While technology—primarily in the form of cell phone use (both texting and talking)—has been a primary factor in an increase in distracted driving auto accidents, in an ironic twist, technology may soon be implemented which curtails these electronic forms of distracted driving. Slowly but surely, the laws across the nation are changing to reflect a tougher stance on those who engage in what is known as DUI-E, or Driving Under the Influence of Electronics.
States like Washington now have laws which make it illegal—and a primary offense—to use any type of handheld electronic device while you are driving. The law even states that while you might be stopped at a red light or stop sign, you are not allowed to use your electronic device. You cannot even hold your electronic device in your hand under the new laws, and if an officer sees you doing so, you could find yourself paying $136 for a first-time offense, and almost twice that for a second or subsequent DUI-E citation.
Multi-Tasking Highly Overrated
In 2015, 3,477 people were killed across the nation in crashes which involved a distracted driver, with texting creating a risk 23 times worse than a driver who is not distracted. A phenomenon known as “inattention blindness,” occurs when drivers are talking on their cell phone or texting. This inattention blindness can cause a driver to miss seeing as much as half of their driving environment. Although we are a nation of multitaskers—and most of us who engage in regular multi-tasking believe we are quite good at it—in truth, the human brain switches rapidly between two or more tasks, rather than processing them at the same time.
Most drivers have heard the statistic which says a texting driver typically has his or her eyes away from the road for 4.6 to 5 seconds. This may not seem like a long time, but consider the fact that a vehicle traveling at 55 mph can travel the length of a football field in five seconds, and, if the driver is texting, he or she might as well be driving blindfolded. At any given moment, on the nation’s highways, more than half a million drivers are using or manipulating an electronic device while driving. This occurs despite the fact that most all adults believe texting and driving is dangerous—when others are doing it. The same teens who have been lectured by their parents about texting and driving often watch their parents engaging in the “Do as I say, not as I do,” game.
Teens Guilty of Using Electronic Devices While Driving
Teenagers are particularly apt to use electronic devices while driving—among those between the ages of 15 and 19 involved in fatal crashes, more than one-fifth were distracted by their cell phones. In the end, driving while using a cell phone reduces the level of brain activity devoted exclusively to driving by at least 37 percent. When you factor in the sheer number of drivers on the roadways, you can see just how dangerous using electronics while driving really is. While many states have addressed texting and talking on a cell phone while driving, the new law in the state of Washington addresses all uses of electronics while driving.
This means that drivers may not play games on their phone or other electronic device while driving, nor may they surf the web or post to social media. Drivers may use a cradle for their phone; if they can dial a number with one touch they can do so, and they can use their phone for a GPS device so long as it is in the cradle. Drivers can dial 911 whenever necessary with no adverse repercussions. For any other use of an electronic device, drivers need to pull off the road in a safe spot, where traffic is not a factor, or risk being ticketed.
So How IS Technology Making Your Time Behind the Wheel Safer?
There are several ways technology is, conversely, helping decrease the number of auto accidents caused by technology, such as:
- Apps installed on your phone or a device in your car which blocks incoming and outgoing texts and phone calls while the person is driving, also disabling other phone features while the car is in motion, such as accessing the camera or using email. Consider Drive Safe Mode, used by many parents of teens across the U.S., Live2Txt, SafeDrive (which rewards you for not texting while driving), and Drivemode.
- In the same vein, the Android Auto system utilizes a dashboard display to allow the driver to keep his or her eyes fixed on the road while making or answering phone calls, and even sending or receiving texts.
- Apple CarPlay has become very popular for those with iPhones, and is similar to the Android Auto system, focusing on allowing users to safely navigate a phone’s functionality, without increasing the risk to other drivers on the road. The Android system includes more voice command options, however in some cases, more is not always better.
- Many newer cars are coming off the lot with warning systems which use sensors and motion technology to warn drivers of approaching problems, and, so far, have experienced good reviews.
- In the U.K., mobile phones may soon be set to automatically stop working in moving cars, and the Department for Transport is even considering implementing technology which would effectively make mobile phones useless by disabling any function which requires connection to a telephone network or Internet access. This same technology may arrive in the U.S. sooner than we might think.
- Finally, self-driving cars may be appearing across the United States relatively soon. These cars have been being tested for years now, with considerable success. Who knows—one day you may be able to use your phone to your heart’s content while your car drives itself to your destination. For now, do not let a police officer in Washington State see you with an electronic device in your hand.