26 Mar Disconnect and Focus on the Road
Distracted driving fatalities are on the rise. It’s more important than ever to disconnect from your phone and infotainment system to stay safe and focused on the road.
Smart phones have given us the world in the palms of our hands. From Internet browsers and instant messaging to social media and streaming music and movies, it can be difficult to just put your phone down. Constant connectivity can also be fueled by work obligations when coworkers, managers, and supervisors are just a text away. With the rise in commuting — according to the United States Census, workers spend an average of 52 minutes traveling to and from work every day — the perceived need to be constantly connected could prove deadly.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,477 people were killed in crashes involving distracted driving in 2015 — the latest data currently available — with an additional 391,000 people injured. Statistics show that distracted driving fatalities have only increased in recent years, with 3,154 deaths in 2013 and 3,179 deaths in 2014. As our dependence on smart phones rise, the risk of serious injury or death on the road has likewise increased, making it more important than ever for drivers to disconnect when operating their vehicles.
Here are a few tips that can help keep your phone out of your hands while driving:
- Do Not Disturb While Driving Apps. One of the best methods to curb distraction, your phone will still be able to stream music or directions while you drive, but you will not receive any messages or be able to open your phone while the vehicle is in motion.
- Put your phone on airplane mode. This will temporarily disable your cell service, as well as any internet access via Wi-Fi and any broadband cellular network technology such as 4G. It will also help to conserve your phone’s battery, ensuring that you have enough of a charge for emergency situations.
- Store your phone in your glove compartment. Keeping your phone out of sight can help ensure that you can focus completely on driving without having your phone within reach.
- Silence your phone. This can help mitigate any distraction or temptations to pick it up that might occur because of incoming calls, texts, and notifications.
While cell phones are the most prevalent form of distraction in vehicles, some connected technologies built into modern vehicles can be a potential source of driver distraction.
The Built-In Risk of Infotainment Systems
An infotainment system is hardware and software installed into a vehicle that provides a host of entertainment options, as well as navigation and phone tools. Gone are the days of dedicated GPS devices, binders of your favorite CDs, and the temptation of looking at your phone. Having radio, navigation, and phone capability located on the dashboard may seem like a remedy to distracted driving, but as the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found in a recent study, infotainment systems are potentially as distracting and dangerous as cell phones.
Trials from the study showed that drivers using touch screens and voice-activated technologies to complete tasks such as programming navigation or texting were visually and mentally distracted for over 40 seconds on average. A vehicle moving for 40 seconds at just 25 mph can clear the length of about four football fields, making even infotainment systems a risky proposition for any driver.
The study tested 30 different infotainment systems, categorizing them into low-, moderate-, high-, and very-high-demand systems. An example of a low-demand task is listening to a radio or audiobook, while a very-high-demand task is equivalent to trying to balance a checkbook. No infotainment system managed to achieve low-demand levels, while 23 systems landed in the high- or very-high-demand category.
Evolving Safety Technology
While it may seem as though evolving technology only serves to further distract drivers, there are technological solutions available that aid in mitigating distraction and/or improve driver awareness. Here are a few examples of in-vehicle safety technology working to keep drivers safe:
- Forward-Collision Warnings provide an audio-visual warning for drivers approaching too closely to the vehicle ahead. Tactile alerts, such as steering wheel vibration, are also available in some systems.
- Automatic Emergency Braking systems detect potential crashes and will engage the brakes if the driver doesn’t stop in time.
- Lane-Departure Warnings give alerts to drivers if the car crosses a road marking or if turn signals aren’t being used.
- Lane-Keeping Assist provides minor corrections with automatic steering and braking if a driver begins to drift into another lane.
While there are numerous options to keep your driving distraction-free, nothing does the job better than simply putting your phone away and focusing on the road ahead.