Distracted driving is one of the major concerns threatening road safety, and with the increasing ease of streaming video content on mobile devices, the situation is only growing worse. There are different types of driver distractions, but using mobile phones is currently the primary concern. A new report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) states that drivers who use mobile phones are four times more likely to crash. Drivers pose a threat much worse to themselves and other road users while texting since they take their eyes off the road.
Until some years ago, the only two functions a mobile phone was used for were phone calls and text messages. Now though, it is quite common for drivers to watch videos or scroll through their social media feed while behind the wheel.
According to the WHO report, a number of countries have taken steps to legislate on mobile phone use, and a wide range of laws are being adopted: some countries focus laws on particular high-risk groups, such as young drivers, while others have applied a blanket ban on use of all mobile phones (handheld and hands-free) and still others have taken the decision not to legislate at all on this issue.
Distractions that come through the use of a mobile phone while driving occurs because the drivers choose to do so. Self-preservation should deter these drivers from putting themselves in jeopardy, but it surprisingly doesn't. The government has applied laws that ban drivers from using mobile phones during driving. However, it is rather a tall order to enforce these laws since keeping a constant eye on the drivers isn't feasible.
Not using a mobile phone while driving should be a decision that comes from the drivers themselves. And hence, spreading awareness of the hazards involved should be a more effective measure.
On the subject of increasing public awareness, the WHO report states that campaigns to increase public understanding of driving while distracted are likely to be important in tackling mobile phone use when used as part of a comprehensive strategy.
Mobile phones have become increasingly integrated into all aspects of our lives, making it all the harder to achieve the essential cultural shift towards accepting the dangers of using mobile phones when driving. Lessons can be learned from the success of road safety efforts to address drink-driving in a number of countries, which have resulted in this behaviour becoming considered a social taboo.
Moving on to what can car manufacturers do to improve the cabin in a way that helps in reducing driver distraction. The report explains that technological systems within vehicles can also be used to protect against distraction more generally. For example, warning features that warn the driver of sudden lane departures may serve to reduce injuries related to distraction.
Considerable gains have been made in the area of road safety in many countries in the past few decades. If we are to maintain and improve on these gains, then managing the risks and benefits of technologies that are used while driving will be critical. Failure to act now could not only make it more difficult to address the issue at a later date but would also lead to many more preventable traffic injuries and deaths on roads around the world.