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Police in-vehicle Laptop use and Driver Distraction

Police use of in-vehicle laptops and the related driver distraction has been featured a number of times in this blog.

A recent item on the Today.com website puts this issue in the spotlight again, with increasing evidence of the number of distraction-related accidents where police use of an in-vehicle computer is involved.

It is interesting that the distracted driving issue is now making it into mainstream media such as the Today show. It really starts to bring the problem forward and centre where it should be.

Bryan Vila, a professor at Washington State University in Spokane, is one of the world’s leading experts on distracted police driving. He put Today’s reporter behind the wheel in the driving simulator he uses to monitor officers’ eye movement and reaction time.

Once use of an on-board computer was added to the simulation, the reporter ran off the road. Review showed that his eyes were off the road, looking at the computer screen, for almost four seconds. “That’s enough to cause a hell of an accident,” Vila said.

Some police departments across the country are trying to address the issue in fairly basic ways. In Fort Wayne, Indiana, police officers’ in-car computer won’t allow them to keep typing after going 10 to 15 miles per hour. And in Fort Worth, Texas, officers aren’t allowed to use their computers at all while driving, unless it’s an emergency.

More sophisticated solutions are required however, to allow Police Officers to perform their duties effectively without endangering the lives of other road users.

“We believe that with Blank-it, the solution is already there. Blank-it makes it possible to greatly reduce the interaction with an on-board computer whilst leaving enough there to make it a usable tool for the officer. Blank-it can disable touch-screens or keyboards, keeping audible components active and restricting what is visible when the vehicle is moving  – addressing the major components of driver distraction without reducing officer efficiency.”

Blank-it does all of this from a rugged USB Multi-motion sensor fob that can easily be retro fitted to an existing fleet or incorporated into new installs. The easy to install and configure Blank-it software allows the officer to perform their job but keep their eyes on the road.

Find out more today at Blank-it.com – or contact us on 08 9486 7122 (if calling from outside Australia: +61 8 9486 7122).

 

 

See original article here: http://www.today.com/news/distracted-police-driving-researchers-seek-solution-1D80406085

No charges for Deputy who killed Cyclist while Driving Distracted

deputy-napster-distractionCalifornia prosecutors have decided NOT to file charges against a sheriff’s deputy who struck and killed a prominent entertainment attorney and former Napster executive with his patrol car last year.

Deputy Andrew Wood was reportedly distracted by his mobile digital computer when his patrol car drifted into the bike lane, allegedly typing an email at the time he ran over cyclist Milton Olin Jr.

Prosecutors said in a letter cited by Los Angeles Daily News that because Wood was acting within the course of his duties when typing into his computer, criminal charges are not warranted.

Under current legislation, law enforcement officials are allowed to use electronic wireless devices while carrying out their duties. However – the victim’s family have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Department and accused Wood of negligence and an online petition has been launched on Change.org demanding that charges be brought against the deputy.

While typing an email on his computer, it is alleged that “Wood briefly took his eyes away from the road precisely when the narrow roadway curved slightly to the left without prior warning, causing him to inadvertently travel straight into the bike lane, immediately striking Olin.”

Online stories reporting the decision have prompted many comments demanding that action be taken and/or the law changed e.g. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2736376/Deputy-killed-former-Napster-COO-drifting-bike-lane-distracted-laptop-NOT-face-charges-answering-work-related-email.html

 

This is just the type of situation that Blank-it is designed to prevent

Blank-it has been designed specifically to address the problem of driver distraction caused by in-vehicle computers and laptops. It is easily installed, doesn’t rely on 3rd party input such as GPS, is fully customisable for different working environments and will help businesses conform to distracted driving legislation and OH&S requirements.

Blank-it also makes it possible to disable input from keyboard or touchscreen to prevent this type of incident happening.

Find out more today at Blank-it.com – or contact us on 08 9486 7122 (if calling from outside Australia: +61 8 9486 7122).

Another Police Distraction Related Fatality

A 68-page report released by the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) shows the results of an investigation into a February 2013 fatal crash, and says that the FHP officer involved was distracted by his laptop (Mobile Data Terminal) at the time.

The trooper had been driving an unmarked FHP vehicle on his way to an off-duty security detail when the accident occurred. He was reportedly driving at between 79 to 88 miles per hour when he crashed into the other vehicle, causing it to overturn several times. The occupants of the other vehicle suffered serious injuries to two adult passengers and the death of an unborn child.

The investigation showed that the officer started using his computer at 9:09 p.m., and accessed the FHP computer network via his laptop – opening various programs and accessing msn.com as well as emails. The crash was called in at 9:15 p.m.

The report states:

It is believed that Trooper Reyes was distracted by the laptop computer in his patrol car at the time of the crash also:

Phone records revealed that Trooper Reyes was not on his cellular phone at the time of the crash

The family involved are looking into legal action against FHP.

This is another reminder of the tragic personal cost associated with such accidents, and a warning to all employers about the potential punitive and financial cost of allowing their workers to drive distracted.

As reported on news-press.com and others. Also see previous posts related to this issue, including: Police Distracted Driving Accidents Investigated and Another Police Distraction Accident.

At Blank-it, we know that driver distraction should be a primary area of concern for all drivers and employers, one that has to be addressed through policy, education and the use of technology-based solutions.

Blank-it has been designed specifically to address the problem of driver distraction caused by in-vehicle computers and laptops. It is easily installed, doesn’t rely on 3rd party input such as GPS, is fully customisable for different working environments and will help businesses conform to distracted driving legislation and OH&S requirements.

Police Distracted Driving Accidents Investigated

The “Action News” team have carried out an investigation into the increasing number of distraction related Police crashes and near misses and the video above highlights how serious a problem this has become.

Reporters found that in Missouri alone in 2012, there were at least 35 law enforcement-related crashes that involved some type of technology distraction. That figure could grow because staff members are still entering crash reports into the system from the last few months of the year.

In the majority of the reports, officers said they were looking at their in-car computers before a crash.

Of course, the accuracy of the statistics also depend on the honesty of the officers involved in the crashes. If an officer fails to mention that they were distracted when involved in an incident, it wouldn’t be recorded in the database as a distraction-related crash.

This issue is of vital importance to Police and emergency services everywhere (along with other public utilities) whose drivers and crews rely heavily on computer access in the vehicle as an integral part of their jobs. Computer related distraction in the vehicle is a growing problem, and one that won’t go away.

The only sensible way to address the issue is through technology, and Blank-IT provides the best of breed solution for any mobile workforce.

 

See other posts relating to Police and Emergency Responder accidents caused by computer related distraction.

See original article from Action News.

 

Another Police Distracted Driving Accident

The Province of British Columbia reports on another distraction related accident involving a Police Officer using an on-board computer, this time resulting in a fatality.

An inquest heard that a police cruiser driven by a Surrey RCMP Constable was being driven at about 90 kilometres per hour but had not activated his lights or siren when he hit a pedestrian, who was jaywalking.

Expert testimony stated:

“the car was at a high acceleration rate” just seconds before the crash, according to recorded GPS and mechanical data, with the gas pedal “very close to the floor.”

The officer had also apparently received a potentially distracting message over his mobile data terminal (police laptop) just seconds before the impact. He was rushing to respond to a broadcast report of a stolen vehicle at the time of the crash.

The weather, road conditions or mechanical issues were not believed to be factors, as it was cold but clear with no ice, and the car was in good working condition.

Inquest counsel Roderick MacKenzie cited an ICBC report that stated there had been at least 16 pedestrian-vehicle incidents and three fatalities on that stretch of King George near the Skytrain, remarking that an officer in Surrey should have been alert to the pedestrian jaywalking risk in that area.

Sgt. Curtis Burks, third on scene, testified that Luk had made a spontaneous admission to him at the scene, saying:

“High rate of speed … Looked at MDT … Didn’t see anyone crossing the road.”

Another reminder of the dangers of even momentary driver distraction.

Read more: here

 

Blank-IT and Distracted Driving Updates – Nov 2012

In this month’s update: more news on distracted driving by Police officers and how Police Departments are trying to address it, plus some exciting news from Blank-IT.

Another NBC TV investigation into Police Distracted Driving

NBC TV ran another piece on accidents caused by Police officers driving while distracted, with an emphasis on the use of computers while driving. Contains some footage of incidents.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

See the original article here.

Fort Worth PD implements Distracted Driving Policy

Following on from the video above, NBC Dallas/Fort Worth reports that the fort Worth Police Department has introduced a Distracted Driving Policy which stipulates that officers pull over before using  their in-vehicle computer.

At Blank-IT, we believe that policies alone are not effective and that technology is also required to fully address the issue of in-car computer use. This is particularly important in the case of emergency responders where time can be a critical factor.

See the original article here.

Blank-IT granted Innovation Patent

We are pleased to confirm that Blank-IT has been granted an Australian Innovation patent.. This type of patent recognises the innovative features of our product, and together with our EMC/C-Tick certification, gives our clients assurance that we are committed to developing and promoting use of Blank-IT as a world-leader in distraction solutions – the most effective and flexible answer to in-car computer distraction.

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Blank-IT has been designed specifically to address the problem of driver distraction caused by in-vehicle computers and laptops. It is easily installed, doesn’t rely on 3rd party input such as GPS, is fully customisable for different working environments and will help businesses conform with distracted driving legislation and OH&S requirements.

Police Use of Computers in Cars Highlighted on NBC Program

We have posted previously about a legal case involving a Texas Police Officer causing a serious accident while using his in-car computer.

Now the NBC TV network has followed up on this and similar cases to highlight the on-going danger presented by in-vehicle computer use by law enforcement officials.

This video clip of the segment shows dramatic footage of the accident discussed in our earlier post – and on it the officer can clearly be heard stating that he was using his in-vehicle computer at the time of the crash.

A search of Texas state accident reports reveals at least 70 crashes in just 24 months where some kind of distraction inside an emergency vehicle contributed to the wreck — an average of almost three crashes per month. Those are just the crashes that involved enough property damage or injury that they had to be reported to the state.

Kevin Navarro, a top driving instructor at the Dallas Police Department and a leader of ALERT International, a national organization of police trainers, said officers have more to deal with inside their vehicles than ever before.

Officers sometimes forget the dangers because they’ve become so used to juggling radios, phones and computers that give important information and fast communication with dispatchers, he said.

“We get very complacent. We know it’s dangerous, but when we do it several times, over and over again, and it comes out positive, we think we’re good at it, and we’re really not.”

NBC 5 Investigates also uncovered video from a crash in February when a Tarrant County sheriff’s deputy ran a red light, injuring a woman in a sport utility vehicle while he was reading a message on his computer.

Tarrant County’s policy states:

“Other than one-button responses to indicate an employee is en route to, has arrived at, or is clearing a scene, typing messages on the MCT while the vehicle is being operated is prohibited”.

NBC 5 Investigates requested to review the policies of many of the largest police departments in the Metroplex. The search revealed many police departments do not have policies to prevent officer distracted driving.

For example, the Arlington Police Department still allows officers to text or type on computers while the car is moving, even though Arlington is the only North Texas city that prohibits citizens from texting and driving.

While driving through Arlington, NBC 5 Investigates saw officers typing and reading messages while the car was moving. One Arlington police officer could be seen on video rolling down busy Collins Street, his attention divided between the screen and the road.

As we have stated in previous posts, having no Policy is very bad, but even a written policy may not protect employers from legal action – the Policy HAS to be enforced.

Austin PD came to a financial settlement with the motorcycle rider featured in the video. but as we have reported  before, employers are more and more likely to be the subject of litigation where distracted driving is involved.

 

 

Blank-IT has been designed specifically to address the problem of driver distraction caused by in-vehicle computers and laptops. It is easily installed, doesn’t rely on 3rd party input such as GPS, is fully customisable for different working environments and will help businesses conform with distracted driving legislation and OH&S requirements.

 

Research Reveals Cost of in-car Laptop Use by Police

Typically, Distracted Driving campaigns are aimed at young drivers and/or the problems of texting and cellphone use.

At Blank-IT, our focus is on the dangers of laptop & computer use by drivers, usage that presents ALL of the factors that contribute most to driver distraction (visual, cognitive and physical).

University researchers in Minnesota have conducted a study of the causes and costs of traffic accidents involving Minnesota police vehicles, and their findings highlight the frequency and seriousness of distraction related incidents involving in-car technology.

Police vehicles are generally well-equipped with technology to address officer’s requirements – but as the need for mobile workers to ‘remain connected’ increases such technology can be found in all types of vehicles: emergency services, Utilities, Truck Drivers, forklift trucks as well as normal road and site vehicles.

The study covered 378 incidents involving Police vehicles over a period of 4 years. Researchers found that 14% of these accidents involved driver distraction. Whilst 6% of the accidents involved police officers being distracted by use of their in-vehicle computers, those accidents accounted for a whopping 22% of damages (as measured by the insurance related costs).

Of the accidents covered by this research, drivers distracted by their computers cost $11,300 per incident, as opposed to non-distracted drivers, who cost just $3,700 per incident.

We should also bear in mind that in nearly half the accidents, it was unclear from the Police reports whether or not distraction was a factor, leading researchers to question if an ‘internal culture’ in the Police service was leading to skewing or under-reporting of the true figures, perhaps because Officers didn’t wish to expose themselves to disciplinary action.

Distracted Driving policies vary between Police departments across the country, but many (as in the subjects of this study) do not have a written distracted driving policy, nor could they always afford to have more than one officer in a patrol car. While officer training is provided, such reliance on individual officers to voluntarily follow those guidelines can only lead to problems.

We believe that strong Distracted Driving policies must be created and enforced for ANY organisation with a mobile workforce – and the only practical way to enforce such policies is through technology like Blank-IT.

 

Blank-IT has been designed specifically to address the problem of driver distraction caused by in-vehicle computers and laptops. It is easily installed, doesn’t rely on 3rd party input such as GPS, is fully customisable for different working environments and will help businesses conform with distracted driving legislation and OH&S requirements.

 

 

Lawsuit Highlights Dangers of Computer Use in Cars

Use of in-car computers and Employer Liability

A lawsuit in the United States highlights the potential for employers and manufacturers to be held liable for incidents involving workers who operate laptops and computers in company vehicles.

The legal action relates to an incident in Austin, Texas. A police officer diverted his attention from driving to enter information into an onboard laptop computer. The officer’s inattention allegedly caused an accident that led to serious injury for the motorcycle rider.

using laptop in carThe police vehicle failed to yield the right of way, ran a stop sign, and collided with a motorcycle in an intersection. The rider of the motorcycle nearly lost a leg and endured twelve operations.

Despite extensive physical therapy, he has since struggled to learn to walk again, suffers from horrible disfigurement to his leg and back and is unable to leave the house unattended.

The officer was driving a police department vehicle with an on-board laptop computer running software for record-keeping and sending text messages. Neither the computer or the software system had a built-in mechanism to block usage of the computer by an officer who was also driving.

According to the attorney behind this case, the Mobile Data Computer used by the Austin police resulted in the officer’s eyes being drawn away from the road for up to four out of every six seconds.

The attorney cites the incident as being a result of both policy and technological failures i.e.

  • It was departmental policy to install the onboard computers & software and to encourage officers to use them while driving
  • It was departmental policy to seek an exemption for its officers from Austin’s ordinance against texting while driving
  • There should have been a built-in ability to disable an officer’s on-board computer when he or she is driving

Austin attorney Len Gabbay has included both the Austin Police Department and the makers and sellers of the Mobile Data Computer in his lawsuit seeking compensation for the motorcycle rider’s life-altering injuries.

Cases such as this should press home to employers that it is CRITICAL that they:

  • devise policies to ensure that computer use within vehicles is managed correctly, and
  • implement technology to enable the effective enforcement of such policies

About Blank-IT:

Blank-IT is designed specifically to address the problem of driver distraction and use of in-car and in-cab computers and laptops. It is easily installed, doesn’t rely on 3rd party input such as GPS, is fully customisable for different working environments and will help your company and vehicle fleet conform with distracted driving legislation.

We also work closely with mounting system manufacturers such as Tempus to provide you with complete solutions to any in-vehicle display management requirement.

Find out more today at Blank-IT – or contact us on 08 9486 7122 (if calling from outside Australia: +61 8 9486 7122).

Original Source:  http://www.lbglaw.com/CM/Custom/Austin-Distracted-Driving-Case-Calls-Attention-to-Police-Officers-and-Their-Computers.asp