Texting while driving contributes to 1.6 million accidents a year, according to the National Safety Council, or nearly 25 percent of all vehicle accidents. In 2014 alone, 3, 179 people were killed, and 431, 000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers, according to Distraction.gov, the official U.S. government website on distracted driving.
For a decade or so, lawmakers have tried to draft various countermeasures to dissuade drivers from texting but automobile fatalities linked to distracted driving have only increased. Forty-six states and the District of Columbia ban texting for all drivers while 14 states ban handheld device use. Law enforcement officers look for drivers actively using devices or the telltale texting patterns — lane deviation or dropping back to create excessive following space — but the new laws are sometimes difficult to enforce.
Modern automotive engineering may be able to help. Just as interlocks and buzzing alarms nagged us into making seatbelts a habit, engineers are working on a host of texting solutions, including eye tracking technology and proximity sensors that analyze a driver’s performance and safety. When the driver looks away from the road for just a few seconds, or strays out of the appropriate lane, the system issues an alert.
According to Engineering.com, the system could also appeal to a driver’s competitive nature, by weighing driving errors and inefficiencies against other drivers on the road in a sort of positive road warrior competition.
A final solution, already winning some support, calls for automotive software that recognizes when a driver is texting or otherwise distracted by technology and shuts down the technology until the vehicle is no longer in motion. Just be sure it’s armor-clad and buried deep in the machinery.
Text by Dave Helms