The National Highway Safety Association reports that distracted driving causes an estimated 1.6 million crashes a year, claiming 3,477 lives and injuring 391,000 people in motor vehicle crashes in 2015. This is an 8 percent increase in fatalities from 2014.
So, what is being done to combat this epidemic? Educating drivers about the dangers of distracted driving is important, but it clearly isn’t enough. What can we do? One place to start is technology, because technology can play a powerful role in helping to remind drivers to refrain from using their cell phones while they’re on the road. Here’s a look at three inventions designed to put an end to distracted driving.
1. The SMARTwheel
The SMARTwheel is a high-tech steering wheel cover that was designed by six New Hampshire teens with the goal of ending distracted driving.
The idea came about when 14-year-old T.J. Evarts noticed that his friends who had recently gotten their licenses were often using their phones while driving. Knowing how hazardous texting and driving is, Evarts set out to find a way to deter his friends…and the SMARTwheel was born.
The cover easily slips onto the steering wheel and tracks when a driver has both hands on the wheel. Removing one or both hands from the wheel triggers a buzzer and flashing lights. The device even records trip data and grades driving habits using a mobile app connected to smartphones through Bluetooth so parents can track their teen’s driving habits.
DisconnectNow, formerly ParentBlocked, is a smartphone app that allows parents to disable and control their children’s cell phones at certain times of the day through remote access.
It allows parents to approve downloads and pick and choose which features they want to manage – for example, parents can disable texting and social media sites when teens should be focused on other activities, like driving. Parents can schedule when they want their teen's cell phone to be active or disabled and set up their phone to lock and stop use if they are moving faster than 5 mph but still allow emergency calls.
DriveSafe.ly is a mobile app that eliminates reading and typing on smartphones by using iSpeech software. The app reads text messages and emails aloud and drivers are able to respond to messages through speech.
Tech entrepreneur and iSpeech founder Heath Ahrens is the creator of the hands-free app, which is compatible with Bluetooth and radio transmitters. It also comes with a customizable auto-response. These features keep drivers connected while reducing distractions and promoting safe driving.
Distracted driving takes lives and these apps can help make a difference. We encourage all parents to visit the Mercury Insurance Drive Safe Challenge website where they can find resources and tools to reinforce the message and encourage safe driving habits and behaviors. There is even a Drive Safe Agreement for parents and teen drivers to sign. And if you really want to test your knowledge take the teen driver quiz!