Can Cell Phones PREVENT Distracted Driving?

Can Cell Phones PREVENT Distracted Driving?

You probably had to read the title twice, right? While cell phones are often the primary cause of distracted driving, the increased attention and concern with regard to this problem is leading to some creative ways to address the role of mobile phones and distracted drivers. Technology companies, truck fleets, and Indiana police officers all have innovative ways to prevent distraction and help identify distracted drivers.

Distraction affects a driver’s visual, manual, and cognitive abilities—often all three simultaneously. But help is here.

The Right App

Technology and automotive companies have been putting their minds together to help prevent distracted driving by creating apps for your smartphone. The proper smartphone app can actually thwart your efforts to engage in distracted driving by blocking your ability to do so.

One such company is DistractFree, started by a group of Georgia Tech grads. The DistractFree app is paired with a token you place inside your car. Together, they prevent the driver from using the phone while the car is moving. The targeted zone that disables the phone affects only the driver; passengers can use the phone if necessary.

What Do I Need to Know about Anti-Distraction Products?

Apps aren’t the only way to create a distraction-free zone while you’re in the driver’s seat. Some wireless phone plans allow you to add a service, or you can install a device that creates a virtual barrier (called a geofence) around the driver. All products have online dashboards enabling you to set up your account and configure the settings. One setting you might want to check is how long your phone remains disabled when the car isn’t moving, such as at a red light.

The safest system is one that blocks everything: texting, email, social media, incoming and outgoing phone calls, and all internet access. Worried about an emergency? All blocking apps and devices have overrides to allow you to use 911. You can also set up a whitelist on most devices, which allows calls from certain numbers to ring through. It’s not the safest thing to do, but if you feel you absolutely must stay in touch with someone (your babysitter, or your teen driver), be sure the device you want to use allows this feature.

Truck Fleets: Leading Edge of Driver Tech

Truck fleets are using data from smart phones and analyzing distracted and fatigued driving behaviors to inform trucking companies and fleet managers about the driver’s risk level. Such devices, created by companies like Omnitracs, automatically monitor the driver’s hours-of-service data, searching for anomalies. The senior director of analytics and modeling at Omnitracs, Lauren Domnick, provided some possible risk indicators: “Let’s say that typically, I start my day at 8 a.m., and today I’m starting at 4 a.m. Other things include not having enough rest at night. It can be anything from sleep opportunity to driving during high-traffic times or during hours such as the mid-afternoon, when a lot of people have that mid-afternoon ‘dip’ after lunch.”

When fleet managers detect risk factors for fatigue or distraction, they can reach out to a driver and speak with them about it, recommend a break, or even a nap.

Indiana Police Get Creative

It’s not completely about cutting-edge tech. Sometimes, you just have to be resourceful. Police officers in Seymour are riding on school buses to see drivers from above in order to observe whether they are texting or emailing. The officers have resorted to this because Indiana’s distracted driving law, written in 2011, mentions only texting and emailing as illegal behaviors behind the wheel. When the officer on the bus sees someone breaking the law, they alert the cruiser following the bus in order to pull over the driver.

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