Can more advanced technology reduce distracted driving?

Distracted driving has become an increasingly growing issue both across Illinois and the country. A study released earlier this year found that nearly eight in ten people admitted to talking on the phone while driving. Many also stated that they have engaged in some other sort of distracting activity, such as typing an email or text, using social media and even shopping online.

Across the state, Illinois state troopers are tough on distracted drivers, issuing 14,268 traffic tickets in 2018 compared to just 1,729 in 2017. However, while tickets may be one way to counter the threat of distracted driving, better technology may be another way to reduce distractions for drivers.

Common distractions for drivers

Drivers can encounter many different distractions, even outside of their cell phones. Such distractions that could affect the ability to safely drive include:

  • Talking, texting, emailing or otherwise using a cell phone
  • Fiddling with the radio
  • Using the navigation system
  • Eating or drinking
  • Talking with passengers
  • Daydreaming

While technology in cars may be unable to assist certain distractions, it can improve upon other items. Technology has attempted to eliminate steps to allow drivers to use some of the basic functions of their phones without having to press many buttons or even pick up their phones at all.

How can technology minimize distractions?

A recent New York Times article detailed a 2015 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety that analyzed voice-activated “infotainment” systems in vehicles. The participants of the study had to complete six tasks, including calling a contact of theirs, choosing music to play and more. Even though these tasks were initiated by voice activation, the study found that they still caused moderate to high levels of distraction.

Fortunately, technology continues to improve upon methods to reduce distractions. A study conducted in 2018 by the AAA team analyzed both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in five different vehicles. These systems differ from built-in infotainment systems as they connect the driver’s phone directly to the infotainment system. Research found that these systems demanded less overall driver attention.

As more drivers turn to technology like the various infotainment systems, many hope that the number of distracted drivers will diminish, as will the accidents caused by distracted driving. While such habits have so far proven difficult to break, technological advancements could make it easier to focus and reduce the temptation of picking up the phone.

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