Technology, Distracted Driving and Auto Accidents
There is a growing link between technology and distracted driving. Texting is a common example. We have all seen people texting and driving, and probably have engaged in this behavior ourselves. Texting is directly responsible for some very nasty motor vehicle accidents.
The National Safety Council says all cell phone use and texting while driving should be banned, and says the practices put drivers at four times a greater risk of a crash. Some drivers might want to take those risks, but unfortunately when it comes to driving, one person’s risk too often takes another person’s life.
Texting while driving is illegal in Colorado. The bill that put the law into effect in December was signed in Fort Collins, where a little girl was killed by a distracted driver. Last year, a Boston trolley operator injured 49 people after crashing into another trolley while texting. In the fall of 2008, 25 people were killed and 125 injured after a commuter train in California crashed. The engineer was sending and receiving text messages.
While cell phones and texting are obvious culprits, they are only part of the problem. GPS is another technology that can contribute to accidents, as the Epstein Law Firm in New Jersey notes in a recent press release:
As a result of today’s mobile technology, drivers have a number of distractions while driving. A New Jersey teen is blaming his GPS for a recent accident, claiming it instructed him to take an illegal turn that ultimately caused a four-car crash. The teen driver was heading westbound on a separated highway when his GPS directed him to turn left onto a crossing street. Turns are illegal at the intersection and the teen’s car struck another, ultimately causing four cars to collide.
Last week, I posted about a woman suing Google over an accident for instance. While she was a pedestrian using Google Maps on a dangerous road, rather than a driver, it nonetheless demonstrates our dependence on technology and our willingness to let it distract us on the road. With the entire Internet available in the palm of our hands through an iPhone, Droid or Blackberry, the temptation to take our eyes off the road huge.
Of course, people are also finding ways to use technology to document what happens during car accidents. These efforts range from installing cameras at traffic lights to installing airplane-like black boxes inside motor vehicles. The focus is on learning what happens during accidents, specifically what the driver is doing, to prevent or deter reckless driving.
The new SMARTER device from Keytroller, Inc. is a great example of the black-box approach. A press release from Keytroller on ThomasNet News describes the device:
The SMARTER provides immediate video proof of an accident occurrence, and documents the happenings prior and post the incident as well. The device is a forward and rearward looking video recorder, and continuously records digital video whenever the ignition is on, then overwrites the oldest video when the memory card is full. In addition, the device records individual video events triggered by impact, fast acceleration or fast deceleration (heavy breaking). Events are time/date stamped, and records between 1-3 minutes before, and 1-3 minutes after the event is triggered. For further accuracy, there is an IR (infrared) illuminator for capturing the inside of the driver’s cabin at night, and audio can be recorder as well.
With 28% of auto accidents caused by distracted driving, it is easy to see why legislation and product development are both being driven by distracted drivers.