As many Arizona residents know, texting while driving is an activity that should be avoided. In fact, in 2009 alone, an estimated 448,000 people were injured in car accidents that involved distracted driving. That is in addition to 5,474 people who were killed that year in such accidents, and these statistics may actually understate the true extent of the problem.
One physicist, though, set out to fix the issue. After obtaining a grant from the Department of Energy, the physicist decided to adopt a scientific approach to an issue that the Secretary of Transportation once called a "deadly epidemic." His equation analyzes a text message to detect if the person typing it is driving at the same time.
In a news story, the man compared the technique the equation uses to footprints. No matter how fast or slow people walk, their footprints tend to be steady. But when they are helping someone else walk, such as a toddler, the footprints may be uneven. Similarly, typing while attempting to drive at the same time also has a disturbed rhythm to it that the equation can pick up on.
Currently, the equation is just that: an equation. However, the man hopes it will eventually find its way into cellphones. That way, a program could be installed on the cellphone to either lock it if someone attempts to text and drive or at least display a reminder about the dangers of texting and driving should one try to do so. In that way, it could help prevent a car accident from happening and make Arizona roads safer for everyone.
Source: The Columbian, "Physicist finds way to detect texting behind the wheel," Sue Vorenberg, March 21, 2012