Thousands of lives have been lost due to distracted-driving related accidents in the U.S. with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) citing 3,477 deaths over the course of a single year in 2015.
The NHTSA said, “Texting is the most alarming distraction. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that's like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.”
So why do people still reach for their phones when they’re behind the wheel? Some drivers believe they can multitask, even if their perception is far from reality. Some are worried about missing an important call or message. For some, it’s a sign of a deeper addiction to their mobile phones.
There are plenty of ways to go hands-free and still use your phone while driving, but studies show that even hands-free phone use can still be distracting. There is help for people who have difficulty fighting the temptation. Here are ways to make sure you won’t pick up while you’re behind the wheel:
Samsung In-Traffic Reply
Samsung has a new Android mobile app called In-Traffic Reply. The app uses a phone’s GPS feature to sense when the device is on the move, whether on a bike or in an automobile. It then automatically responds to calls and texts with pre-set messages like “I’m driving, so I cannot answer at the moment.”
In-Traffic Reply is automatically activated starting from a speed of a little over 6 mph. You will receive a notification when the app is activated so you can switch it off again immediately if you're not the person driving.
The app also sends an automatic response to notifications that come from your social apps. Don't worry, your contacts will only receive one In-Traffic Reply per journey. If someone sends you multiple messages in a row, the app responds just once.
Click here to download the free app for Android from the Google Play Store.
Samsung’s In-Traffic Reply app isn’t the only one aimed at shutting down phone distractions. AT&T’s DriveMode app is available for both Android and iOS.
It turns off text message alerts and sends an auto-reply. It can also be set to notify a parent if a teen turns the app off.
Nissan Signal Shield
The future of distracted-driving prevention may come from a Victorian-era technology. Nissan developed a concept car accessory called the Signal Shield, which it built into the armrest of a Juke crossover SUV.
The prototype consists of a compartment lined with a Faraday cage, an invention from the 1800s that blocks electromagnetic fields. Place a phone inside and it’s like putting it into its very own Cone of Silence. It can’t receive wireless signals, so there’s no chance of it going off and tempting you to use it.
The Signal Shield is notable for its simplicity of use. You just set your phone inside while you’re driving and then take it out again when you’ve reached your destination.
It still lets you hook your phone up to the car’s USB or auxiliary port to listen to music. The compartment is just a prototype and Nissan has not announced any plans to put it into production vehicles, but it gives us an intriguing glimpse at one possible solution to an ongoing problem.
Another possible future solution to cellphones in the car comes from startup RiVE Technologies, which recently topped its funding goal for a Kickstarter project. RiVE uses a combination of hardware and software to prevent the driver from using the phone.
You install the RiVE app and then plug your phone into a special cable in your car. The connection automatically launches the app, which halts all texts, emails and social media notifications. As with other distracted driving apps, it will reply to incoming texts with an auto-response letting people know you will get back to them later.
RiVE still allows you to use your phone’s navigation and music features. The app will also track usage patterns, which could be helpful for parents with teen drivers.
The RiVE cable clips onto the bottom of your phone, physically blocking your home button and reducing the temptation to reach over and fiddle with your mobile device. RiVE is still in the prototype stage. Bear in mind that not all crowdfunding projects deliver as expected.
Apps and gadgets may be able to help ease the distracted driving epidemic, but it may ultimately require a future full of self-driving cars to put a stop to accidents caused by people paying more attention to their phones than to the road.