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February 27, 2015

UW prof talks about distracted driving

A UW professor to speak at a national distracted driving summit next month.  It’s a major cause of preventable death on the roadways.

UW-Madison industrial and systems engineering professor John Lee will speak about distracted driving, its consequences, and associated trends at a summit scheduled for September. Lee, who also spoke at the first summit, says laws cannot keep pace with technology. “And the variety of distractions that are available now to people, but will be available in the future is so great that it makes legislating distraction away quite difficult.”

Also, he says, common sense needs to play a role. Lee says, however, considering the pressures of multi-tasking, it’s not easy to pay attention to the road and focus on driving. Lee is working with new eye sensor technology that would detect inattentive driving. He says it seems like science fiction, but could soon be reality. “The idea with that technology is to basically help the car understand the state of the driver, and it does that by sensing things like the driver’s eye movements using cameras mounted on the dashboard.”

High-end cars already have similar sensors, and could be relatively common in the next several years. Transportation officials, safety advocates, law enforcement and other experts from around the country will gather in Washington DC to discuss research, technology, policy, public outreach, and enforcement.

NOTE: Research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that in 2008, nearly 6,000 people died and more than half a million were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver. The National Distracted Driving Summit will be held on September 21, 2010, in Washington, DC.

AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 1:48