How to solve the distracted driving problem

Driver Safety
How to solve the distracted driving problem
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Key Takeaways

Ok. Distracted driving is a problem. So how do we solve it?

The short answer for regulators, technology leaders, and parents: this is not just a regulatory issue! Together, we can bring an end to the distracted driving epidemic.

Thanks to recent advances in smartphones, mobile networks, and app functionality, there are more attractive nuisances competing for our attention. And frankly, it’s no coincidence that distracted driving is on the rise.

According to a recent report, we send 204 million emails, 16 million text messages, and 350,000 tweets per minute. That’s not to mention the 86,805 hours of Netflix videos we’re streaming.

Our attention is a finite resource. And everyone is competing for it, but to what cost? The modern mobile device user is caught in the greatest battle for human attention in history. And it’s happening every second of the day.

We all know that we need better legislation when it comes to distracted phone use on roads. But to end this epidemic, we’re going to need more than policy changes.

The solution to this problem requires a collective effort on behalf of the entire technology community. To be a little more specific, what can mobile network operators (MNOs) and mobile app developers do to curb these negative effects and boost profits in the process?

Attention wars

Our devices are getting smarter, larger, and with the coming advent of 5G, they will continue to offer more and more features that distract us.

In fact, we have grown to expect these sorts of distractions. We check our phones every few seconds if we haven’t gotten a notification. We’ve literally trained ourselves to be ready for interruptions and welcome distractions.

And that’s not strictly a bad thing! We are more productive than we’ve ever been! We can multitask with a fluency that would make Da Vinci jealous. And we love our devices because they can do truly amazing things and provide us with rich entertainment.

But there is a downside to all this attention-grabbing connectivity. Attention is a finite resource. And when we turn to distraction, our ability to successfully complete our tasks plummet. Not to mention our social interactions! According to Pew Research, of the 89% of people who reported checking their phone during their last social interaction, 82% admitted the quality of the social interaction suffered for it.

And when you add motor vehicles into the equation, these attention wars become a matter of life and death.

The worst distracted drivers? Phone addicts

In 2018, Zendrive conducted the largest distracted driving study in human history. And the results were alarming. We found that distracted driving was 100 times more prevalent than the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated.

We revisited the study this year, and found that the percentage of “Phone Addicts” had doubled since 2018. Phone Addicts spend 3x more time on their phones while driving than average drivers, and are on the road 1.5x more than the general population. All told, Phone Addicts spend an astonishing 28% of their time behind the wheel actively ignoring the road.

And we understand the reasons why. As more and more of our social, financial, and personal lives exist online and on our device, it makes sense that more and more of our attention would shift there. We are becoming what the University of Kentucky calls “Digital Citizens.”

But that understanding does not change the fact that distracted driving is one of the most dangerous things a person can do.  According to recent studies from the University of Utah and the Transport Research Laboratory of London, distracted driving is more dangerous than drunk driving. Compared to driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .008, the legal limit, distracted drivers:

  • Crash more frequently
  • Hit the brakes 9% later
  • Struggle 24% more to maintain safe following distance
  • Return to normal speed 19% slower

Since 1980, with the founding of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), advocacy groups began a push to stigmatize drunk driving. And it promoted alternatives to it like designated drivers. As a result, many teens and Millennials who grew up under those warnings would never dream of driving drunk, or allowing one of their friends to.

Distracted driving is even more dangerous, more prevalent, and is only getting worse.

It’s time to do something about it. But how?

How tech leaders can help eliminate distracted driving

We need to eliminate distracted driving. And technology leaders like MNOs and mobile app developers can help.

Many states are currently enacting legislation to try and curb it with heavily punitive fines. In Oregon, for example, a first-time offense for distracted driving is punishable by up to a $1000 fine. This is certainly a powerful deterrent for some would-be distracted drivers. But these laws have existed for years, and distracted driving is still getting worse. The distracted driving problem is a technological problem.

That’s why MNOs and mobile app developers can take the opportunity to build safety directly into their products.

With the Zendrive telematics platform, all it takes is a few lines of code to turn any app into a distracted driving fighter! You can add features to your mobile app that can monitor driving behavior, automatically engage do-not-disturb mode, and even provide coaching to encourage safer driving. And with automatic crash detection, your app or device can make sure no driver – young or old – is ever alone on the road.

Looking ahead

The mobile technology community is locked in an arms race. It’s a war over the one truly finite resource left: our attention.

But as society begins to reckon with the emerging costs of these chronic attention wars, one thing is becoming clear. MNOs and mobile app developers have a civic responsibility to take the lead on safety and eliminate distracted driving.

Those that do can position themselves as true leaders in safety and trust. And they will be able to compete on the strength of that brand.

Safer roads, better technology, and a smarter way forward for everyone. That’s a better tomorrow. And it’s possible with Zendrive.

Contact us to learn more about Zendrive's solution.

How to solve the distracted driving problem
Syed Ali Haris
VP of Enterprise Product Marketing
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