for Parents Protecting Teen Drivers
A whole series of other applications are designed specifically for parents who want to protect their teens from the lure of using a phone behind the wheel. Many of these work on a subscription base. Some are free.
TxtBlocker, for instance, allows parents to set up limitations for their teens, deciding when and where texts can be sent or received. Parents can also track the phone’s location with this app, which costs about $7 per month.
USA Today reports that TeenSafer is another distracted driving app. It detects when a vehicle is in motion and automatically puts the phone or tablet in “safe mode.” In safe mode, all notifications, alerts, incoming calls, texts and e-mails are silenced. Drivers are also blocked from using the screen.
New Technology in the Distracted Driving Fight
A new start-up out of San Francisco, Navdy, is hoping its device will catch on. Unlike apps that block texting, this tool actually makes it easier to use your phone behind the wheel.
The Navdy displays all of your text messages and navigational turns right in front of your face, mounted on your dashboard and displayed in front of your windshield. ReadWrite reports the devices are expected to hit the market in 2015 and sell for $499.
Unlike other distracted driving approaches, the Navdy expects drivers will continue to use their phones behind the wheel. It does not seek to make the distractions more difficult but easier.
Time will only tell if this new technology is an approach that can contribute effectively to the fight against distracted driving.