Traffic accident deaths and injuries have soared in recent years, and many road safety experts believe that a surge in distracted driving and other reckless behavior is to blame. Almost all states have laws in place that ban cellphone use behind the wheel, but many drivers ignore them. When West Virginia drivers are ticketed for using mobile electronic devices, it is usually because a police officer observed them making phone calls or sending text messages.
Two recent studies released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety suggest that technology could make cellphone bans easier to enforce. The first IIHS study compared the performance of roadside cameras and human observers. Cameras have been used successfully in many parts of the world to deter drivers from speeding and running red lights, and the IIHS believes that they could also be used to enforce cellphone laws. Human observers were able to spot distracting behavior like eating, drinking and using cellphones 78% of the time. Cameras identified distracting behavior 72% of the time.
Most safety experts think distracted driving is an underreported problem because drivers who are involved in car accidents rarely admit that they were using their cellphones when they crashed. The second IIHS study indicates that telematics data gathered by auto insurance companies and features developed by electronics manufacturers could make distraction easier to identify. Insurers use telematics devices to record driving behavior so they can pass on savings to motorists who obey traffic laws, and cellphone manufacturers include gyroscopes in their devices that reorient screens automatically. According to the IIHS, the data gathered by cellphones and telematics devices could help accident investigators to identify distracted drivers.
Making the roads safer
Automobile and electronics manufacturers have long claimed that technology will make the nation’s roads safer, but traffic accident injuries and deaths continue to climb. Two studies released recently by the IIHS suggest that roadside cameras and telematics data could improve road safety by making cellphone bans easier to enforce and identifying distracted driver who crash.