COULD A CHANGE IN TYPEFACE REDUCE THE HARM FROM DISTRACTED DRIVING?

Distracted driving is epidemic on our nation's roads. Thousands of people die every year from distracted driving and nearly half a million are injured. In New York, it is against the law to text and drive - but that has not stopped some drivers from texting anyway.

Law enforcement officers have been trained to be on the lookout for distracted drivers. And it is a primary offense to text and drive, meaning a police officer can pull over a driver simply for texting. It has been proven that educational campaigns and laws banning distracted driving help reduce this dangerous behavior. On April 9, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that police were increasing enforcement of distracted driving this month as part of its "Operation Hang Up" campaign. During its last "Operation Hang Up" police ticketed more than 875 drivers. New York's recently passed budget also included a proposal to increase penalties for young drivers who text and drive, who will receive a license suspension of 120 days for a first offense if convicted of texting while driving.

One new study, however, looked at a different way to reduce the injuries that come from distracted driving.

The MIT AgeLab and Monotype has studied whether changing the font or typeface on electronic media could make distracted driving less harmful. The data was somewhat hopeful. The "humanist" typeface required 10.6 percent less visual demand from male drivers than the "square grotesque" typeface. However, female drivers were mostly unaffected by the typeface difference. For male drivers, the extra time it took to read the grotesque typeface was the equivalent of looking away for 50 feet of highway travel.

The study involved a navigation system, not a cellphone. After the study, Monotype released a typeface called "Burlingame," designed specifically with distracted driving in mind.

Distracted driving still prevalent

While anything that lowers risk in distracted driving is helpful, changing typeface on electronic devices is not a solution to distracted driving. With so many electronic gadgets available for use in the car, social pressure may be needed in order to reduce distracted driving, similar to the focus safety advocates have placed on reducing the number of drunk drivers on the road. And distracted driving is just as big of a problem as drunk driving. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Agency, 10 percent of all traffic fatalities involve distraction.

Legal options exist for people injured by a distracted driver. Paying medical bills and losing wages can make recovery difficult. People injured in a car accident that involved distraction should contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss their case.