An Informatics Approach to Preventing Distracted Driving

Period of Performance: 09/01/2015 - 03/31/2016


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Minnesota Healthsolutions Corporation
Principal Investigator


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): The goal of the project is to prevent young drivers from texting while driving. An improved technological intervention and a new distribution model for that intervention are proposed. In 2009, more than 5,400 people died in crashes that were reported to involve a distracted driver and about 448,000 people were injured. Among those killed or injured in these crashes, nearly 1,000 deaths and 24,000 injuries included cellphone use as the major distraction. The CDC reports in a 2012 national survey that 52% of U.S. drivers ages 18-29 reported texting or e-mailing while driving at least once in the last 30 days, and more than a quarter report texting or e-mailing "regularly" or "fairly often" while driving. Th proportion of drivers reportedly distracted at the time of a fatal crash has increased from 7 percent in 2005 to 11 percent in 2009. Many states are enacting laws to curb texting and cellphone use while driving;however the continued prevalence of this activity even where it is illegal illustrates the need for a technological solution. Technological solutions, in the form of hardware or software that block texting (interlocks) exist, but are not widely utilized. Hardware technologies require vehicle modifications, which limits their appeal. Almost all software technologies rely on GPS to provide vehicle velocity information as an interlock criterion. Texting is disabled when the phone is moving at more than 10 MPH for example. Unfortunately, this sensing modality cannot distinguish whether or not the smartphone is being used by a driver or passenger and therefore disables texting for all passengers in any vehicle under travel including public buses, school buses, trains, passengers in a car, etc. We propose a better software solution that can distinguish drivers from non-drivers and a new technology distribution strategy that will more effectively engage parents to use the solution.