Smartphone cut off automatically while driving
Using a smartphone to send a message while driving multiplies the risk for an accident with a factor of 23, says the Belgian institute for road safety ISBR/BIVV. The future solution? Disconnect the smartphone automatically.
Since almost 20 years, article 8.4 of Belgian traffic regulations state clearly you are not allowed to use a handheld phone while driving, except when parked. Nevertheless police issues more then 100.000 tickets per year with fines of 110 euro. A nice income for the state, but a serious road safety issue.
“Using a phone while driving overloads the brain”, Benoît Godart, spokesman of the ISBR/BIVV says. “When getting a call the driver will instinctively slow down while bringing the phone to his ear. He feels he can’t drive and phone at the same time. He fixes his eyes on a distant point and doesn’t see anymore what happens besides him. He diverts from his straight line and almost literally starts zigzagging and loses concentration. That’s logic: using the phone has the same affect as having drunk four beers”.
Even calling handsfree has an effect on driving. “We did a test with 40 guinea pig drivers. When calling they noticed road signs 44% less and other cars 28%, including in the rear view mirrors. They also tended to keep on driving on the middle lanes. It’s safer to end the call as soon as possible, even with a handsfree kit.”, Godart says.
Irritating voice warning
Because the bad habit persists, some solutions are being proposed today. The Brussels start-up Freeedrive developed an app for company cars. The app, that was launched in February this year and costs 50 euro annually, shows a warning on the screen to discourage the driver to take the call, but doesn’t prevent it.
“Our goal is to get people to adopt the attitude to leave their phone off when taking place behind the wheel, just like they’re used to buckle up”, explains Jan-Pieter Cootjans, one of the founders of Freeedrive.
The app needs a personalized badge that links the phone to the car and launches the app automatically when driving. When the driver wants to grab his phone, he gets a rather irritant vocal warning and a text message with a warning vibration.
“After some months of testing nine out of ten drivers stopped using their phone”, Cootjans says. Stubborn drivers who persist, can be cut off automatically by the company when stepping into the car.
“I’m driving, call back later”
Samsung, number one smartphone seller in Belgium, offers the ‘In Traffic Reply’ app that will sense the phone is moving faster then 10 km/h, so it can be used on the bicycle too. When authorized, it will filter all incoming communications, vocal or text and will reply automatically “I’m driving, call back later” or any personalized message.
Nissan is experimenting with a rather drastic solution in its Juke’s SUV. The Japanese car manufacturer build in a smartphone compartment into the arm rest, working as a Faraday’s cage and blocking all incoming phone and Wi-Fi signals.
“A digital detox”, Nissan calls it for those who can’t resit the beeps of incoming messages on their smartphones. You can still use other functions like music and navigation, using a cable connection in the ‘black box’.