(CNN)Driving while socially distracted is one of the most life threatening issues about our relationship to technology, and yet, in an ironic twist, the very thing that caused the problem may be the ultimate solution.
A number of technologies have been developed to try to eliminate potential distractions from our smartphones. And drivers, at least according to a recent survey, seem receptive to the idea.
In the survey sponsored by the National Safety Council, 2,400 drivers from across the country were asked what they would do if their car or mobile device came pre-set with technological solutions to block some outgoing and incoming communications distractions. Fifty-five percent of drivers said they would leave those technologies (PDF) in place to avoid being distracted. Only 23% of drivers said they would deactivate the technologies.
‘A disease and a vaccine’
“It’s the perfect problem for a technological solution,” said former space engineer and serial entrepreneur Scott Tibbitts of Boulder, Colorado. “It’s like a disease and a vaccine.”
Later, when Hoggard moved into the passenger seat and I texted him, my message went through.
But what’s to stop people, especially teens, from trying to jury-rig the system?
“Well, we planned for that,” Hoggard said. “I always tell people we’ve got a room full of engineers whose job it is to think like 16- and 17-year-olds and then stay one or two steps ahead of them. So anytime they try to disable the app, delete the app (or) … pull the device off the windshield, we know that, and in a lot of cases, we can prevent it.”
Cellcontrol also offers the driver and the administrator (in many cases the parent) a report on each trip, with the driver being scored on how well they drove, including speed, acceleration and harsh braking. “So with that feedback along with preventing distraction in the process, that driver over time learns better habits and becomes a better driver,” Hoggard said.
Other technologies already exist, and many others are in development, but the challenge for all of them is making sure consumers know they exist and are willing to buy and use them.
Groove’s Tibbitts is confident that if mobile providers are willing to cover the capital expenditure costs to make his technology available, consumers would pay $5 to $10 a month “in a heartbeat” for it.
“It’s like two lattes to protect my daughter,” he said. “If we build it, will they come? We absolutely know they will.”
Down the road, the technology to stop any driving while distracted may be the technology that lets drivers enjoy all the distractions they want, the technology that removes the need for any drivers at all.
“There are some people that think autonomous vehicles are going to solve” the problem, said David Greenfield, founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. “If you have an autonomous vehicle that doesn’t require you to attend, then you could talk on the phone all you want, do whatever you want, but we’re a little ways away from that.”
Coming Friday: Beyond technology, what else can be done to persuade people not to check their phones while behind the wheel?
Do you think technology is the answer to stop distracted driving? Share your thoughts with Kelly Wallace on Twitter @kellywallacetv.