In-Car Advertising: Is Distracted Driving About to Get Much Worse?

In-Car Advertising: Is Distracted Driving About to Get Much Worse?

Photo Credit: Ford

The Ford Motor Company® recently patented technology that supports in-car advertising. The technology, which is not yet in use, is a billboard detector that can read ads and display them inside a moving vehicle.

This invention may mean good things for advertisers as it presents a new way to reach potential customers. However, the same cannot be said for drivers, who will now have to contend with yet another distraction while driving.

Distracted driving is already a significant problem in the United States. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving claimed more than 3,000 lives on American roads in 2019 alone.

And it is not only drivers who pay the price for distracted driving. Passengers and pedestrians are also at risk of serious bodily injury or death in accidents that involve distracted or inattentive driving.

What exactly is distracted driving?

Most drivers think that distracted driving involves complicated activities that take the driver’s eyes off the road or their hands off the wheel for an extended period of time – tasks like applying makeup while driving or typing an address into a GPS. However, driver distractions can take many forms and simply involve anything that takes a driver’s attention away from the task at hand even for just a moment. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), driver distractions typically fall into three primary categories:

  • Visual – Visual distractions involve anything that takes the driver’s eyes off the road. This can be as simple as glancing at the radio, a passenger, or a GPS.
  • Manual – Manual distractions include activities that require the driver to take one or both hands off the wheel. Changing the radio station, adjusting your mirrors, grabbing food, opening a stick of gum, or even gesturing with one’s hands while talking are all examples of manual distractions.
  • Cognitive – Cognitive distractions encompass any type of distraction that takes a driver’s mind off of driving. A driver who is cognitively distracted may be caught up in thoughts about a work or personal issue. They may be listening to a passenger tell a story and thinking about that. Or, they could even be attempting to referee an argument between passengers – this is an issue parents often face when transporting their children. Any of these scenarios constitutes a cognitive distraction that puts the driver and everyone in the vehicle – as well as others on the road – at increased danger.

Most drivers are guilty of doing most, if not all, of these things without driving. In fact, some of these activities have become second nature, to the point where drivers do not even consider them to be distracting. The CDC, however, disagrees. And with approximately eight people in the United States dying each day in car accidents that reportedly involve a distracted driver, it seems the CDC is right.

Of course, there is one risk factor that can fit into each of the above categories: technology.

Technology – a double-edged sword

Technology has improved our lives in so many ways. Depending on the type of technology and its purpose, it can help make us safer, more efficient, healthier, and better communicators.

Innovative technology has brought us myriad vehicle safety features over the years, from the now standard safety belts, front air bags and electronic stabilizing system, to the more recent side-curtain airbags, backup cameras and adaptive headlights. Technology is also to thank for new features like the blind spot monitoring system, forward collision warning system, and lane departure warning system that are becoming prevalent in luxury vehicles and may eventually become standard on most passenger vehicles in the future. Each of these features uses advanced technology to assist drivers in operating their vehicle safely and to help them avoid collisions. These features help to prevent – or correct – driver error caused by inattentive or distracted driving. Safety is their primary purpose.

However, the same cannot always be said for other types of technology.

Why mobile phones make driving dangerous

Mobile phones are arguably one of the biggest contributors to distracted driving. They tick the boxes of all three of the CDC’s categories of distracted driving, including visual, manual, and cognitive. Texting is the most significant distraction as it takes the driver’s eyes off the road and hands off the wheel – and their mind off driving. Phone calls are not much safer. Manually dialing a number or selecting a contact from a list of contacts are also distracting, as is simply talking on the phone while driving.

Of course, few would argue that mobile phones do not have numerous benefits – even for driving. They make it easy to stay in close contact with friends and loved ones. They are typically equipped with GPS, helping us to easily – and efficiently – arrive at our destinations. They also provide a vital lifeline in dangerous situations, enabling us to call for help when we really need it.

However, a cell phone in the hands of any driver – even an experienced motorist – can be deadly. The danger only increases when the driver is a teen. According to an April 2020 report by the NHTSA, among drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2018, those who were between the ages of 15 and 19 were more likely to be distracted than drivers age 20 or older. Cell phones are often a factor.

Distracted driving is dangerous at any age

Regardless of age, it only takes a momentary distraction to cause a serious accident. A driver who is distracted may cause an accident or be unable to avoid one because their attention was on something other than the road and the vehicles around them.

The addition of in-car advertising will only exacerbate this problem. If a car reads billboards and then displays those billboard ads and messages in the car it will certainly be a dangerous distraction. It could even startle a driver who perhaps did not notice they were even passing a billboard. In either scenario, the driver may take their eyes off the road and that moment of distraction could result in an accident.

With so many accidents already caused by distracted or inattentive driving, billboard reading technology is likely to make our roads even more dangerous. Thankfully, the implementation of this technology is still a ways off for any vehicle, but especially as a standard feature in the average car.

If you or a loved one have been involved in a motor vehicle accident caused by a distracted driver, Phelan Petty can help. Our experienced Richmond personal injury lawyers represent victims in car, truck and motorcycle accidents throughout Virginia. To schedule a free consultation, call us in Richmond at 804-980-7100 or fill out the contact form.