Can Technology Prevent Distracted Teen Driving?

Every human being is is not living under a rock is now aware of the dangers of distracted driving. IN 2011, 3,331 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver-many more than those killed by drunk drivers. In 2014 we are setting the course for close to the half million mark for injuries caused by distracted driving and an increase in wrongful deaths.

Despite the overwhelming data, most people surveyed admit it is difficult to avoid using a smartphone while driving and judging from our own road survey, it is difficult to find any driver in rush hour traffic whose face is not lit by the light of a smartphone.

So what technology hath wrought be solved by technology itself? A myriad of companies have developed products that prohibit or limit a driver’s ability to use a phone while driving, marketing their products to parent’s desperate to keep their teens safe on the road. But is the answer? Many feel that this is akin to keeping your child in a bubble at the expense of teaching them survival skills in the outside world. In other words, is technology ignoring the underlying problem?

Bryan Reimer, Ph.D.,research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AgeLab and the associate director of the New England University Transportation Center at MIT has found that people prone to texting while driving fall into a larger category: high risk drivers. He has found that if you take away their phones they will find a substitute, whether it be changing radio stations, rummaging in their bags or checking their appearance in the mirror.

To address these drivers lies with feedback-oriented tools that examine overall driving performance, which includes cell phone use but other behaviors as well. He finds that products such as the DriveCam, an in car camera and related technology that alert drivers when they engage in hazardous behavior can provide parents with weekly data, including a driving score and visual clip of any risky behavior.

Grazian and Volpe applauds any efforts to increase road safety and prevent motor vehicle injuries and fatalities. This is a rich subject with a number of viewpoints as to solution. We will be exploring these in posts to come. Please stay tuned!