A report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety advocates for employing roadside cameras to assess driver cellphone use on the road and to ultimately enforce laws against the practice.
The nonprofit organization points out that a local program in Australia was started four years ago for monitoring cellphone use via fixed and mobile roadside cameras.
It says that the cameras, combined with vehicle telematics, could better examine driver cellphone use's effects in crashes.
IIHS said analysis of photos the cameras take is nearly as effective as live human monitors stationed at intersections. The group conducts the intersection observations for several weeks each summer.
IIHS President David Harkey said in a press release about two studies on the issue that using new technologies could improve “our understanding of how cellphones affect crash risk.”
Currently in the U.S., studies of driver cellphone use are limited to the annual human monitoring and video of drivers who allow their driving to be recorded by a camera inside their vehicle over a period of time, IIHS says. The latter is limited, it says, and represents too small of a sample to be generalized to all drivers. Actual crashes reveal little more, it says, because drivers who might have been using their phones while in motion tend not to reveal that to police.
The group says cameras could be mounted along freeways, where it’s unsafe to station human monitors.
“Despite some growing pains, many jurisdictions have demonstrated that safety cameras can be an effective tool to reduce speeding and red light running,” Harkey said. “Potentially, they could save additional lives by helping to curb cellphone distraction.”
Meanwhile, safe-driver cellphone applications used by auto insurers to reward drivers for safe-driving habits, offer an even broader collection of phone-use data, IIHS said.