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.



Toughbook vs Snowmobile

Thought we’d post this cool little video showing just how tough the Panasonic Toughbook can be. It shows a CF-19 model being strapped behind a snowmobile and then taken on a bumpy ride through the forest.

Watch and enjoy. At Blank-IT and Expedio we recommend the Panasonic Toughbook range for use in just about any working environment, no matter how tough the conditions. You can request a quote now.

Mounting a Phone on Your Steering Wheel – Not Smart

Continuing our occasional series of in-car mounting devices that we don’t recommend.

Now someone is marketing a device that allows you to STRAP your phone or smartphone to the steering wheel of your car. Really.

An elasticated strap attaches to the top of your steering wheel and you slot the phone into it so that is permanently visible i.e distracting, encouraging use of the device while driving, and potentially blocking view of gauges.

Their website mentions that use of bluetooth is recommended, and cautions against use of phones while driving – but why on earth make available a device that could encourage potentially dangerous driving behaviour, given the growing acceptance of the dangers of distracted driving?

On top of the potential encouragement to drive while distracted, how about the possibility that the device will hide the instrument gauges? What happens to your phone (and the driver) if the air-bag deploys? What if people see this device and decide to throw together their own home-made version?

What we need is technology that can help reduce deaths from distracted driving, not ill-thought out devices that could encourage the practice. We have deliberately decided not to name or publish a link to this product’s website.

Update: 2011-08-16 – also see this post:


At Blank-IT we encourage complete concentration on your driving and we advocate minimal distraction whilst driving. Blank-IT – the in-vehicle computing solution – is designed to work with Windows based laptops, tablets and computers and we recommend professional, safe and secure laptop mounts.

Find out more at

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:

Distracted Driving Crackdowns Target Use of Electronic Devices

During the National Distracted Driving Awareness month of April, Police across the United States are carrying out a number of “zero tolerance” exercises aimed at picking up drivers ignoring Distracted Driving legislation.

While much of the public focus has been aimed at cellphone use, it is important to note that much of the current Distracted Driving laws also prohibit the use of electronic devices and visual displays whilst driving.

Three examples of the use of such technology in cars – picked from the news archives this morning (the numbers do NOT include cellphone users): Read more

Stop Surfing in Your Car – Get to the Beach

Are you spending too much time being distracted as you’re surfing the net with your electronic media?  Do you have a screen in your vehicle that you can see when  you are driving?  If the answer to these questions is yes, read on and turn off your distractions.

An interesting piece on the Miami Herald site, talking about the increasing use of in-car apps to allow use of social networking sites while driving.

Are we so prone to reading and texting while driving that it becomes a “safety” feature to hear an audio feed of the meaningless drivel our friends post on Facebook?

Read more

Can Your Car be Wirelessly Hacked?

Recent articles in the science & technology media report the ability to hack into a cars system in the same way computers have been hacked for years.

  • Is this something each car owner should be worried about?
  • it is something imminent or way off in the future?
  • Technology’s security shortcomings are often exposed after they have been used for malicious purposes – will this be true for the computer systems which live inside all our vehicles today?

Scientists have already hacked into a car using its own onboard diagnostic port—but it’s relatively easy to get into a car’s electronic brain if you’re already inside the car. Now, however, researchers have have gained access to modern, electronics-laden cars from the outside. And they managed to take control of the car’s door locks, dashboard displays, and even its brakes. Read more

The Dangers of Over Reliance on GPS

GPS has become a commonplace feature in vehicles and mobile devices – and use of GPS technology has become second nature to many people. So much so, that we can follow the GPS even if ‘real world’ evidence tells us that it’s wrong – there are numerous cases of people driving onto railway lines or over non-existent bridges because they were following GPS instructions without noting their own surroundings.

using laptop in carScientists are also warning about over-reliance on GPS, and highlighting that the technology is not infallible:

  • GPS signals can be deliberately jammed or overridden
  • GPS signals are weak and can be unintentionally blocked or distorted by nearby devices, such as jammers and  TV transmitters and can be affected by natural phenomena such as sunspots
  • GPS reception can be patchy in built-up areas and in covered/underground working environments
  • GPS dropouts and interference occur a lot more often than people think
  • Prevalence of GPS has led to the retirement of traditional ‘back-up’ navigation systems, leading to potential ‘single point of failure’ scenarios

Most of the current technology solutions addressing computer use in vehicles (to conform with distracted driving legislation and OH&S requirements) rely on GPS to determine whether a vehicle is in motion. As can be seen from the points above, and from articles such as this one, this can be a flawed approach, depending as it does on GPS. 

At Blank-IT, we developed our own technology to determine and monitor vehicle motion. This motion-sensor technology overcomes the issues and failings associated with GPS – it provides a consistent, reliable and accurate means of detecting vehicle motion in a totally independent manner, without reliance on third-party input.

What’s more, Blank-IT:

  • is fully customisable to allow different movement thresholds to be set for different working environments
  • is happy to work with ‘swingaway’ brackets, where the computer can be used by a passenger
  • can be configured to allow access to ‘legally allowable’ programs such as reversing cameras and dispatch systems     

This, along with many more features, makes us confident that Blank-IT is by far the best way to manage in-car computer use and to address distracted driving laws and occupational health and safety requirements – for vehicle fleets of all types and sizes.

To find out more about the Blank-IT distracted driving solution, visit the Blank-IT website or call us on 08 9486 7122 (if calling from outside Australia: +61 8 9486 7122).

Cars Set to Become the “4th Screen”

A report in the electronics engineers’ trade magazine, IEEE Spectrum adds weight to predictions that cars are set to become the consumer electronics industry’s “fourth screen” – a place where consumers can be opened up to a whole new range of in-car apps and online services.

The potential for this to happen had previously been predicted at a London technology conference in late 2010, and the Spectrum report – Smarter Cars – seems to reinforce the idea.

using laptop in carAs stated in the article: “Car companies have teamed up with makers of smartphone software to integrate a spectacular array of apps designed for handsets with cars’ digital dashboards, center consoles and speaker systems.”

These “spectacular” apps will build on the console screens that have become familiar for satnav applications. For example, Ford’s all-electric Focus collects all the information you could want about the state of your car’s batteries and allows it to be read via iPhone, Android or BlackBerry devices.

That screen-based technology should target this new sector should not come as a surprise – it is all part of the industry’s constant search for new markets.

While some articles concern themselves with the viability of this push during a recession, the proposals raise numerous issues relating to the dangers of driver distraction. More functionality and interactivity with dash mounted screens present visual, cognitive and physical distraction to drivers and this creates safety issues for the driver and other road users.

using laptop in carThis also presents issues for employers whose staff may be exposed to increased levels of in-car technology. Employers need to implement policies relating to use of technology when driving and must always be aware of any potential liability they could be exposed to – as the vehicle manufacturers and technology vendors seem determined to introduce more of these ‘features’.

Blank-IT is designed to reduce distraction caused by in-car computers, whilst still allowing access to specifed (and legally allowable) programs. It is designed to comply with distracted driving legislation and OH&S guidelines, and is suitable for all types of work environments. Blank-IT is easily installed and doesn’t rely on 3rd party input such as GPS.

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

In-Car Technology, Safety and Distracted Driving

A number of interesting items relating to in-car technology have appeared on the web over the last few days – we’ve put together an overview and links to the original articles.

Irresponsible Technology?  

Sharon Machlis has written an interesting post on the Computer World blog, regarding in-dash screens and technology in cars. The post make some valid points about the distractions such technology can cause. One of the comments on the post also makes reference to the disclaimer text associated with the product – worth reading in itself.

As Sharon says

Personally, I don’t want the driver who’s controlling a few thousand pounds of machinery hurtling toward me to be distracted by a computer voice reading off latest Facebook updates from their friends. Do you?

Ray LaHood meets auto manufacturers to discuss technology and safety

The Detroit Free Press website reports that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has been meeting with Ford and Chrysler Chief Executives in an attempt to gain their support for his crusade against distracted driving.

Manufacturers are keen to implement in-car technology to attract the growing number of tech-savvy younger generation buyers. LaHood is keen to enact legislation to minimise driver distraction and wants to ensure that manufacturers prioritise safety when considering the introduction of new technology.

Wall Street Journal interview with David Strickland

The WSJ online website has published an article about new and upcoming vehicle technology and safety. Part of this article looks at the problem of distracted driving and the safety implications of new technology in cars. Quoting David Strickland from the NHTSA, the post states that the agency is working to formulate “voluntary guidelines” for auto manufacturers to use when developing in-car display technology or systems for integrating smart phones or entertainment devices in vehicles. In the past, “voluntary” NHTSA guidelines have acted as de-facto standards for the industry.

This news round-up has been collated by Blank-IT.

Blank-IT is designed to reduce distraction caused by in-car computers, whilst still allowing access to specifed (and legally allowable) programs. It is designed to comply with distracted driving legislation and OH&S guidelines, and is suitable for all types of work environments.  Blank-IT is easily installed and doesn’t rely on 3rd party input such as GPS.

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