Some Iowa lawmakers are planning to draft a bill that would make it illegal to text message on a cell phone while driving a vehicle. In Iowa City, researchers are looking at other ways to prevent traffic crashes caused by distracted motorists.
Tim Brown, with the University of Iowa’s National Advanced Driving Simulator, says one study involves how technology might detect signs of distracted driving. “If the ultimate goal is to prevent crashes, how well do some of these technologies that are designed to alert drivers of potential crash situations – how well do they work to prevent distracted drivers from getting into crashes,” Brown explained.
Over the next decade, the work at the U-of-I could result in vehicles that nearly drive themselves. “You could see technologies where, if you begin to drift off the roadway, the vehicle steers itself back so you don’t run off the road. Or, if you’re not responding quickly enough to a vehicle that’s slowing in front of you, the vehicle begins to slow itself,” Brown said.
The U-of-I researchers were recently awarded a more than one-million dollar grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to study the issue of distracted driving. Brown says he realizes technology is not the sole solution, but combined with legislation, their work could greatly reduce fatal and property damage crashes.
“Technology is going to greater automation and through this, there’s the potential of also mitigating these distraction-related crashes,” Brown said. More than34,000 people were killed in U.S. traffic crashes in 2008.
Public safety officials estimate that one-fifth of those crashes were caused by a distracted driver. Brown made his comments on the Iowa Public Radio program “The Exchange.”