Safer Distracted Driving?

// Posted by on 02/12/2012 (3:00 PM)

The discussions about a car that drives itself and the potential need to “unplug” from all technological sources in our lives piqued my interest about the war the United States seems to have going concerning cell phone use while driving. Would a car that drives itself be more safe from the standpoint of leaving us to be free to engage in whatever technologies we want while “driving”? How could we ever be sure that the car could really drive and react the way a person would? Is it really safe? All of these questions are still at the forefront of my mind. However, after reading an article in the Wall Street Journal about things called “Connected Cars” that are now being designed to be able to tweet, check Facebook, purchase movie tickets, etc., I can’t imagine that a car that drives itself could be less safe than a car which is inviting its driver to engage in touch screen controls for social media sites while driving. Joe White, a senior editor at the Wall Street Journal, gives an interview on these new cars:



In the interview, Joe White states, “This technology race that used to be around safety is moving around into this arena of connecting your car to the cloud.” The fact that people are no longer capable of “unplugging,” even if just for a 15 minute drive, is also discussed in the context of this new realm that car companies have entered in which integrating technology into the driving experience is crucial for success. It is described as “safer distracted driving,” but safer than what? I am skeptical that looking at your phone screen is much less safe than fiddling with a touchscreen in front of you that is built into your car. Why grant people the ability to tweet or check Facebook while driving at all? I think this technology may be enabling more people to engage in distracted driving because those who may not be likely to check their phone may be tempted to begin using the technology that is built into the car. The interviewer in this video describes this new integration of social media into cars as “like groups who give heroin addicts clean needles…and at least with that you can say that it’s a real addiction, this is just feeding people’s need to tweet, it seems a little excessive.”


I can’t say which mode of engaging in technology while driving is “safer,” but this new race to integrate it into the driving experience poses an important question: why do you think, despite so much backlash about cell phone usage while driving, corporate America is giving in to this craving for technology? I guess making money is the obvious answer. Why is it that, despite knowing how much more likely we are to get in an accident while using a cell phone, we still refuse to let go of them? Why do we insist on finding different ways to integrate technology instead of giving up and accepting that driving is simply safer without it? Why is society “willing to absorb that cost, that safety risk, because we view this as important for the way we live our lives”? Why is it so important?

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Cameron said...

Wow, I’m not sure what to say. I used to think that I was able to text and drive at the same time and to do it safely; however, I have recently realized that this is not the case. Sure, I still text every once in a while when I’m driving, but I try to do it as little as possible because I know it is unsafe.

While the car companies are working on adding these technologies, governments are not so accepting. Within the past week, the Virginia State Senate passed a bill crackdown for people texting while driving. The current law is that texting while driving is a secondary offense, meaning that you must be pulled over for something else and then given a ticket for texting and can not simply be pulled over for texting. This bill has been passed on to the House of Delegates for consideration.

I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that car companies were doing it solely for the money. As the reporter said, new cars all have airbags and MP3 capabilities and other amenities, but this is the way to make them set apart and car companies are always trying to do what they believe will be best for the company, while the government appears to be the one that is working on keeping the people safe. At least in this situation.

// 02/13/2012 at 8:19 pm

Kelsey said...

You make a very strong point Abbey, why is it so important? I was unaware of how many people rose up to keep some kind of national law banning phone usage while driving from being passed. I’m almost angered by it because while texting on the phone maybe a “safety risk people are willing to take” because cell phones and connectivity are important to them, we are still on the same highway and no text or tweet or status update is worth is important enough for me to be in a car wreck. I’m also kind of surprised parents didn’t have a bigger voice in the matter, whose mom wasn’t completely paranoid when you first started driving before technology was thrown into the mix?
I would be interested to see some major research on how much safer hands free technology is and if it turns out to be better then perhaps car companies can work on a voice activated dashboard that keeps us connected to the web but until then I think it’s in idiotic risk to take.

// 02/13/2012 at 8:55 pm

Kelsey said...

Informative game most of us have probably seen before but it’s worth a try. Think you can text and drive?

// 02/13/2012 at 8:59 pm