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Using Technology to Fight Distracted Driving

Most of us are well aware of the risks associated with distracted driving, yet many of us still struggle to keep our eyes and minds on the road and our hands on the wheel. Luckily, automobile makers understand our struggle and are designing new features to help us out:

1. Adaptive Cruise Control

Normal cruise control allows the driver to select and maintain a constant speed without having to manually press on the gas. Adaptive cruise control self-adjusts to maintain a safe distance between your vehicle and the car ahead. You should never take your eyes off the road but if you do, adaptive cruise control can keep you from rear-ending the car in front of you.

2. Lane Departure Warning Systems

First introduced in 1992 by Mitsubishi in Japan, lane departure warning systems have evolved to include several different technologies. All of them use some combination of video sensors, laser sensors and infrared sensors to understand a vehicles’ location in relation to its lane.

Some systems alert the driver when the car is deviating from its lane using a combination of visual, audible and vibration warnings.

Other systems alert the driver and, if the driver doesn’t correct for the lane departure, automatically keep the car in its lane. This functionality is referred to as a “lane keeping system” or LKS. Some LKS systems react to departures from the lane, while others proactively ensure that the vehicle remains centered in its lane. The latter systems are sometimes called “lane centering assist.”

You should never purposefully take your hands off the wheel or your eyes off the road but in extraordinary cases these technologies can save lives. If, for instance, a bee starts buzzing around your car or a passenger starts to experience a medical emergency and you inadvertently direct your attention away from the road, these technologies will bring your attention back to your most important responsibility before disaster strikes.

3. Driver-Monitoring

Lane assist systems focus on monitoring what the car is doing in relation to its environment, but other systems monitor what the driver is doing. Using cameras that track facial features, eye focus and head rotation, they will alert a driver when they’re not paying enough attention to the road or when their eyelids are drooping.

4. Technology Blockers

Some cars now are equipped with after-market or factory-installed technology blockers. These devices can silence incoming calls and text messages or prevent drivers from using mobile devices to do anything other than use a GPS app or call 911. Still others require that the phone remain locked in a dock before the engine will start.

5. Technology Enhancers

While some systems aim to prevent risky behaviors by blocking technology use, others aim to make the use itself less risky by developing and refining technologies that allow for voice or gesture-based texting and calling. These systems allow drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road to eliminate manual and visual distractions, but they still allow for the cognitive distraction of communication.

These new technologies can do a lot to help prevent fatal mistakes, but the most important and effective safety net will always be a driver’s resolve. This message is proudly sponsored by WMC Tri-State Medical Network.

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