Local invention monitors distracted driving

TRI-CITIES - No talking... No texting... No exceptions. It's been the rule of thumb on our roads for two years now, but it doesn't mean people are following the law.

And it's for that reason why a local inventor came up with a device that can literally catch people texting and driving. KEPR looked into the national attention this new product is receiving.

Imagine this..a driver purposely blinding himself -- all while going 60mph on the highway.

Experts say it's exactly what happens when you text on the road.

"The question is - is this worth my life?" said Kennewick Driver Peter Diaz.

It's the question this family man asks about checking texts --- he's even reconsidering biking on the road because of it.

"I like to ride my bike. But what I didn't really think about was how dangerous other things are becoming," added Diaz.

It's why one PNNL employee invented an algorithm to monitor the level of driver distraction. Action News first told you about the emerging technology a few months ago. Since then - this developer has expanded its use. First -- sticking to the making of a phone app.

"The product concept behind this particular technology can be very broad," said Product Developer Mike Watkins.

They're now hoping to offer insurance rebates for non-texting drivers.

"But if I get some sort of financial distraction, I'd go along with something like that," said Diaz.

It can also be used to test the brain functions of drivers--- acting as a preventative measure for people with the risk of strokes. The device can also help those whose work requires accuracy.

"The type of input isn't all that critical," explained Watkins.

Since we spoke with the inventor nine-months ago -- several companies nationwide have expressed interest in the technology.
Making families like Peter's -- that much safer.

"We're doing this because it's the right thing to do -- not because 'i'm going to get caught," emphasized Diaz.

Mike Watkin's patent is now published. He's hoping to be awarded the patent in the next six months. And it's previous patents from other PNNL employees that have funded this current research.