The New York Times continues its excellent reporting on distracted driving with an article today on the growing trend of car makers installing internet-connected computers in front of drivers: Despite Risks, Internet Creeps Onto Car Dashboards. The caption and photograph with the story tell you just how concerned automakers are with keeping drivers’ eyes on the road. The caption reads “Audi says it tested its system to reduce the amount of time that drivers spend looking at screens,” meanwhile the photograph shows an image of a dashboard-mounted touch screen displaying album cover art for Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA. As anyone with a newish I-pod knows, this is not the best strategy for reducing the amount of time spent looking at the screen. And a few extra seconds can make a big difference. In a 100-car, yearlong study by NHTSA and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI,) drivers took their eyes off the road within 3 seconds of 78 percent of all crashes and 65 percent of all near-crashes.
When the Audi system is turned on it provides this laughably unhelpful message: “Please only use the online services when traffic conditions allow you to do so safely.” The only traffic condition that would make it safe to look up a Wikipedia entry, which the internet-ready Audi system allows you to do, is when you’re parked — and they should say so.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has been doing its part to curb distracted driving. It recently launched www.Distraction.gov and a PSA on distracted driving.
Interested in learning more? Here is a list of distracted driving resources from an upcoming Advocacy Advance report by the League and the Alliance for Bicycling and Walking:
The National Safety Council has an exhaustive list of research on distracted driving. http://www.nsc.org/safety_road/Distracted_Driving/Pages/KeyResearch.aspx#cognitive.
Some of the key studies on risk include:
- Cooper & Strayer (2008) Effects of Simulator Practice and Real-World Experience on Cell-Phone–Related Driver Distraction, Human Factors, 50(6): pp. 893–902.
- Just, et al. (2008) A decrease in brain activation associated with driving when listening to someone speak, Brain Research 1205, 70-80.
- Klauer, et al. (2006) The Impact of Driver Inattention on Near-Crash/Crash Risk: An Analysis Using the 100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study Data, NHTSA Technical Report. DOT HS 810 594.
- Ishigami & Klein (2009) Is a hands-free phone safer than a handheld phone? Journal of Safety Research 40, 157–164.
- Madden & Lenhart (2009) Teens and Distracted Driving, Pew Internet & American Life Project.
- Redelmeier & Tibshirani (1997) Association between cellular telephone calls and motor vehicle collisions, New England Journal of Medicine, 336; 453-458.
- Strayer, Drews, Crouch (2009) Fatal Distraction? A Comparison of the Cell-Phone Driver and the Drunk Driver Department of Psychology, University of Utah. PROCEEDINGS of the Second International Driving Symposium on Human Factors in Driver Assessment, Training and Vehicle Design.
Brief Selection of Mass Media Sources
New York Times Driven to Distraction Series by Matt Richtel
Bills to Curb Distracted Driving Gain Momentum, January 01, 2010
Promoting the Car Phone, Despite Risks, Dec 07, 2009
At 60 M.P.H., Office Work Is High Risk, October 1, 2009
Texting While Driving Banned for Federal Staff, October 1, 2009
Truckers Insist on Keeping Computers in the Cab, September 28, 2009
Ford Backs Ban on Text Messaging by Drivers, by Nick Bunkley, September 10, 2009
Driver Texting Now an Issue in the Back Seat, September 9, 2009
Utah Gets Tough With Texting Drivers, August 29, 2009
Senators Seek a Ban on Texting and Driving, July 29, 2009
In Study, Texting Lifts Crash Risk by Large Margin, July 27, 2009
U.S. Withheld Data on Risks of Distracted Driving, July 21, 2009
Drivers and Legislators Dismiss Cellphone Risks, July 19, 2009
League Policy Director
Flusche joined the League in April 2009 and has a B.A. in history from Syracuse University and a Masters of Public Administration with a concentration in public policy analysis from New York University.