Roadways can be a dangerous mix of poorly lit roads, distracted or intoxicated drivers, long-distance truckers sometimes suffering sleep deprivation, etc. Traffic fatalities have long been a major cause of death in developed countries. In recent years, technological innovation has enabled authorities to better ensure optimal road safety. Here are a few ways that technology has transformed transportation.
Global Positioning Systems
Several apps perform the role of navigator for drivers, leaving them to focus only on the road. The most well-known example is Google Maps, which has easily accessible, user-friendly navigation features. Nearly every roadway, from interstate highways to tiny residential streets, is recognized by Google. The GPS in a smartphone tracks the device’s location in real-time, allowing the app to steer the user in the right direction.
Reducing Drunk Driving
The breathalyzer made a huge difference in detecting and prosecuting DUI starting in the 20th century. Law enforcement officials have successfully investigated and subsequently prosecuted scores of drunk drivers using this handheld device. The breathalyzer works by detecting alcohol on the breath, which approximates the blood alcohol content (BAC) of the drunk driving suspect. Those who test higher than .08%, the legal limit in most states, are then arrested for drunk driving.
Cell phones revolutionized human communication, allowing unprecedented interconnectivity over long distances. No longer was it necessary to speak across landlines anchored to a specific location like an office phone or a house phone. Soon people began talking and driving simultaneously. The necessity to use at least one hand to hold a phone led to many road accidents. Recently, lawmakers in many states have passed legislation to fix the issue, mandating that all cell phones and other devices be “hands-free”. A hands-free device frees up both hands for the driver to use for driving, and help reduce driving stress.
Cameras set up on major roadways and at major intersections help law enforcement agencies patrol traffic remotely without the use of overstretched human resources. Many cities have implemented these cameras to monitor and record traffic violations such as running red lights. Data has indicated the accidents decrease at locations that have installed highly visible traffic cameras.
Moving into the future, changes to road safety will increase exponentially as developers harness the power of artificial intelligence. Thoughtfully designed self-driving cars, which would be significantly less accident-prone than humans, perhaps represent the next big leap forward for road safety.