What is driver distraction technology, and will it improve road safety?

Are the experts right about driver distraction technology?

We’ve all seen the safety signs designed to reduce road accidents due to driver distraction or fatigue, telling us to ‘rest every two hours while driving long distances’, or that ‘driver fatigue can kill’. But The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) is taking Australia’s efforts to eliminate accidents resulting from texting and driving or driver fatigue up a level with in-vehicle driver distraction technology.

With driver distraction and driver fatigue combined accounting for almost one in three fatal car accidents in 2019, ANCAP, Australia’s top independent crash testing authority, has started assessing driver distraction technology as part of a broader national bid to improve road safety. This comes after harsh new fines of $1,000 for using – or even touching – your mobile phone while driving were introduced across Australia. 

Driver distraction technology could improve road safety and prevent almost 30% of annual road accidents.

So how does driver distraction technology work, and will it improve road safety?

Driver distraction technology

Already fitted to many new cars, driver distraction devices are in-built cameras that monitor the driver’s eyes for fatigue, impairment or distraction indicators, and sensors that measure steering wheel inputs, such as gripping or steering. 

These devices will issue warnings if they detect that the driver is not paying full attention to the road; for example, if the driver is looking down, not holding the steering wheel or their eyes are closing due to fatigue. They can also forcibly slow down or stop the vehicle if no changes to the driver’s behaviour are recorded.

Will these devices improve road safety?

If a $1,000 fine isn’t enough to stop drivers from using their mobile phones while driving, we think these devices will. It’s easy to see how driver distraction devices have the potential to eliminate, or at least drastically reduce, fatigue- and texting-while-driving-related road accidents.

ANCAP is already assessing driver distraction technology, and these devices will become mandatory for all new vehicles sold in Australia by 2024. The NSW state government has expressed high hopes that this technology will enhance the effectiveness of its new mobile detection cameras, introduced in March this year.

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