The dangers of distracted driving are at the forefront of the public interest in the wake of the second National Distracted Driving Summit held last week in Washington, DC.

A new report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reveals that accidents involving distracted driving, such as text messaging, have increased exponentially since 2005-up from 10 percent to 16 percent.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says, “These numbers show that distracted driving remains an epidemic in America, and they are just the tip of the iceberg.”

Leading transportation officials, safety advocates, law enforcement, industry representatives, researchers, and victims affected by distraction-related crashes all gathered at the Summit last week to raise awareness and identify opportunities to decrease distracted driving accidents and fatalities throughout the country.

Expected proposals to combat the problem initiated throughout the Summit, but some say the Summit communicated a clear message-America needs to changes its behavior and culture. A senior executive for a large trucking corporation, says, “The nation needs to approach paying attention while driving as a moral obligation.”

Proposals Offered to Improve In-Vehicle Environments

Linda Angell, a research scientist at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, said that technology itself can be used to decrease the potential for distracted driving accidents. She said technology should focus on four aspects of improving the in-vehicle environment:

  1. Remove background or irrelevant information. For example, Angels says, “black panel” instrumentation in Saab vehicles today sends unnecessary information to the background, allowing alerts to pop up if needed.
  2. Train drivers to recognize a specified time when certain information should be accessed.
  3. Create vehicle systems to disable certain mobile device features when the vehicle is in motion.
  4. Create systems that assist drivers in filtering incoming information, like incoming calls or texts, when the driver is operating the vehicle in certain circumstances.

Currently, only 8 states, including New York, prohibit drivers from using non-handheld devices while driving. The District of Columbia, Guam, and 30 states have banned only text messaging while driving.