The U.S Department of Transportation (DOT), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), declared April: “Distracted Driving Awareness Month.”
According to NHTSA, in 2014, 3,179 people were killed and 431,000 more were injured in collisions involving distracted drivers across the United States. When we think of “distracted driving” smartphones and texting often come to mind first, but diversions come in many forms and technology can help mitigate many of them.
Unfortunately, no one’s developed an app for common sense yet, but when it comes to operating a vehicle, there appears to be a need for one. A survey from Erie Insurance Co. identified outrageous behavior including changing clothes, flossing teeth and even answering the call of nature while driving. Past data showed that simply being lost in thought, i.e. daydreaming, was the cause of 62 per cent of distracted driving car crashes.
Some of the more common dangerous activities (but often thought of as benign) include smoking, eating and applying makeup. Even speaking to a passenger is considered a moderate distraction.
All these reasons and more added up to the reason why The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons created the “Decide to Drive” campaign, launched as part of Distracted Driving Awareness month.
Part of the initiative includes a way to rate and report dangerous driving behaviors. The tales told are as much about what people have seen others do, including kids calling out their parents, as they are self-confessions.
Wade Newton, is a spokesperson for The Auto Alliance — an association of 12 vehicle manufacturers including BMW Group, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz USA, Mitsubishi Motors, Porsche, Toyota, Volkswagen Group of America and Volvo Car USA. He said one of the scariest things he’s witnessed were videos of younger drivers who were part of Virginia Tech’s naturalistic driving study.
In the study, researchers equipped vehicles with multiple cameras and sensors that displayed what the driver could see and what the driver was doing at any given time over a period of several months.
“They quickly forget they were on camera,” according to Wade, “and started acting in a more natural way. This provided a very accurate view of real-world driving behavior.”
During a recent conference he attended, some of the videos from the study were presented. “You see teenagers texting, having a near-miss accident, correcting themselves and going right back to their phones,” says Wade. “There’s such a disregard for safety it's shocking.”
The navigation answer
Videos also showed drivers on phones asking for directions, when they’d be much safer using a navigation system with audible cues.
“One of the most distracting scenarios is a driver, not paying attention to the immediate surroundings, looking ahead and trying to figure out where he’s going,” says Wade. “Plus, some people still use a paper map, holding it up in front of them, blocking the view and utilizing a hand that should be on the steering wheel.
With digital navigation, all the steps in your journey are communicated out loud in enough time to safely traverse. And, if you happen to miss a turn, you can do so with confidence knowing the system will re-route you.”
The Auto Alliance has been dedicated to mitigating distracted driving through technology since its inception and developed “Driver Focused Guidelines.”
According to the organization, “These are highly developed design and performance guidelines for in-vehicle systems, and the industry is committed to updating them as we continue learning more about driver behavior. The guidelines cover the design, use and installation of telematics systems through 24 principles focused on helping drivers keep their ‘eyes-on-the-road.’”
The reality is, mobile phones are a priority for many drivers. And while hands free is the law in most states, people do not always obey. If a phone is not connected, a driver has to remove eyes from the road to see who is calling; reach to pick up the phone; possibly unlock the phone and hit answer; put the phone to ear; mute the radio; and either drive one handed or title the neck and hold with the shoulder.
“If the phone is integrated with the car, this can all be done at the push of a button,” Wade says, “and this is what car manufacturers are striving for. They are designing vehicles with specific tactile controls and displays to communicate quickly to the driver without distraction.”
Of course, HERE has been developing advanced features and driver experience in a similar vein. As HERE is behind 80 per cent of Europe and North America’s in-dash navigation systems, solutions are taken through many test stages — including standard tests for distraction.
We explored the testing process in a previous interview with HERE Senior User Researcher Annegret Lasch. She explained: “The toughest of these [standards] are the North American NHTSA guidelines, so we work to pass those. This proposes a scenario where you’re driving at 80 km/h, following another car, while using the system to perform tasks.”
To pass, there are three criteria which must each be met. The average glance time at the system needs to be below two seconds. The percentage of glances that last over two seconds needs to be less than 15 per cent of the total. And that total glance time needs to be below 12 seconds.