Road Safety News
 

Should manufacturers do more to prevent driver distraction?

Tuesday 16th August 2016

The RAC Foundation has questioned whether car manufacturers need to take more responsibility when it comes to preventing driver distraction.

The call comes on the back of new research which suggests that without legal obligation, few companies would incorporate limitations on the use of their equipment as they would be at a commercial disadvantage.

Carried out for the RAC Foundation by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), the study set out to gauge what industry is doing to limit the use of potentially distracting technology in the car.

The research features the views of vehicle manufacturers, telecoms providers and phone manufacturers, and concludes that it is up to the driver to make sure their use of technology in the car complies with the law.

Each year at least 70 fatal accidents on Britain’s roads have ‘distraction in vehicle’ as a contributory factor. ‘Driver using mobile phone’ is a factor in some 20 fatal accidents a year.

The RAC Foundation says there do not appear to be any internationally accepted guidelines and standards specifically relating to the design of mobile phones and communications devices for use while driving.

It asks whether now is the time to introduce a drive-safe mode for mobiles.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “In many ways smartphone technology and mobile communications are a Godsend for road users, allowing us to do everything from getting directions to dodging congestion to calling for help if we break down.

“Yet the more functionality our cars and electronic devices have, the greater the chance that drivers get distracted or overwhelmed with information, particularly when using smartphones as Sat Navs while all the other functions are still ‘live’.

“A key question is where responsibility lies. Many in the industry say the onus must be on the user rather than the manufacturer.

“There may come a day when autonomous cars allow us to spend all our time looking at our mobile, tablet and computer screens. Until then as drivers we need to make sure we have our eyes on the road.”


Comments

Comment on this story
Report a reader comment

What's your view - comment on this story:

I confirm that I have read and accept the moderation policy and house rules relating to comments posted on this website.
Your comment:
Your name and location:
Your email:

Whilst there is a plethera of electronics now being placed into the hands of the car driver for whatever purpose or end may I make a plea for van delivery drivers. A lot of incidents are caused by a lack of good observations whilst a van driver is parking, in reverse or otherwise reversing for deliveries.

It's easy and cheap to install cameras for the rear end and also reversing alarms and that would enable more drivers to be more aware of what's going on and where they are in relation to their back end. It seems to me we are going high tech with other vehicles and just a simple camera and reversing system which won't cost a lot hasn't been put forward before.
Bob Craven Lancs

Agree (0) | Disagree (0)
0

Just as seatbelts or airbags are required, technology focused on distracted driving should also be required.
TG

Agree (1) | Disagree (1)
0

The challenge here is to ensure that the driver is given the opportunity to drive at the highest possible standard they can achieve with the experience and training that they have. In terms of information supply that means giving them only what they need when they need it, in an accessible and prioritised format. That’s long been part of the ergonomic challenge of connecting as much of the vehicle as possible to the dashboard, and ‘connecting’ the dashboard to the driver. The continuing challenge is now to connect as much of the (relevant) environment outside the vehicle the driver as well – just enough to aid the drive, no more, no less.

The problem with mobile devices is that they perform so many functions unrelated to driving they are in danger – when left on and unregulated – of undermining the ergonomic science that’s gone into creating the driver/vehicle interface. Think of the mobile device as a Trojan horse – on the face of it a gift offering a lot that is relevant to driving. But it’s also the means by which a threat is casually brought into the vehicle and once inside, it risks nulling all the positive attributes of in-vehicle design that car manufacturers have spent a small fortune developing.

I think it’s not beyond the wit of vehicle manufacturer marketing teams to spin the benefits of designing a car that, say, identifies the apps pertinent to driving and leaves them live whilst suspending all others. The argument being that the mobile device then becomes integral to the vehicle and the driving experience, leaving behind all the noise that otherwise gets in the way.
Jeremy, Devon

Agree (5) | Disagree (0)
+5

The driver is undoubtedly responsible for their driving, control and concentration. However, manufacturers must bear their share of responsbility for the features they put into a car, what testing they have done as to the ergonomics and the cognitive loads. I think most drivers will assume that manufacturers have designed and tested the controls and extra features in a car, not just put them in and leave it up to the driver to cope (or not).
Honor Byford, Chair, Road Safety GB

Agree (11) | Disagree (0)
+11

Couldn't help but notice a recent headline on this site that said "Councils invited to bid for share of £2m 'emerging technologies' fund" to encourage all sorts of information to be piped directly into the car.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

Agree (7) | Disagree (0)
+7

"A key question is where responsibility lies. Many in the industry say the onus must be on the user rather than the manufacturer."

Completely correct. It is the responsibility of the driver to drive.

Yes, cars have become more like a lounge on wheels, comfortable, quiet, many driver aids reducing the need for constant input, but at the end of the day, the person behind the wheel is in charge.
Steve, watford

Agree (21) | Disagree (2)
+19