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Can we cut distracted driver-related vehicle crashes to a minimum?

One tech company has an answer: A reliable, undistracted, second pair of eyes on the road


Sponsored by Mobileye

By Yoona Ha, PoliceOne BrandFocus Staff

Over the past few decades, hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on initiatives designed to warn drivers of the dangers of driving. Despite all that, traffic fatalities are still at a troublesome high.

The reality is that today we live in a world where there are more opportunities for distraction on the road. (image/iStock)
The reality is that today we live in a world where there are more opportunities for distraction on the road. (image/iStock)

The National Safety Council, a nonprofit that works closely with federal auto safety regulators, revealed that close to 40,000 people were killed in roadway and highway-related incidents over the past three years. Among those victims are law enforcement officers, who also struggle with traffic-related accidents, which are the leading cause of death among officers.

Numbers from the FBI and the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund bear grim news that more officers are dying on roads and highways than in years past, and the consistent uptick has made reducing the rate of on-duty deaths a high priority for police leaders everywhere. So where does a police chief begin with these facts in mind?

Occupational distractions

The reality is that today we live in a world where there are more opportunities for distraction on the road. What makes matters more challenging is that police officers must consider cognitive distractions (such as needing to be on the lookout for law violations on the road while driving) and visual distractions (such as checking the radar and on-board computer for more information).

This hasn’t changed since 2013, when Kevin Navarro, a driving instructor and police leader of ALERT International, warned that, “Officers sometimes forget the dangers because they’ve become so used to juggling radios, phones and computers that give important information.”

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration advises that drivers should never take their eyes off the road for more than two seconds – but how is an officer to keep his or her eyes on the road, look out for suspicious behavior and manage the various devices inside of a patrol car?

Mobileye has an answer: Why not implement a collision avoidance system in your patrol fleet that will act as a second set of eyes for officers on the road?

A second set of eyes on the road: How it works

Mobileye designed and adapted the collision avoidance system, known as the Mobileye 6 Series, specifically with law enforcement needs in mind. Sometimes law enforcement officers find themselves spontaneously pursuit drive when the situation calls for it. Unlike other collision avoidance systems, the system offers a pursuit mode that silences non-critical alerts for drivers so there isn’t an unnecessary distraction.

The Mobileye 6 Series also doesn’t collect or save any data, plus the system can be easily installed inside of any police cruiser with windshield wipers. Mobileye’s collision avoidance system can be retrofitted to vehicles already in your fleet. In addition, a huge upside for departments is that there’s a minimal learning curve involved to use the system, which lifts the training burden departments often have to face when they choose to leverage a new technology.

Travis Sanders, southeast regional sales manager for Mobileye, explains that the system watches the road on behalf of cops by scanning ahead for potentially dangerous situations and alerting the officer to act and mitigate the danger.

The collision avoidance technology issues five different audio and visual alerts:

 

 

Lane-departure warnings: When an officer departs his lane without a turn signal on, Mobileye issues a lane departure warning. A recent study found that if all U.S. cars in 2015 were equipped with lane-departure warning systems, it could prevent nearly 85,000 crashes and more than 55,000 injuries.

 

 

Headway monitoring warnings: These warnings help drivers maintain a safe following distance between the vehicles ahead of them to help officers keep a safe distance to stop if the vehicle ahead of them comes to an abrupt halt.

 

 

Forward collision warnings: Mobileye’s system scans the area in front of the police vehicle to detect all kinds of vehicles (including motorcycles). With rear-end collisions so common (from 2012 to 2014 almost half of two-vehicle crashes were rear-end collisions), this alert  is issued when the system detects an imminent rear-end collision.  It will provide up to 2.7 seconds of early warning for the officer, thus giving them additional time to react to the situation.   Also available in urban environments, at speeds below 19 miles per hour.

 

 

Pedestrian and cyclist detection warnings: Mobileye’s collision avoidance technology works during daytime to alert the driver of a possible collision through audio and visual alerts. The early alert gives the officer enough time to take corrective action and avoid or mitigate a collision.

 

 

Speed limit indicator: Going above the speed limit can be dangerous for drivers. Mobileye’s speed limit indicator is a smart detection system that keeps the driver aware of the speed limits while on the road. The driver is notified by a visual alert if he or she is exceeding the speed limit signs along the route.

Keeping officers safe and focused on the road

“Mobileye’s system issues proactive alerts during the most critical moments that lead up to a crash,” said Sanders. “The average return on investment, including significantly lower car accident rates, is seen under 12 months.”

Police departments across the nation, like the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in Florida, are already using patrol cars outfitted with Mobileye’s collision avoidance system, and Mobileye helps fleet managers configure the system to meet their officers’ needs.

“One memorable moment for me was an officer from the Florida Sheriff’s Association sharing an email from his colleague that said, ‘If it were not for Mobileye’s system, I would have rear-ended this car doing 60 miles per hour,” Sanders said. “It’s feedback of all forms that help us address real-life scenarios that can mean life or death.”

Down the road, as more distractions are added and the complexity of in-car patrol gadgets increases, even the most experienced drivers may find themselves at risk of a vehicle collision. The good news is that officers can now take a proactive stance to tackle the problem of vehicle collision-related deaths and injuries by using systems that act as a second pair of undistracted eyes.

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