iPhone 6 foot control accessory - SMART Phone Pedal - now under development and slated to go on sale November 2015 promises to reduce driver distraction,

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The SMART Phone Pedal is a floor mounted foot pedal which controls via Bluetooth a windshield mounted iPhone 6 SMART Phone enabling foot control of GPS Apps and in states where its legal - making phone calls and texting.

Millions of words have been written about the dangers of driving whilst using a cellphone. So how dangerous is it to talk hands free on a cellphone?

A number of US states ban drivers under the age of 18 from having speaker or Bluetooth cellphone call; yet a young driver could legally talk to a passenger in the car. How does talking, say on a speaker phone in the car differ from listening to a radio talk show and discussing it with a passenger stack up in terms of distraction? Little difference is the answer.

There is another school of thought; that listening to the radio, and that surely includes talk shows, reduces driver fatigue. Surely talking on the phone without using hands is even more likely to reduce driver fatigue. How many drivers fall asleep at the wheel when they are talking to someone on the phone? Fewer than those who are not engaged in talking to another person whilst driving.

The term distraction, when applied to talking in a vehicle covers such a wide range of circumstances that it is almost meaningless. If a driver is having an argument with a passenger in a vehicle then the driver is likely to be distracted; the same goes for having an argument with someone on a hands free cellphone. Surely it’s not the act of talking that’s the distraction, it’s the content of the conversation.

Recently there was video on YouTube of a Delaware cop singing Taylor Swift songs while on patrol, a video viewed by hundreds of thousands of people. Technically the policeman was engaged in a two way conversation, he was listening to audio and he was also talking (singing to be precise). So was he distracted? Looking at the video from his dash cam I would say he was not distracted; in fact he was happy and alert and waving to other drivers.

The biggest selling point for the cellphone is that its greatest benefit is being able to use it whilst on the move; another reason it is also called a mobile phone. Cellular Phone companies have invested billions of dollars on placing cell phone towers along freeways. Yet its know from the small number of vehicles using HOV lanes for multiple occupancy vehicles that about ninety percent of vehicles cannot and don’t travel in those HOV lanes. Why? Because there is only one person in the car, and that is the driver. So why would AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint spend billions of dollars lining freeways with cell phone towers if ninety percent of the solo drivers were never going to use their cell phones whilst driving.

Make no mistake, the genie is out of the bottle, and the presence of so many solo driver vehicles on freeways lined with cellular towers bears testimony to the fact that cellphone usage by drivers is here to stay. Its human nature for people to want to stay in contact with their office when they are on the road. Imagine if every business person had to switch off their cellphone when they got into their vehicle. It is reasonable to suppose is that there would be a significant dip in the GDP of this great country, caused by the business lost due to banning all cellular phone use whilst driving.

So what about drivers using the GPS app on their cellphone to find their way? They need to look at the cellphone and often listen to the verbal commands to enable them to navigate from point A to point B. Surely this is also a distraction, particularly if the driver needs to touch the GPS screen to change route or seek the nearest coffee shop.

Most people would agree that texting from a vehicle is indeed a big driver distraction, because this usually requires the driver to look down at the phone, and take their eyes off the road; and at 55 miles per hour a car can travel the length of a football field in a matter of seconds. According to US government statistics the chances of having an accident whilst texting are 23 times greater than if a driver was not texting. The issue with typical texting is that drivers have to take their eyes off the road. Even with a windscreen mounted cellphone the driver needs to look at where their finger is being placed on a very small area of screen. The act of having to reach one hand past the steering wheel to touch the cellphone screen severely reduces the driver’s ability to be able to correct the vehicle from drifting into another lane, causing an accident.

Providing the driver can clearly see the road and have both hands on the wheel then the distraction can simply be in their mind, and so it does not necessarily require the driver to be on a cellphone to be distracted. If for example a driver had a steaming row with the wife before leaving home, or just driving home from work after being sacked; the level of distraction caused by thinking about those events might be far greater than if the driver was having a mundane cellphone call with the office. Different people are susceptible to different levels of distraction. There is no one rule that fits all. Until states have the resources to deploy ‘thought police’ then it’s impossible to know how much distraction a person can take before they cause an accident.

Some studies estimate the number of people driving in the US under the influence of drugs to be as high as 20% on a given day. Add to that the number of drunk drivers at certain times of day and you have a high level of drivers who may be distracted for reasons other than using their cellphones.

Cellphone usage whilst driving is the ‘whipping boy’ for a much more root cause for distraction whilst driving. The cause of distraction whilst driving may be due to many factors including bipolar disorder that severely affects approximately 5.5 million Americans age 18 or older, emotional disorders, road rage, eating food, arguing with passengers in the vehicle, blinded by the sun, or the raised headlights of oncoming vehicles, poor weather conditions; even though drivers may have been using a cellphone at the time of an accident.

What distracts drivers and how much they are distracted depends on the mental state of the driver. So for some drivers even listening to a radio talk show can be a distraction. Talking on a cellphone or even to another passenger in a car can be a big distraction for some drivers and not at all for others.

Texting whilst driving is undoubtedly a distraction, particularly in states where it is illegal. In those states drivers may try and hide the cellphone at knee level in an attempt to avoid being seen by a passing cop car. However cellphones mounted on windscreens with GPS apps activated generally appear to be accepted as legal use of cellphones across the country.

When mounted on the windscreen, the cellphone screen is in line of sight with the road ahead and so the driver’s field of vision when using the GPS also includes the road. It is not uncommon for a driver to, for example, touch the GPS screen to turn on or off the audio announcement, accept a suggested traffic detour or seek directions to the nearest coffee shop or gas station. The action of having to focus a finger on a very small section of screen and have the same hand removed from the steering wheel does create a distraction even for GPS usage.

A new patent pending device called a SMART Phone Pedal is slated to go on sale later this year in the US. This device is designed to enable the driver of vehicles with automatic transmission in the US to use the left foot placed on a special pedal on the floor to control all the functions of a SMART Phone. The SMART Phone pedal uses a Bluetooth connection to control the SMART Phone. The first model to go on sale will only operate with the iPhone 6, but control of Android phones is also planned for next year. The benefit of this new invention is that it will enable drivers to keep both hands on the wheel and eyes on the road when interacting with their GPS, dialing a phone number and sending text messages, because their foot will be doing all the work.

The SMART Phone pedal will be available in the last quarter of 2015 through http://www.smartphonepedal.com at $199.00

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vince waterson
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