Technology from cellphone, vehicle makers key to reducing distracted-driving deaths, group says

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Those campaigning against distracted driving caused by cellphone use believe the key to reducing road deaths lies firmly with technology.

The Distracted Driving Foundation (DDFN) argues there is simple technology available that could drastically cut the number of accidents, but it would take a nationwide effort involving all cellphone companies and vehicle manufacturers.

A total of 3,477 people died in accidents linked to distracted driving in 2015, up from 3,179 the previous year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

And the first six months of 2016 saw a more than 10 percent increase in fatalities, the biggest spike in 50 years. Much of that increase is blamed on drivers being distracted, again mainly by cellphones.

Jeff Haley, founder of DDFN, thinks there is a solution: block drivers from using anything other than a simple display when driving. Essentially, the provider blocks most emails, texts and social media updates and prevents users from sending messages and posting on social media while driving.

If messages need to be sent, there should be one picture and "yes" or "no" answers. The technology also informs senders that the person receiving a message is driving.

Haley argues all cellphone manufacturers and carriers, as well as the vehicle-makers, would have to get together to introduce the technology. He thinks it could be paid for by a small monthly surcharge, possibly 25 cents, on cellphone bills.

"The display becomes very simple when moving, then back to the more complicated normal mode when stopped," Haley told Mega Dealer News. This would apply to all handheld devices or any other display embedded in the car.

Humans, Haley said, do not have the cognitive ability to process complicated information on a screen and remain entirely safe while driving. This is despite people claiming they are safe drivers even when using a cellphone.

The technology to block the driver would not affect passengers in a vehicle.

DDFN also thinks law enforcement or new laws will not necessarily make much a difference.

Its position is that legislation creates "an unnecessarily unpleasant driving experience for drivers and (makes) inefficient use of police resources."

The big problem, Haley argues, are text messages and looking at websites, which are complicated. Any technology that simplifies the use of the phone would work.

But it has to be national and involve all companies. No cellphone company will do this alone, he said.

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Organizations in this story

Distracted Driving Foundation 13434 SE 27th Pl Bellevue, WA 98005-4211