Cogosense Blog

Cogosense's Driver Behaviour Blog

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Why Distraction Is So Dangerous And What Can We Do About It

Very good article today in Forbes by David DiSalvo featuring an interview with Dr. David Simons (author of the bestselling book "The Invisible Gorilla").

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On the topic of distracted driving, Dr. Simons said:

  • The more attention we devote to gadgets, the less we have available to spot unexpected dangers. In part, the danger comes from our lack of awareness of our own limits. When we’re distracted, we don’t notice that we’re distracted.
  • What we can do is take steps to limit the consequences of those distractions when they matter most. Perhaps those problems can be addressed through technology (e.g., finding a way to prevent texting by a driver while still permitting it by passengers). But, doing so requires better recognition of the risk in the first place.

The full article can be found here.

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New Study Finds Half of Distracted Drivers are Texting

A recent press release from the University of Washington finds that 8% of drivers on Washington state roadways were using electronic devices while driving and that half of those were texting.

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The full study is expected to be published in October but joins a growing list of state initiatives to understand the problem of distracted driving and to take action to prevent distracted driving. The State of Iowa issued a comprehensive RFP in September 2013 to evaluate technology solutions aimed at young drivers within the state.

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Technology Can Fix What It Broke

A great blog post by a master marketeer, Seth Godin, today. He comments on the unlikelihood of emotional appeals, such as the recent Werner Herzog short film, to change deeply entrenched values and behaviours in our culture:

  • The culture of the car as a haven, a roving office, and a place
    where you do what you like
  • The culture of the Marlboro man, no speed limiters in cars,
    'optional' speed limits on roads
  • The culture of connection and our fear of being left out
  • The culture of technology, and our bias to permit it first
    and ask questions later

He notes that part of the solution could be notifying others of a driver's status as they could be held liable for knowingly causing dangerous distractions. However, he summarizes the most "inexpensive, fast and effective" solution perfectly:

... when a phone is moving, don't permit it to accomplish certain tasks.

People won't die as a result.

It won't cost the companies a penny in profit.

And defenders of the status quo will scream about freedom and access and rights and how it used to be. They will worry about people on trains or passengers in carpools.

But you know what? It's better than being dead. Better than being the victim of the one out of three drivers I see who couldn't wait ...

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Expanded Considerations for Risk and Liability

The recent New Jersey state appeals court ruling expanded the risk and liability considerations to include someone who knowingly sends a text to another person who's engaged in driving at the time and the distraction leads to a collision.

We hold that the sender of a text message can potentially be liable if an accident is caused by texting, but only if the sender knew or had special reason to know that the recipient would view the text while driving and thus be distracted.
– Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division

This is a particularly important consideration for corporate fleets where intra-company communication may be very frequent between fleet drivers and management or dispatch.

Complete solutions for distracted driving should take into consideration the environment for both the senders and the receivers.

For example, Aegis has worked with our corporate clients to provide driving status indicators on enterprise unified communications systems (such as those provided by Cisco, Avaya or Microsoft) so that corporate dispatchers can see status at-a-glance. Additionally, single touch push-to-talk and similar features are available to facilitate communication that is critical to productivity while ensuring conformance with corporate safe driving policy and adherence to the law.

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Safety Versus Freedom

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Nathan Seppa, of Science News, authored an excellent article last week entitled "Impactful Distraction - Talking while driving poses dangers that people seem unable to see."

The article touches upon many of the important issues in the distracted driving market including:

  • Competing interests between (a) science which has clearly established the dangers of distracted driving, (b) individual freedom which resists the government imposing regulations and (c) legislation which attempts to balance the interests of safety and freedom
  • Psychology that individuals believe distracted driving to be very dangerous for others but safe for themselves
  • Dangers of handsfree usage and the absence of legislation dealing with such dangers

There are several excellent infographics included in the article including the one shown below related to tunnel vision (or distractions which draw attention away from the routines that would provide a good representation of the driving environment) and "inattentional blindness" (or looking at something and not seeing it because the mind is elsewhere).

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Download PDF

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