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Smartphones: Dumb Driving

On the road, nothing is more important than driver safety and modern technology has made a tremendous impact (no pun intended) on improving conditions. Anti-lock brakes, side impact air bags and various sensors have all served to make driving safer. In fact, last year saw a record low of driving fatalities. That being said, while technology can make things very safe on the road, it can also make it very dangerous as well. Cell phone related accidents are still a huge issue and it seems like every week or so we hear about an accident resulting from texting while driving.

Most states have long since passed hands free laws and the federal government is considering similar bans.  However, studies have shown that the problem is not in the hands but in the mind.  The fact somebody is using a phone, hands-free or not, keeps a drivers mind occupied and it will only get worse. Another recent study has shown that while most teens are aware of the dangers of texting and driving, they still do it anyway. As cars become more advanced they will do more to integrate smart phones into the design of their systems.  The temptation to use the phone while driving will only become greater.  Even simple mapping software can be incredibly distracting. Due to this the Department of Transportation is looking into new ways to keep people focused.  Automakers are now getting caught between a public who demands more features and a federal government who wants to limit them for safety concerns.

Smartphone integration has been targeted as one of the areas that driver safety can be improved the most. Most new cars are including phone plugs and mounts to attach your phone to the dash. The idea is to keep both hands on the steering wheel and reference it like you would a GPS.  Many cars makers are also installing computers and touch screens that maps and other data can easily be downloaded into. This still doesn’t you from being distracted, but it might mitigate the time you are. 

The most likely option to be used is voice control. Already the success of Apple’s Suri is having many others look into such an option.  You would place the phone in its dock and then simply have to talk to the phone rather than use your hands. The same can be said for voice activated commands for an onboard computer as well.

Some car makers are looking into head’s up displays as well. Just like in a video game or a fighter plane, information will be reflected into the windshield. Now they even have glass with computer capable imaging built into it. So far Mercedes is the only car to really experiment with this feature. While this idea seems good it is still a few years out from mass production. The other problem is that it is still intrusive to the drivers’ experience, bringing to question how useful it might really be.

Another issue to point out is that these safety features are only on new cars, so if you buy a used car you are out of luck. Of course, the real issue isn’t one of technology but of how much information can a person take in while still remaining focused. No matter what kind of technology you install, drivers will still be distracted by it in some way, shape or form. The only sure fire safe way to go is to turn your phone off and drive without it. Will people do this? Of course, not, studies have already proven otherwise.

Jeff Jordan lives, breathes and writes in sunny Southern California. He mainly writes about education. automobiles, real estate, used cars Orlando and pop culture.  He would write about romance and dating but sadly knows nothing about it.