Director Werner Herzog recently produced a powerful documentary on texting and driving. We’ve reported on that topic before, and watching the video reiterates how dangerous it really is … and how devastating the effects can be.

But there’s more to distracted driving than just texting. From phone calls to GPS maps, technology always seems to be vying for our attention behind the wheel. Yet, as surprising as it sounds, tech can also be a big part of the solution.

Here are some exciting new innovations that can help drivers stay more focused and alert.

Less distracting GPS

Having recently completed a 3,500-mile road trip guided almost exclusively by Google Maps, I appreciate the value of having GPS on my smartphone. But I also realize the danger of looking down at my screen every few minutes to make sure I’m heading the right way.

A new head-up display (HUD) from the makers of the Garmin navigation app eliminates the need to keep glancing down. This portable device, which attaches to your smartphone, projects directional arrows and distances onto a transparent film on your windshield. The brightness adjusts automatically, so the device can be used day or night. Voice prompts are also available.

Drowsiness detection

Not all inattentive driving is due to distractions — nodding off causes accidents too. In fact, falling asleep at the wheel causes over 100,000 accidents each year in the U.S. To combat driver drowsiness, the University of Leicester (UK) has developed a breakthrough technology combining high-speed infrared cameras that track eye movement along with an electroencephalograph (EEG) that precisely measures brain activity. When collected simultaneously, this data can tell when a driver is getting sleepy.

In the future, this technology could be built into vehicles, unobtrusively monitoring drivers and alerting them when they show signs of fatigue (such as erratic eye movements and brain patterns consistent with sleepiness). Loud beeps or other signals would let you know it’s time to stop for coffee, trade seats with your passenger, or maybe pull over for a power nap.

Keep your teens from texting

At Esurance, we know teens tend to underestimate the dangers of risky behavior, so when it comes to cutting out texting and driving (and other less-than-safe driving habits), they might need a little help.

As a part of our teen driver safety program, Esurance will soon offer customers Esurance DriveSafe™, a state-of-the-art tech solution that monitors driving behavior like speeding, hard braking, or turning too aggressively and provides customized reports on how safely your kids are driving. You can then use the reports to coach your teen on safe driving habits. The device also restricts cell phone use while driving — when the car is in motion, this device prevents your teen from texting, calling, or surfing the web*.

We’ll be making an official announcement about this exciting new technology in the upcoming months, so keep an eye out!

So is tech a friend or foe?

I think most of us would agree that tech is a necessary part of our lives. The issue isn’t texting or calling — it’s doing those things behind the wheel. But, as long as there are innovators willing to tackle the problem and drivers willing to seek out solutions, we don’t have to choose between being safe and staying connected.

Have you discovered any apps or techniques that help with distracted driving? Share your tips or suggestions below.

Related links

Watch Werner Herzog’s documentary, From One Second to the Next

Find out more about distracted driving:
Distracted Driving Facts and Solutions
Driving with Glass: Possibilities and Pitfalls

* This functionality is available only on Android™, Blackberry®, Windows® and newer feature phones. iPhone® users will get a reminder not to text while driving and parents will receive notifications about their teen’s iPhone use while driving.

Safe and smart | Smart technology


about Ellen

Ellen has spent many years as a professional wordsmith, helping to shed light on such topics as world travel, cargo pants, and the porosity of bath tiles. As a freelance copywriter for Esurance, she brings her boundless curiosity to the world of insurance. Outside work, she can be found cheering on the San Francisco Giants, hiking in the Oakland hills, and (barely) resisting smuggling penguins home from Antarctica.