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New technologies such as lane departure warning, forward collision warning, and autonomous braking hold promise for reducing crashes among drivers who are inattentive (IIHS, 2012, 2014). Such technologies, once available only in luxury brands, are now offered in many new vehicles. Additionally, in-vehicle technology in the future may be able to detect driver distraction by monitoring driver performance and then alerting drivers (Aghaei et al., 2016; Donmez et al., 2007; Koesdwiady et al., 2016; Kuo et al., 2019). On the other hand, built-in technologies such as navigation and entertainment systems in vehicles may create more potential distractions (Strayer et al., 2017). NHTSA developed Visual-Manual Driver Distraction Guidelines for In-Vehicle Electronic Devices pertaining to original equipment in-vehicle electronic devices (Visual-manual NHTSA driver distraction guidelines for in-vehicle electronic devices, 2013). Although voluntary, the Guidelines encourage automobile manufacturers to design in-vehicle devices so that potentially distracting tasks are limited while driving.

Many smartphone applications are able to restrict or limit access to electronic devices while driving, such as the “Do Not Disturb While Driving” or “Driving Focus” feature for iPhone. Incoming calls, texts, and notifications are silenced when the vehicle is in motion. Research shows this type of “blocking” technology reduces the number of interactions drivers have with their phones (Albert & Lotan, 2019). However, these apps are voluntary and must be activated by users. A nationally representative survey of 800 iPhone owners conducted by the IIHS found that only 1 in 5 had the feature set to activate automatically when they drive (Reagan & Cicchino, 2020). Surveys suggest that while some drivers may be willing to block visual/manual interactions with a phone while driving (e.g., texting and browsing), they want to retain the ability to use navigation, listen to music, and use Bluetooth (Oviedo-Trespalacios et al., 2019).

Another growing safety concern is distraction among pedestrians who are using electronic devices in the roadway environment. A literature review from NHTSA found that, based on the limited available research, distraction is associated with a small, but statistically significant decrease in pedestrian safety (Scopatz & Zhou, 2016). This issue is discussed in more detail in the chapter on Pedestrian Safety.