Driver distraction is a factor in up to 30pc of road crashes
We're travelling 'blind' much of the time and, our RSA expert says, it's leading to more accidents
It is estimated that driver distraction is a factor in up to 30pc of road crashes across the EU. The most obvious and dangerous ones are those involving mobile technologies.
Efforts to understand and tackle the problem have been ramped up at EU level.
Many studies have shown there are four types of distraction.
* Visual: Includes looking away from the road.
* Auditory: Such as a phone conversation (in particular, earphones).
* Bio- mechanical: Such as reaching for the CD in the glovebox.
* Cognitive: Daydreaming while driving.
A driver can spend up to a third of a typical trip distracted.
This includes everything from talking to a passenger, looking at things outside the car etc.
The EU Commission has identified five ways to tackle the problem: publicity campaigns, driver training (particularly for professional drivers), legislation/enforcement, technology-based actions and solutions on road infrastructure.
The technology-based actions include new in-vehicle elements which compensate for driver errors or failings.
These include forward collision, lane departure warning and proximity alerting systems. The latter warns of impending danger and can take evasive action by applying emergency braking.
Further down the road are other developments such as Curve Speed Warning (CSW) systems. These raise an alert when speed is estimated to be too high to safely navigate an approaching bend. But because such systems rely on good GPS data, it's not standard technology.
Collision-avoidance features are rapidly making their way into new vehicles. Most car manufacturers have introduced collision warning systems that alert drivers or actively 'jump in' to take over a critical situation.
These systems are already being covered in Euro NCAP testing. They award five stars for the safest vehicles and place special emphasis on such safety assist elements.
This is welcome but we need more education to make people aware of the Euro NCAP system.
Other potential solutions being looked at include phone-call blocking and advanced driver warning systems such as eye movement detectors.
The EU is particularly keen to see common guidelines developed for the automotive and telecommunications industries.
The guidelines could cover standards for such things a human-machine interfaces, call blocking and systems for mounting wireless devices on vehicle dashboards.
But these are longer term solutions.
The Commission, while acknowledging that those providing the operating systems for smart phones have made efforts to deal with the problem of technology while driving, would like to see more done. The smartphone market is dominated by Apple and Google.
They have produced technology to use smartphones in vehicles more safely such as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Google Android also has some built-in features to limit distraction while driving (the option to respond to incoming phone calls with an automated text reply when moving).
But the Commission would like to see them adopting common guidelines to further reduce road user distraction and to sign up to a Memorandum of Understanding to adopt the European Statement of Principle on Human Machine Interface.
This calls for actions to reduce accidents caused by driver distraction when using information and communication systems.
It all sounds very reasonable.
Let's hope they respond positively.