CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Drivers preoccupied with smartphone distractions, such as texting and making phone calls, have become all too common – and many times fatal.
North Carolina Highway Patrol reports that it has seen an uptick in distracted truck drivers, and now the agency is using artificial intelligence devices to help crack down on the safety hazard.
Distracted driving killed over 3,500 people in 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. A mom who’s made safe driving her passion has felt the pain from a distracted driver two separate times.
“At a stop light you look around, every single person is on their phone,” said Jennifer Smith, whose mother was killed by a distracted driver.
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North Carolina Highway patrol bought three “Heads Up” solution devices to track down distracted truckers. (Chelsea Torres/Fox News)
Jennifer Smith shared a picture of the car her mother was in when she was hit, and killed, by a distracted driver. (Jennifer Smith)
Years later, another distracted driver slammed into her daughter’s car.
“My oldest daughter was then hit head on by a distracted delivery app driver, totaled her car and landed in the hospital,” Smith said.
North Carolina Highway Patrol bought three “Heads Up” AI devices from Acusensus in efforts to combat the increased distracted driving among truckers. The devices cost $165,000 per unit for a total of $495,000 for all three and were paid for by utilizing federally funded grants.
David Kelly, Acusensus Vice President for Global Communications, said the devices are used as an initial screen to help law enforcement determine if a citation needs to be issued. The company has held pilot programs in over a dozen states.
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The “Heads Up” device takes numerous pictures of the passing commercial motor vehicle’s license plate and truck cabin before sending the photos to law enforcement, who are alerted to any violations like distracted driving or driving without a seatbelt. After looking at the pictures, officers can decide whether to cite the driver.
The units are not stationary and will move periodically to different locations throughout the state.
The AI devices purchased by North Carolina Highway Patrol to combat distracted driving will move to different locations throughout the state periodically. (Chelsea Torres/Fox News)
North Carolina Trucking Association President Ben Greenberg said the new devices are a hot topic in the trucking industry.
“Will admittedly hear some folks raise some privacy concerns, because these cameras are set up at an angle to be able to [look] into the cabin of a truck, but I think folks generally understand and appreciate that distracted driving is an issue,” Greenberg said.
As Smith fights for more hands-free laws to pass throughout the country, she said it all comes down to one simple motive: “It’s really just get off your phone, that’s all we want.”
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The North Carolina Highway Patrol began the program in the spring. From June 1 to Aug. 4, there were 441 citations issued for seatbelt violations and 315 citations issued for hands-free violations.
In September, insurance company USAA released a list of the most and least distracted drivers across the country.