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The best way to eliminate driver distractions in a smartphone age

Data is collected and sent to the MotionIQ Dashboard, where fleet managers can easily track driver performance and be alerted of any use of a smartphone — even “rogue” devices in the vehicle such as a spare phone or that of a passenger will be detected by its patent-pending technology. Image: Motion Intelligence

Motor carriers have tried everything to curb distracted driving-related accidents, from embracing hands-free solutions with phone mounts to even installing driver-facing cameras. However, the urge to check one’s phone proves too strong for some drivers, regardless of the “solution.”

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, if you are driving 55 mph and take your eyes off the road for five seconds to send a text message, you have traveled the length of a football field without looking at the road.

The fact is, a big rig demands the full attention of its driver — anything less is unacceptable. 

One Colorado-based technology company has developed a fleet-safety solution that prevents distractions before they happen. Motion Intelligence vastly diminishes mobile device distractions and reports noncompliance.

The urge to let one’s eyes stray from the road subsides as Motion Intelligence limits phone functionality while the vehicle is in motion. This sharply reduces the opportunities for phone-related crashes.

C.J. Meurell, Motion Intelligence’s co-founder and chief revenue officer, doesn’t beat around the bush about distracted driving. He blames it squarely on society’s technology addiction, which has become so normalized that he said we tend to forget just how much of our lives revolve around screens. 

“You and I are addicted to our phones, some of us more so than others, but we look at our phones at least 50 times a day,” Meurell said. “Our mobile devices have become a technology addiction.”

The best way to break an addiction in this case is to eliminate the behavior entirely. Motion Intelligence achieves this through the use of a smartphone app called Evvy and a credit card-sized signaling device placed in vehicles.

“Distracted driving is caused by an addiction to our mobile devices, especially while we are driving,” Meurell said. “The Evvy app eliminates the mobile device addiction by keeping the driver limited to hands-free calls and access to a navigation and music or podcast apps during the drive. The recent addition of the Evvy Scoring and Rewards program gives drivers a score based on their safe-driving performance and a platform for managers to reward their drivers for improving their driving scores. This motivates a driver to do well while eliminating bad behavior.”

Once the vehicle hits the road, the Evvy app takes control of the driver’s phone, preventing other mobile apps from being opened. The platform restricts social media, entertainment and texting apps. Access to the entire phone only becomes available when the vehicle remains stationary for at least 60 to 90 seconds, ensuring that it’s truly off the road.

“Drivers can still listen to their podcasts and playlists, but they have to play them before they start driving,” Meurell said. “Your country music or Carl Sagan podcasts will continue to play, but if you want to change the channel or change the volume, unless you can do it hands-free, you’ll actually have to pull over and let your phone unlock after 60 seconds.”

Depending on each user’s policy, fleets can opt for features such as one-button calls, the ability to limit whom drivers can call and whom they can receive calls from, as well as allow for the use of only critical workflow apps. Emergency calls can always be made from drivers’ mobile devices.

Motion Intelligence attributes 1.6 million accidents each year to distracted driving, which ends nine lives every day. Such accidents have increased dramatically over the past decade, as insurance penalties rose 10,000% between 2011 and 2018 — incidentally, coinciding with the rise of the smartphone era.

Meurell is worried the trend will only continue. As the industry pushes more and more for younger drivers — the age demographic most prone to smartphone distractions — he urges fleets to take proactive measures.

“Up to their mid-30s, accident rates are three times greater in that age range than that of drivers in their late 30s through retirement age,” Meurell said.

Evvy also keeps fleet managers up to date on any irregularities happening within the cab. Each vehicle equipped with an Evvy signaling device tracks drivers in real time. 

Data is collected and sent to the MotionIQ Dashboard, where fleet managers can easily track driver performance and be alerted of any use of a smartphone — even “rogue” devices in the vehicle such as a spare phone or that of a passenger will be detected by its patent-pending technology.

“We can tell the approximate distance from wherever the driver’s official phone is with our software on it; that’s what we’re using to look for other devices in the cab,” Meurell said. “If we find a [rogue] device, it’s reported to the fleet dashboard. “We’ll take a GPS snapshot of where the vehicle was at the time, the date and time, the driver’s name, and the device type that we found.”

However, Motion Intelligence will never ask for nor capture personal information from any user’s device.

Meurell says Evvy is far superior to driver-facing cameras because of its less intrusive nature. He said that cameras can make drivers paranoid and that cameras’ unintuitive technology only records bad behavior instead of curbing it on the spot. Comparisons can be made to the ineffectiveness of security cameras in preventing crimes. 

“Even if I put a camera in the vehicle, it’s not going to change the behavior of the driver,” Meurell said, explaining how drivers can become comfortable in its presence. “They forget about the camera and their technology addiction rises yet again … causing them to do something ill advised even though there’s a camera in the vehicle.”

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Jack Glenn

Jack Glenn is a sponsored content writer for FreightWaves and lives in Chattanooga, TN with his golden retriever, Beau. He is a graduate of the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business.