Distracted driving puts not only drivers on the road at risk but also passengers, cyclists and pedestrians. On average, more than 2,500 distracted-driving fatalities are reported every year.
Holding a phone and texting are two of the most common causes, but eating, changing the radio, or anything else that causes a driver to lose focus can also be considered a distraction.
Fortunately, automakers and technology companies are coming out with new technology aimed at reducing injuries and deaths related to distracted driving.
Below, we’ve highlighted some amazing apps and technology features that are helping keep people safe behind the wheel.
Cell Phone Blocking Technology
Putting a cell phone out of reach isn’t enough of a deterrent for many drivers. When a phone rings or buzzes, lots of drivers feel pressured to look at their phone and many even respond. Several app companies are taking away this dangerous pressure with cell phone blocking technologies that prevent calls or texts from coming through while the vehicle is underway.
AT&T DriveMode, for example, is free and activated when your car reaches 15 mph. It blocks text alerts, which can tempt you to check your phone, and it can send automatic text replies. Parents can even program the app to notify them when it has been turned off.
Similarly, Apple’s Do Not Disturb (DNB) While Driving mode blocks incoming calls and text messages when the user’s iPhone senses the vehicle is moving or connected to a car via Bluetooth.
These incredible technologies may have once seemed like science fiction, but today, their leading the fight against the dangers of distracted driving.
Hands-Free Connectivity and Voice Controls
Nearly every automaker now offers some kind of Bluetooth connectivity package that allows you to talk and manage phones and media devices hands-free. Additionally, voice-activated controls and features allow you to easily use voice commands to control a variety of vehicle systems and features such as your mobile device, radio, navigation system, and even climate control.
As any driving instructor will tell you, our hands tend to follow our eyes, and if you’re looking at the scenery or down at your phone, it can be easy to wander out of your lane without noticing. If you're not paying attention and stray over a road marker without signaling, lane-departure alert systems notify you with a warning tone or physical alert such as a vibration in the steering wheel or seat. More advanced "lane-keeping assist" systems selectively apply brakes or nudge the steering to guide your wandering vehicle back into your lane.
Crash Avoidance Systems
Accident mitigation technologies monitor the area in front of the vehicle to notify drivers of danger ahead (e.g., stopped vehicles, pedestrians, etc.) and will automatically brake to help you avoid crashes. Crash avoidance systems will intervene when you're most likely to be distracted, such as when driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic or when trying to find a spot in a busy parking lot.
Remember, driving distractions are all around us, not just on our cell phones. And while technology can surely help everyone improve their focus behind the wheel, these safety features are no substitute for your undivided attention—always stay alert behind the wheel.