According to a recent study funded by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Study, drivers using in-vehicle technologies such as touch screens and voice commands take their eyes and mental focus off the road and hands off the wheel for potentially dangerous periods of time. The technology, referred to as infotainment technology, allows drivers to use touch screens or voice commands to provide directions, play music, and place phone calls, among other options. Many of the latest systems also now allow drivers to perform tasks unrelated to driving like surfing the web, checking social media, or sending a text message.
One mother shares her tragic story about a fatal car crash that took away her two teenage daughters. The two sisters, 19-year-old Brianna and 17-year-old Jade, were traveling home from Spring break with their friends. Tragically, the driver of the car they were in lost control while checking for directions on her phone. An 18-wheeler struck the car from behind and killed backseat passengers, Brianna and their friend Brittanie Johnson, upon impact. Jade, in the front passenger seat, died several hours later, and the driver of the vehicle was critically injured but ultimately survived. The mother, Stacey Riddle, joined a campaign with the aim of spreading the "talk, text, crash" message, a problem she fears will continue if not talked about. Ms. Riddle pleads with drivers to be more careful on the roads.
It seems that the ultimate success of the autonomous car revolution may actually depend on an infrastructure overhaul with repainted lane stripes and embedded roadway sensors capable of transmitting warning signals to vehicles.
For years, we have all heard about the dangers of operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In the last few years, concerns with texting and driving have become newsworthy with many municipalities making it illegal. New studies now show that sleep deprived drivers are just as dangerous as drivers who have had three to four alcoholic drinks.
In order to keep traffic fatalities and driving accidents to a minimum, drivers must be attentive of their surroundings at all times while operating a vehicle. Although concentration on the road is key, the use of handheld devices has become problematic for drivers in the modern era due to the shift of focus on the road to texts, emails, and phone calls that can easily distract drivers. The second drivers become focused on their phones while driving, they are distracted and the safety of motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians becomes jeopardized.
Two recent incidents in Houston have shined a spotlight on an increasing danger faced by pedestrians and bicyclists everywhere: distracted drivers. On Monday, a teenage girl in north Houston was left in serious condition when she was hit by a vehicle while crossing the street in front of a middle school. Then, on Tuesday morning, a man was killed when he was hit by a car after getting off a Metro bus and then trying to cross the street. As reported by KHOU, both incidents are still under investigation and decisions are still being made on whether any charges will be pressed against the drivers involved.
In an about-face after seven years of decline, traffic fatalities rose 5% in 2012 according to an analysis of preliminary state data by the National Safety Council. This is the first increase since 2004 to 2005, and many speculate there is a correlation between the improved national economy, a mild winter, and increased traffic on our roads. There are others who speculate that drivers were driving differently, and the economy put an increased number of bigger vehicles on the road - which are more often involved in serious injury and fatality wrecks.