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Summit Explores Distracted Driving and Technology

With distracted driving accidents claiming more than 3,300 lives in 2012, congressional leaders and transportation experts are seeking vehicle safety solutions for our interconnected, 24/7 world. In February, U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller IV hosted a distracted driving summit to explore ways to prevent auto crash fatalities caused by drivers distracted by technology.

The all-day conference was entitled Over-Connected and Behind the Wheel: A Summit on Technological Solutions to Distracted Driving, and a number of safety leaders presented their thoughts and ideas about how to encourage automakers and drivers alike to forgo mobile devices that cause distracted driving wrecks.

According to the National Safety Council, nearly 90% of all fatal car accidents involve inattentive drivers. NSC’s Director of Transportation Initiatives, David Teater, presented at the February summit and his remarks underscored the importance of balancing the good and the bad when it comes to mobile technology.

Teater’s message was clear: Automakers should do their part to limit the potential for distracted driving by reducing the number of electronic devices that draw drivers’ attention away from the road.

Teater applauded the auto industry for making the decision to keep onboard video screens out of the driver’s field of vision. “We urge the auto industry to limit the use of infotainment systems by drivers,” he said. “Extending this kind of limitation to drivers’ use of phones and Internet would be a significant life-saving move by the industry.”

The tension between traffic crash prevention advocates and mobile tech developers is growing as in-car entertainment becomes increasingly common. One trend involves technology that connects smartphones with devices installed in vehicles so that drivers can read email, browse the web, select music, and access videos and other content. At the same time, distracted driving fatalities are in the public eye, and research suggests they may be vastly under reported.

At the Worldwide Developer Conference last year, Apple unveiled a mobile operating system that will allow drivers to access their smartphones while on the road called iOS in the Car. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook said it will allow drivers to use their Apple devices seamlessly while driving.

Of course, mobile technology and smartphone apps can also help drivers stay safe. Smartphone apps designed to prevent inattention behind the wheel include:

  • Drive First
  • FleetSafer Mobile
  • DriveSafe.ly
  • Textecution
  • Cellcontrol
  • Kyrus Mobile

All of these apps focus on reducing or eliminating texting while driving and other activities with a cellphone that are potentially hazardous.

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