Traffic congestion in 2015 caused drivers to use more than 3 billion extra gallons of gas and confined commuters to their cars for an additional 7 billion hours, according to the 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard. What’s the collective cost of this unnecessary fuel use and extra time spent behind the wheel? A hefty $160 billion.
While traffic only seems to be getting worse, leading to frustration, road rage and collisions, technology is getting better. Let’s look at some of the current smartphone app and car safety technology that’s helping us drive smarter and safer, all so we can save time and money and potentially even cut down on accidents.
Apps That Make the Drive Easier
Thanks to various smartphone apps on the market today, drivers can get a bird’s-eye view of roadway conditions, plan the quickest route and determine the cheapest gas prices before they even pull out of the driveway.
The following are just a few of the smart tools available to drivers:
- Apps for navigating traffic: There are many traffic intelligence apps on the market that can help cut down on the time you spend behind the wheel. Some apps can sync with local traffic cameras, allowing drivers to view real-time traffic conditions.
The most popular of these apps include Waze, INRIX XD and Google Maps. These apps pull information from many points of data, taking into account multiple factors that could affect traffic, including roadside construction, special events, police activity and collisions. Through this reporting, users receive updated route information, suggested departure times and estimated arrival times to eliminate unnecessary time on the road.
- Apps to save you money at the pump: Gas price apps, such as GasBuddy, deliver real-time information to provide drivers with the location of the cheapest gas stations along their routes, categorizing updates by lowest cost, location and types of gas, such as diesel or ethanol-free gas. These crowd-sourced apps ask drivers to report local gas prices and allow users to search for the cheapest gas by zip code. Planning a long adventure? Look for an app that can calculate the cost of your trip by analyzing gas prices along your route and estimate how much you will likely spend on fuel along the way.
Regardless of the advantages these apps offer, safe driving always means putting your smartphone away while you’re on the road. Fourteen states prohibit using hand-held mobile phones while driving, and even hands-free driving can be distracting, according to the National Safety Council.
Car Technology for Safer Driving
Many newer vehicles feature advanced technology that can make time spent behind the wheel safer and less stressful, potentially leading to fewer collisions and insurance claims.
Some new safety features include:
- Automatic Braking. Crash prevention technology, now standard in some vehicles, uses sensors to automatically engage the brakes if the vehicle gets too close to an automobile, person or object. Although this technology is not foolproof, self-braking cars might keep the roadways safer by helping prevent a collision if a driver becomes distracted behind the wheel.
- Rear Cameras. With rear camera technology, a video of the space behind your vehicle is displayed on your car’s dashboard screen, giving you a second set of eyes to see obstacles hidden in the vehicle’s blind spots. Since many fender benders occur in parking lots, rear camera technology can be especially useful when backing out of parking spaces or attempting to parallel park.
Technology Is No Substitute for Safe Driving
Safe driving technology and traffic apps can be great complements to a smart driver but won’t compensate for reckless driving. Regardless of what technology emerges, it’s important to maintain safe habits on the road and make sure you have auto insurance.