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Design Solutions for Distracted Driving

A columnist explores how to create an environment that encourages focused, safe driving.
April 12, 2018, 6am PDT | Elana Eden
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Eating and Driving
Kritsada Namborisut

Want to reduce distracted driving? Think outside the textalyzer, researchers say.

Scott Sturgis, auto columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer, spoke to traffic safety experts about what takes drivers' focus off the road—and found that it goes far beyond phone use. Car design and the built environment can create—or help prevent—disruptions to attention.

Of course, individuals aren't off the hook for how they drive; "personal responsibility" is on Sturgis's list of solutions. To address it, national agencies are working on campaigns to influence social norms and taboos.

But environmental factors also play a role, according to Sturgis's research. Here are other things to consider in attempts to reduce distracted driving.

  • Engaging roadway design: A clear example is the use of roundabouts, which require drivers to stay alert for other cars without being stopped at a traffic signal.
  • Intuitive vehicle design: Cars themselves can create distractions for the drivers in them. This applies to safety controls, like automatic braking and lane-departure warnings, as much as it does to stereo and A/C systems.
  • App design: "There's real potential to effect change…on the mobile side," Sturgis writes. Some smartphone apps are seeking to gamify good driving—turning phoneless driving into a competition. Others are studying ways to provide real-time feedback on risky road behavior.
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Published on Thursday, April 5, 2018 in The Philadelphia Inquirer
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