According to distraction.gov, the act of distracted driving includes texting, using a cell phone, eating or drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, reading; including maps, using a navigation system, watching a video, adjusting the radio, CD player, or MP3 player.
Since the wide use of smartphones, distracted driving has been at the forefront of many parents’ minds, highlighted in public information in media campaigns, and on the police’s radar as a growing problem. The attention it is receiving is because distracted driving caused an estimated 421,000 motor vehicle accidents in 2012. In the United States, 9 people are killed and over 1,060 are injured in car accidents reported to involve distracted driving each year. Taking your eyes off the road for a mere five seconds to change the radio station, or check your phone, may not seem life-threatening when it is done but if you are traveling 55 miles per hour, you travel the distance equal to a football field during that period of time. That’s a vehicle of thousands of pounds traveling 100 yards with the driver completely blinded from what is happening on the road in front of the vehicle.
Many states across the country have begun proposing and passing laws that aim to deter people from participating in activities that could distract them and cause life-threatening accidents. Cell phone usage is the distraction that is especially prevalent and it is the primary distraction that law enforcement is prioritizing and attempting to eliminate. Colorado is one of the states that passed a law outlawing texting while operating a vehicle. Almost every state in the United States has a law in effect that bans the usage of cell phones in one form or another.
General Motors is taking precautions a step further by implementing a security system in all new cars that will detect what direction your head and eyes are looking. The security system will also warn the driver if they start to nod off or stare too long at their phone or radio. The technology was developed by an Australian company and manufactured by a Japanese company called Takata.
General Motors predicts that they will install 500,000 of those tracking devices in new vehicles over the next three to five years. Additionally, the technology is expected to evolve so that it will eventually allow drivers to activate particular phone applications simply by looking at a certain point in their car or on its steering wheel. These devices, which are being referred to as “Seeing Machines”, will measure the rotation of the driver’s head, eye blinks, and other metrics that will ensure drivers pay attention to the road and nothing else while driving.
Should these devices be activated in General Motors vehicles, hundreds of lives could potentially be saved as a result of the reduction in distracted driving incidents.