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Fleet operators use technology to combat distracted driving

Traffic deaths in Kentucky and around the country have risen alarmingly in recent years despite improved road layouts and more sophisticated automobile safety systems, and many safety advocates say that the prolific use of cellphones by motorists and an ensuing surge in distracted driving is chiefly responsible. Distracted drivers rarely take evasive action before crashing, which makes this behavior especially dangerous when heavy commercial vehicles are involved that can be difficult to control even with an alert driver behind the wheel.

Regulations alone do not appear to be solving the problem, and companies that operate fleets of tractor-trailers are now turning to technology firms to help them combat distracted and drowsy driving. The fleet services provider Omnitracs has answered this call by adding a module to their Driving Center that relies on hours of service data to predict potentially dangerous situations. Fleet operators are alerted when their commercial vehicle drivers may be fatigued by hours of stop-and-go traffic or when they begin long shifts after just a few hours of rest.

The data processing firm Zendrive believes that smartphone sensors and data can help to solve the problem, and companies including Cellcontrol have developed applications to make smartphones safer for drivers to use by disabling certain features. Systems that use in-vehicle cameras to monitor drivers and alert them when their posture or eye movements indicate fatigue have also been introduced to prevent truck accidents involving drivers who have fallen asleep behind the wheel.

The technology used to prevent drowsy and distracted driving could also be used by experienced personal injury attorneys to establish negligence in truck or car accident lawsuits. Vehicle data recorders could reveal that no emergency action was taken before a collision, and smartphone data may reveal that truck or passenger vehicle drivers were making phone calls, sending text messages or accessing the internet when they crashed.

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