Thursday, August 23, 2012

Can Technology Come to the Rescue of the Distracted Driver?

In my previous post, I discussed how technology can be a bane to a driver. In this post, I discuss how technology can help the distracted driver.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, cell phones are responsible for 18% of fatalities in distraction-related crashes. Hence, it is important to reduce distractions caused by cell phones. This article in Ergonomics in Design by Dr. Linda Angell, a Research Scientist at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, discusses various software applications that can be used to reduce driver distractions associated with cell phone use. These applications vary with respect to what they do. is a software application that reads out texts and emails to drivers, without drivers having to touch their cell phones. Dial2do is a similar software application that allows drivers to listen to and send texts and emails, tweets etc. The perceived advantage of these apps is that these are hands-free. This reminded me of Henry Thoreau’s quote “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see”. These applications certainly facilitate “looking” but may fail to promote “seeing” because drivers are still using their cognitive resources to think about the world outside of the driving environment via the texts and emails. Therefore, though these apps may not necessarily help with cognitive distractions (because drivers are still listening to and comprehending texts and emails while driving), it is one step in the right direction – which is, helping drivers keep their hands in the steering wheel and their eyes on the road.

Zoomsafer is an application that can be downloaded onto your phone and provides auto-replies to incoming texts and calls stating that the driver is driving and is unable to receive calls and texts. TrinityNoble’s Guardian Angel MP is another application that locks the cell phone when the car is traveling above a certain speed limit, thereby disallowing any cell phone usage.

These applications can be used by a conscientious driver to parents wanting to enforce ‘no-texting while driving’ on their children to companies wanting to avoid lawsuits that arise due to motor accidents involving use of cell phones.

Photo credit: Edbrown05 via Wikimedia Commons 

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