Tag: distracted driving

Fixing Distracted Driving with System Safety Designs

In 1983 only 13 percent of the public regularly used seat belts. Advertising and education campaigns were undertaken and 26 years later, that number increased to approximately 85 percent. That’s more than 25 years to make a usage change of 72 percent. In the meantime, people were injured and died.

If we continue the same path and rely upon changing human behavior through campaigns for distracted driving, we can expect the same results, a long wait for a significant change. In the meantime, more than nine people a day will continue to die due to distracted driving, a number that increased from eight just two years ago. Or, society can demand, politicians can legislate, and automakers can undertake using system safety design.

Technology has existed since the early 2000s that will block cell phone signals from the driver’s seat area of vehicles. If installed in vehicles, it could greatly reduce the risks from distracted technology usage in vehicles.

Some might argue that hands free technology is enough if drivers utilize it, but it’s not. It still leads to inattention blindness, drivers missing important items such as stop signs and pedestrians. The human brain cannot process all the information coming into it when attempting to multitask. It has four attention capabilities:

  1. Sustained attention: ability to concentrate on an activity for a prolonged period without being distracted (e.g., reading a book)
  2. Selective attention: ability to select from various factors or stimuli and focus on only one (e.g., talking to one person at a noisy party)
  3. Alternating attention: ability to shift between tasks and cognitive areas of the brain (e.g., reading a recipe and then following the instructions)
  4. Divided attention: attempting to process two or more demands at the same time require the use of the same cognitive areas of the brain (e.g., on the phone and driving)

Divided attention is what happens when humans attempt to multi task. It creates inattention blindness leading to injury and death for many. Yet, according to AAA:

  • 2 in 3 drivers talk on their cell phones while driving
  • 1 in 3 drivers admit to typing and sending a text while driving
  • 2 in 5 drivers admit to reading a text or email while driving

Sixty-seven percent of those surveyed by the National Safety Council felt at risk because of other drivers’ distractions due to technology. But, back to human behavior, only 25 percent of those same people said their own technology use put others at risk.

Just because we’ve done something one way before doesn’t mean we always have to do it that way. This time it’s time to change our reliance on changing human behavior. Instead, let’s rely on system safety design.

Listen in as Kevin King talks more about distracted driving and system safety design.

Want to hear more talks from Peter and Kevin King? Tune into WCIS 1010 AM Columbus, IN the first and third Friday of every month for People’s Law Talk.

Learn more about distracted technology from us and other great sources.

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Distracted Driving by the Numbers

Distracted driving due to technology is a real threat. As drivers we recognize the hazards yet we continue to ignore what we know.

This is distracted driving by the numbers:

  • 3,000 people die each year as a result of distractive technology.
  • 2 in 3 drivers reported talking on their cell phone while driving in the past month.
  • 1 in 3 (31.5 percent) drivers admit to typing or sending a text message or email while driving.
  • 2 in 5 (42.3 percent) drivers report reading a text message or email while driving.
  • People are more accepting of hands-free cell phone use than hand-held (63.1 percent vs. 30.8 percent).
  • Research indicates drivers using handheld and hands-free phones only see about 50 percent of all the information in their driving environment.
  • Less than half (42.4 percent) of drivers support an outright ban on using any type of cell phone (including hands-free) while driving.
  • 58 percent of drivers believe it is acceptable to use cellphones while driving
  • 60 percent of college students admit they maybe addicted to their cellphones.

The numbers clearly show distractive technology is a hazard. As drivers we know it but we don’t change our behavior. Why? As human beings we are so closely connected to cellphones that it becomes very difficult, if not impossible, not to “sneak a peek” at while driving. That is why distractions from technology while driving a vehicle must be achieved through design.  It is possible. The following are some interesting ideas for consideration:

In 2005, Patent Application US 2005/0119002 A1 discussed a system for controlling wireless communication from a moving vehicle. The patent claimed an innovation regarding a system for preventing mobile phone conversations in vehicles traveling above a pre-defined speed without cutting off communication. The patent addresses previous art recognizing patent applications from the year 2001. In 2007, the above patent application was granted, US Patent No. 7,187, 953 B2.

In 2012, US Patent No. 8,131,205 B2 (filed April 30, 2009) discussed a mobile phone detection and interruption system method for vehicles. The patent discussed a system capable of being mounted in a vehicle and blocking communications between a mobile phone and cellular network responsive to the velocity of the vehicle and/or detection of a mobile phone communication in the vehicle.

In 2013, US Patent No. 8,384,555 B2 (filed January 11, 2010) discussed method and system for automated detection of mobile phone usage. In the patent, it discusses previous art related to the system.

In 2012, an article in a technical journal discussed a system to detect and block only driver’s usage of cellphone signals, but allowing passengers in a vehicle to continue to use their cellphones. The system involved a noninvasive, small size, mobile detection system with a jammer to detect the driver’s use of mobile phone and not the phone used by fellow passengers. The blocking of the mobile communication only occurred in the driver seating area.

The above systems do not rely upon our decisions as drives on whether or not to use a cellphone app to block a signal while driving. The design eliminates the hazard without our behavior becoming a factor. These designs are one piece of the puzzle in achieving Vision Zero.

James A. Roberts, Luc Honore Petnji Yaya and Chris Manolis, (2104). The Invisible Addiction: Cell-Phone Activities and Addiction Among Male and Female College Students. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 3(4), p. 254-265. 
For further in-depth reading on the complexities required for everyday driving, see John Groeger, 2000, Understanding Driving, Applying Cognitive Psychology to a Complex Everyday Task. Psychology Press.
H. Abdul Shabeer, R.S.D. Wahida Banu, H. Abdul Zubar, (2012). Technology to prevent mobile phone accidents. Int. J. Enterprise Network Management, Vol. 5, No. 23, 2012.

Eliminating US Traffic Fatalities: It Is Possible

Car Technology 2What would you say if someone told you there could be zero traffic deaths each year? It might sound like a pipe dream, but it’s not. Many safety advocates are saying it is possible to eliminate most of the 30,000 plus annual highway fatalities in the US.

How is it possible? Speeding up the adoption on new safety technology. Automakers are notoriously known for taking decades to fully integrate existing safety technology into cars on a standard basis. But, if automakers were to safely speed along their adoption process for things that have been around since 2000 like forward-collision warning, rear cameras, lane-departure warning, traffic-jam assist, adaptive cruise control, and more, the aim for Vision Zero could be within reach.

Vision Zero was written into Swedish law in 1997, stating no level of traffic fatalities would be acceptable. They are demanding 100 percent safety on the road. New technology advancements like vehicle-to-vehicle communications and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications are a part of making Vision Zero a reality.

But even without those technologies that are in the works, and just with what is possible as of 2015, US traffic deaths could be cut by almost 10,000 a year, that is, if these technologies were implemented in all cars on the roadway. That’s where it gets harder. The US has nearly 260 million light vehicles on the road with an average age of 11.5 years. That’s a lot of older cars without new technology and with no financial incentives many consumers won’t or can’t invest in newer, safer technology.

It’s time for consumers, automakers, and lawmakers to step up. It’s time to stop accepting traffic fatalities as a normal. It’s time to demand the safety technology available is implemented in new vehicles. It’s time to demand affordable, safer options for America’s roadways.

Want to read more about the aim for zero roadway fatalities? Read Aiming For Zero, Automotive News for more details on this goal that could become a reality.

Pay Attention, If You Can

man on phone drivingHow many tasks are you performing right now? You probably have your phone in your hand checking email or waiting on a text. Maybe your television is on in the background waiting for the news report to begin. Then of course, you’re trying to read this blog. All the while your brain is trying, but failing, to multitask.

Stop. Put down the phone. Turn off the television. Close those other windows on your desktop. Give us five minutes of your undivided attention. You’ll see in a minute why it’s so important.

Understanding attention limits of humans is an important factor in the design of products and systems. Persons do not perform well when trying to perform two attention demanding tasks at the same time.

For example, during two cognitively complex tasks, such as driving and talking on the phone, the brain shifts its focus and people develop “inattention blindness.” Inattention blindness is a tendency to look at but not see objects. It is estimated that drivers using cell phones, including through hands free means, look but fail to see up to 50 percent of information in their driving environment.

According to the National Safety Council, the brain engages in a constant process to deal with information it receives by selecting the information the brain will attend to, processing the information, encoding the information (a stage that creates memory,) storing the information, retrieving the stored information, and then executing upon the information. When the brain is overloaded all of these steps are affected. However, people do not realize this challenge is occurring within their brains.

When persons maintain they can multitask, they do not understand how the brain processes information for decision-making. Human brains do not perform two tasks at the same time. Instead, the brain handles tasks sequentially switching between one task and another. When brains juggle tasks rapidly, it leads to the erroneous conclusion that people are able to do two tasks at the same time. In reality, the brain is switching attention between the tasks performing only one task at a time.

Designers of products and systems need to understand limitations of humans attention and design systems to eliminate or minimize human error due to humans limitations regarding attention; after all, to err is human, design forgives.

For more information on human attention capabilities we recommend downloading “Understanding the Distracted Brain,” from the National Safety Council.

Unavailing Safety Slogans

Safety Slogan Door Sign“Be Safe.” “Stay Alert.” “Drive Safely.” “Choose Safety.”

Safety slogans are abundant. Many are also abundantly unclear and ineffective.

The picture to the right is a sign on the door handle of a service truck. It provides an excellent example of why safety slogans are ineffective. Each slogan also demonstrates how product designs can be updated to include important systems, making safety slogans unnecessary.

First, this slogan does nothing to identify or eliminate hazards. The wording “maintain three points of contact with the vehicle” can be eliminated by incorporating near object detection devices into the vehicle during the design.

Second, the wording “always wear your seat belt” is not necessary if you have a system which has a constant buzzing noise or perhaps ignition interlock which prevents the vehicle from starting until the seat belt is engaged.

Third, the wording “turn off/put away all distractions” is not necessary if you have a system that blocks the phone signal (absent an emergency) while the vehicle is in operation. Perhaps this system would not be popular with consumers. However, humans have very poor divided attention abilities.

Fourth, if the poorly thought out slogan is to be used on this service truck, why is it on the outside by the door handle and not the inside to provide a constant reminder to the driver?

So, what does “be safe” really mean? This is the problem with poorly thought out slogans. The slogans are subject to various interpretations.

Safety is not common sense. What is common to you may not be common to another person. Safety, a science that identifies hazards, risks, and safety engineering alternatives, cannot be addressed by vague safety slogans. Safety begins long before a product or system reaches consumers.