Posts tagged with "distracted driving"

Study: Distraction not limited to hand-held devices

Over the last several years, people in Norfolk County have become extremely attached to their technological devices and this has led to problems when it comes to driving. While the state has made efforts to lower distraction for drivers by banning texting while driving, drivers can still use their hand-held cell phones.

Distraction a growing problem

For the year 2008, the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security for Massachusetts reported that there were over 136,000 traffic accidents that occurred. Out of that number, 363 people died and more than 3,700 suffered serious injuries. It is unknown how many of those collisions were due to driver distraction but it is likely be quite a few.

According to nhtsa.gov, 10 percent of all car accidents were attributed to distracted drivers, resulting in the deaths of 3,331 people and injuries for 387,000 others. There are three forms of distraction: visual, manual and cognitive. While many studies have shown the risks associated with visual or manual distraction, there has been little information about cognitive until now.

Study focuses on cognitive distraction

A new study has been released by the American Automobile Association’s Foundation for Traffic Safety that measures cognitive distraction. It is deemed the “most comprehensive study of its kind” by USA Today and was an expanded study of one performed in Texas. In this new study, researchers at the University of Utah used 150 participants to determine the effects that different distractions have on the brain.

In order to measure cognitive distraction, the researchers first had to create a scale with a base to start with. They achieved this by first measuring the brain waves of participants who were completely focused on the task of driving. Then the participants were asked to engage in a singular additional task. These tasks were:

  • Talking with a passenger.
  • Using a hand-held cell phone.
  • Listening to an audio book.
  • Listening to a radio.
  • Using a text-to-message technology.
  • Talking with a hands-free phone.

Participants were outfitted with sensors, cameras and other recording devices that captured not only their brain waves but their physical actions. The tests were performed in three environments: lab, driving simulator and an instrumented vehicle. The drivers were given time to adjust to the environments to make sure that they were not distracted by the environments themselves.

Results of the study

The results of the study revealed that the more complicated the task was, the higher the level of cognitive distraction. This was especially true for the voice-to-text technology, showing that hands-free devices were just as distracting to drivers as hand-held cell phones. The data showed that drivers were slower to react to potential situations, missed important cues and visually scanned their driving environment less frequently.

It is estimated that infotainment systems, like the voice-to-text technology will greatly increase over the next several years. The technology and auto manufacturing industries claim, however, that the study was flawed in its methods and that hands-free technology is safer.

When someone is injured in a car accident because of a distracted driver, they could suffer serious injury and in some cases, permanent disability. Speaking with an experienced attorney can help them get the financial help that they need.

Ban on Electronic Devices considered by Massachusetts Lawmakers

Ban on Electronic Devices while driving being considered

Across America, distracted driving has become an epidemic among operators of motor vehicles. Crossing boundaries of gender and age, distracted driving seems to have become a way of life for many. However, that way of life too often proves deadly. Massachusetts resident Jerry Cibley knows this all too well.

In 2007, Cibley’s son, Jordan, was talking on his cellphone while driving. He inadvertently dropped the phone mid-conversation, and while reaching to pick it up, he lost control of his vehicle. The crash was fatal. And on the other end of the phone, his dad. Since the accident, Cibley has been diligently pushing for the state to pass a hands-free restriction prohibiting drivers from using handheld devices.

State Efforts to Curb Distracted Driving

In 2010, Massachusetts joined the ranks of states that ban texting and other Internet-related activities while driving. Since then about 3,500 individuals have been cited for violating the anti-texting law. Of that number, about half of those cited had been involved in an injury-causing crash.

Critics of the Massachusetts’ law believe the low citation numbers reveal a critical problem with the law: it is unenforceable and ineffective. “If you want to get real about this,” said state Senator Steven Baddour in a WCVB TV report, “the debate needs to be about banning cellphones altogether.” Cibley agrees. In the same news report, Cibley stated, “our current laws are miserable failures because we’ve not been able to enforce them in an appropriate manner.”

Cibley and fellow critics now believe the current law must be taken to a new level: banning the use of handheld devices while driving. Lawmakers have heard the concerns, and now many legislators are supporting a handheld cellphone bill that would require drivers to use hands-free devices. Further, Governor Deval Patrick, who signed the 2010 text messaging law, may be open to signing the new ban should it make it that far.

Not everyone is onboard with the idea of a blanket ban of handheld devices. Some believe devices are not the problem; rather, inattentive drivers are the cause of distracted driving accidents. These individuals support the implementation of education over legislation or the enactment of a complete ban.

The proposed ban on handheld devices was approved by the State Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation at the end of January. It is expected to clear the House but may face challenges in the Senate.

Federal Agency Supports Total Ban

The Federal government has also been working to educate drivers about the risks of texting and other distracted driving behaviors through programs and through a website for distracted driving, Distraction.gov. Most recently, however, Federal agencies have begun supporting the total ban idea.

In December 2011, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) called for the first nationwide ban of using portable electronic devices while driving. According to Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman, it is about time. In an NTSB press release, Hersman said “it’s time for all of us to stand up for safety by turning off electronic devices when driving.”

A grieving Massachusetts father couldn’t agree with the NTSB more. “It is about saving lives,” said Cibley in the WCVB TV news report. “If we can save one life, then we’ve done good.”

Autonomous cars could soon reduce accidents in US

Earlier this week, we wrote a blog post on the devastating car accidents that are caused every day in Boston and the rest of the United States because of distracted driving.

The truth is that most serious and fatal car accidents are the result of driver errors, which is why experts predict that these accidents could be significantly reduced after self-driving automobiles become the norm.

While autonomous cars may seem like part of the distant future, experts predict that many of us will own one in our lifetimes. According to a new report by IHS Automotive, many auto manufacturers already have plans to put their first self-driving cars into production.

The report stated that by 2035, about half of the vehicles on the road will drive on their own. The report predicted that by 2050, almost all vehicles on the road will have the ability to operate autonomously.

Perhaps the best part of the new technology is that car accidents are expected to decline steadily as more and more self-driving vehicles hit the roads. Not only that, air pollution and traffic congestion are also expected to improve.

While many people may be eager to get their hands on a self-driving vehicle as soon as possible, experts caution that the first models will be expensive and will likely require a human “co-pilot” to be on stand-by in case of a technology error.

But IHS’s report predicted that by 2030, self-driving cars will be available that don’t require any human involvement. To imagine that distracted driving could be a non-issue in the near future is quite amazing.

Source: NBC News, “Self-driving cars popular by mid-century: study,” Paul A. Eisenstein, Jan. 6, 2014