Distracted driving is a serious problem that causes thousands of deaths and injuries every year. According to the National Road Safety Foundation, about 2,042 teen drivers were killed due to distracted driving in 2019. Texting and driving is one of the most common forms of distraction, but it is not easy to detect and prevent.

New study suggests technology solutions

A new study from The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that roadside cameras, smartphone data, and artificial intelligence (AI) may be the answer to cracking down on distraction while driving. The study used high-definition cameras to capture the behavior of drivers on a freeway in Virginia. The cameras were able to spot distracting behaviors such as holding a phone, looking away from the road, or eating and drinking. The study also used smartphone data from a telematics company to measure the phone use of drivers. The study found that both methods were effective in identifying distraction, but they had some limitations.

Chattanooga explores AI and cameras to curb distracted driving
Chattanooga explores AI and cameras to curb distracted driving

The cameras could not capture the driver’s face or the phone screen, so they could not tell if the driver was talking or texting. The smartphone data could not account for hands-free phone use or other sources of distraction. Moreover, both methods raised privacy concerns, as they involved collecting personal information from drivers without their consent.

To overcome these challenges, the study suggested using AI-powered software to screen for likely cases of distraction. The software could analyze the camera images and the smartphone data and flag the drivers who were most likely to be distracted. The software could also blur the faces and license plates of the drivers to protect their privacy.

Chattanooga considers adopting technology

The city of Chattanooga is interested in exploring the possibility of using this technology to combat distracted driving. Assistant Chief Jerri Sutton of the Chattanooga Police Department said that they currently use cameras and smartphone data to investigate specific crashes, but not to collect data on distracted driving. She said that they record the driver’s actions, such as jerking the wheel or braking hard, but not the cause of those actions.

She said that using AI and cameras could help them identify and deter distracted drivers, but they would have to consider the legal and ethical implications. She said that they would need to consult with the city council, the state legislature, and the public before implementing any new system.

Attorney Jay Kennamer with the McMahan Law Firm said that he has seen many cases of distracted driving that resulted in catastrophic injuries or deaths. He said that anything that makes the street safer is a plus, but he doubted that the public would accept this technology. He cited the example of Red Bank, where traffic cameras were not well received by the residents.

Michelle Anderson with the National Road Safety Foundation said that she supports using technology to reduce distraction, but she also emphasized the need for education and awareness. She said that drivers need to understand the risks and consequences of distracted driving and make responsible choices behind the wheel.

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