Many road safety experts believe that the recent sharp rise in motor vehicle accident fatalities in Texas and around the country is being caused by an increase in reckless behavior like speeding, impaired driving and cellphone use. Distraction is a particularly thorny problem for law enforcement because using a cellphone while driving leaves no telltale signs for accident investigators, and few drivers are willing to admit that they were distracted when they crashed.
The results of two studies released in October 2023 by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety suggest that technology could be used to identify distracted drivers and discourage cellphone use behind the wheel. The first of these studies evaluated how effective roadside cameras are at identifying distracted drivers. Human observers stationed beside a busy road spotted 78% of the drivers who were eating, drinking or using cellphones. Cameras identified 72% of the distracted drivers. Based on these results, IIHS researchers concluded that roadside cameras could be used to enforce the cellphone bans that most states have on their books.
The second IIHS study explored the ways cellphone gyroscopes and auto insurance company telematics data could be used to identify distracted drivers at car accident scenes. Insurance companies use telematics devices to track drivers so they can offer lower premiums to policyholders who obey traffic laws, and cellphone manufacturers put gyroscopes in their devices to realign screens automatically. IIHS researchers concluded that accident investigators could use this data to identify drivers who crash while using mobile electronic devices.
Using a cellphone while operating a motor vehicle is banned in almost all states, but many drivers flout these laws. Police officers ticket drivers who they observe using cellphones behind the wheel, but the vast majority of offenders escape punishment. Two studies from the IIHS suggest that technology could be used to enforce cellphone bans and identify distracted drivers at accident scenes.