Distracted driving has become a significant problem in the U.S., leading to an increase in auto accidents last year.
Traffic fatalities were up by 14% in the first six months of 2015, according to the National Safety Council, while Erie Insurance found in a survey that one-third of drivers admit to texting while driving.
Since so many accidents happen as a result of distracted drivers, several large auto manufacturers are testing new technology that will determine whether or not you are too preoccupied to drive. But, how soon is this technology coming down the pike? And how will it affect drivers?
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How likely is an activity to cause an accident?
According to the Wall Street Journal and a Virginia Tech study, there at least four activities people often do while driving that can significantly impair reaction times and lead to life-threatening accidents that are even more risky than texting.
While texting and driving makes a driver six times more likely to be involved in a crash, extended glancing, reaching for an object, and reading or writing while driving is more likely to cause an accident.
But the biggest offender was dialing while driving — making a driver over 12 times more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle accident — twice that of texting.
Even though texting and driving is illegal in most states except Montana and Arizona, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, it seems that these other offenders can be significantly more dangerous.
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New auto tech addressing distracted driver problem
Though self-driving cars may be a little further down the road, auto manufacturers such as Toyota, General Motors and Volkswagen are currently testing technology that can tell if a driver is fully focused while driving — and the launch of these systems could happen as early as 2017.
Delphi Automotive is developing tech that tracks drivers’ gaze and head movement using cameras and software, and alerts drivers with noise and seatbelt vibration if it detects a driver has directed their attention away from the road. This technology will be available in two vehicles as early as next year.
Additionally, a company called Eyeris is testing similar technologies.
While self-driving cars aren’t quite available yet, in the meantime, technologies like this could help us with the distraction problem which could significantly reduce the number of traffic fatalities caused by distracted drivers.