It is no secret that distracted driving is a dangerous epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), distracted driving results in an average of 1,000 injuries each day across the country.
Now, Maryland lawmakers are contemplating a new strategy to curb distracted driving that, so far, only Australia has adopted.
New cameras designed to catch distracted drivers in the act
Recently, Australia installed the world’s first traffic cameras designed specifically to catch distracted drivers. The artificial intelligence cameras are placed at a high angle to look down into vehicles and catch drivers using their phones or engaging in other distractions. Then those drivers would be issued a ticket.
Some Maryland lawmakers are working to make these changes here as well. Maryland would only be the second location in the world to take these measures against distracted driving. Much like red light cameras, these cameras are designed to catch drivers violating Maryland’s distracted driving laws and prevent these violations in the long run to make the roads safer (Maryland Code, Transportation §21-1124.2).
There is significant pushback against the distracted driving cameras
At the moment, the proposed change has been met with conflicting opinions. Some lawmakers are pushing hard for the program, while other agencies, like AAA and the Montgomery County Council, are still unsure. For example, the Council voted to take no position on the matter, based on concerns including:
- The cameras invading Maryland citizens’ privacy;
- Concerns of racial inequality with the camera’s use; and
- The cost of installing and managing these cameras.
Many of these lawmakers and groups agree that Maryland must take measures to stop distracted driving, but they disagree about how the state should move forward to do so.
So, how can we stop distracted driving?
The CDC reports that most of the prevention efforts against distracted driving happen through laws. The Federal government, as well as Maryland lawmakers, have passed laws banning cellphone use and texting while behind the wheel.
Unfortunately, these laws do not often stop reckless drivers from driving distracted. That means it is up to the drivers themselves to take action and decrease the rate of distracted driving and injuries.
It might be helpful to:
- Turn cellphones off and store them in the back seat, out of reach;
- Program GPS systems before driving; and
- Make sure to avoid visual, manual and cognitive distractions while driving.
We may not know how well the new cameras work to prevent distracted driving. However, we do know that distracted driving is 100% preventable, and staying focused on the road and avoiding distractions is essential to decrease the risk that distracted driving poses to all of us on Maryland roads.