Your eyes are the key to distracted driving, not your brain


Enlarge (credit: Getty / Aurich Lawson)

The key to avoiding distracted driving is simple, according to new research from MIT: just keep your eyes on the road and look where you’re going. That might sound horribly obvious, given “look where you’re going” is one of the earliest lessons we learn as we become mobile. But this new study reinforcing that lesson was focused on a slightly more complicated question: is the problem with distracted driving one of trying to concentrate on two separate tasks at the same time, or could it be a matter of where your eyes are pointing?

When I learned to drive in the early 1990s, distracted driving wasn’t really on anyone’s minds. But then cellphones became ubiquitous, and smartphones followed, and so texting drivers became another thing we have to watch out for on the roads. It’s not like the auto and tech industries aren’t aware of the problem. Just about every new car sold today provides a way for a driver to connect their phone for hands-free calling. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and MirrorLink all exist to cast certain apps from a smartphone to a car’s infotainment screen.

On top of that, new cars are increasingly packed full of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) that will alert the driver about potential collisions or if the car is drifting out of its lane on the road. Unfortunately, none of that seems to be making much difference. People still use their cellphones when they drive, even if they know it’s bad.

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