Who is responsible?

Was Oppenheimer responsible for the deaths his deadly toy caused or was it the pilot who dropped the bomb, or the general who gave the order to drop it or the president who gave that order to the general?

To what degree are we responsible and accountable for the misuse of the technology we create?

These are questions that advocates of road safety want to start asking of cell phone manufacturers, internet providers and app makers. If you have the technology to stop people from texting and driving, are you morally responsible to make sure that technology is incorporated into the cell phones you sell?

To date, the most that has been done, mostly by third parties rather than by the cell phone manufacturers is that a few anti distracted driving campaigns have been run and a few apps have been created that are mostly voluntary and easily bypassed by a driver who wishes to ignore them.

To make matters worse, cell phone usage is dramatically increasing day to day. Talks about texting and driving or talking while driving are discussions that are now relegated to a distant past. Today’s cell phone users are using Facebook (including Face time), Skyping, tweeting, instagramming, snapchatting, gaming and surfing the Internet, all while changing lanes and dealing with other drivers who are doing the same. It’s a recipe for disaster and that particular recipe is baking up a cake that we aren’t prepared to eat.

The most recent statistics tell us that in the USA, 11 teenagers die every day because they were, in one way or another, distracted by their cell phone while driving. Of the approximate 2.5 million accidents each year, 1.6 million of them are thought to be attributed to distracted driving.

Interestingly enough, while most of us (90 some percent) admit to using our cell phones while driving, 74%-94% of drivers support a ban on cell phone usage while behind the wheel (the 20% variance has to do with the degree of the ban).

Do you understand what this discrepancy between what we do and what we say means? It means that, while we support a ban on cell phone usage while driving we also admit that we don’t have the discipline and fortitude to patrol ourselves and not do it. We believe that we shouldn’t be doing it and we do it nonetheless.

This brings us full circle from where we began at the beginning of this post. If we can’t find the strength of will not to do it should it be forced on us by cell phone manufacturers and internet providers? The technology does exist. Cell phones could cease to function as soon as certain speed is detected. Allowing passengers to access and use their phones while still blocking the driver’s phone, while still somewhat problematic, can be overcome.

So why isn’t it happening seeing as a vast majority of us actually favor it? The answer, as usual, has to do with profits.  The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) and the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) are two lobby groups who are lobbying Washington to block the Visual-Manual NHTSA Driver Distraction Guidelines for Portable and Aftermarket Devices. These two groups are comprised of over 2,000 companies who stand to lose money if this bill is passed. Companies like Apple, Verizon, Google, Samsung and other telecommunication giants who stand to lose money any time you log off are trying to get congress and President Trump to vote down or veto the bill. They would rather we stay online even if it means an increase in lives lost because of distracted driving.

Let’s hear your thoughts on this…

Driving Distraction Away (Free Guide)

I have a 1 hour commute each way to work for 4 days each week (I work from home on Fridays) which means 8 hours on the road each week. I use that time to listen to books on tape and read at least 2 books a month that way.

What I did not realize is that it constitutes distracted driving. Check out the graphic below:


Granted, it looks as if it’s rated only higher than plain driving or driving with the radio on (How do you just “drive”? Doesn’t your mind wander? Don’t you start to get frustrated at other drivers?).

Be that what it may, you can download a free “Driving Distraction Away” from safestart.com.


Hands-Free Communication is Still Distracting Drivers

The idea that keeping two hands on the steering wheel and your eyes on the road means that you are driving safety was just proven wrong by a new study commissioned by the American Automotive Association (AAA) and the University of Utah. After studying subjects using hands-free In-Vehicle Information Systems they found that even after they stopped using it, it took a while for the brain to switch back to giving driving their full attention.

The study broke users up into three classes based on age (21-34, 35-52 and 54-70) with a minimum of 4 males and 4 females in each category. The study tested their cognitive abilities as they used one of 10 different In-Vehicle Information Systems (IVIS). The vehicles were as follows:

  • Buick LaCrosse
  • Chevy Equinox
  • Chevy Malibu
  • Chrysler 200C
  • Ford Taurus
  • Hyundia Sonata
  • Mazda 6
  • Nissan Altima Toyota 4Runner
  • VW Passat

The results of the study concluded that practice does not eliminate distraction. Doing the same tasks over and over doesn’t mean that you get less distracted when you do them.

There were difference in the IVIS depending on how easy or difficult the tasks were to perform.

Most importantly, the study concluded that even hands-free, voice activated IVIS still impaired cognitive abilities in drivers and that those distractions remained up to almost half a minute after the task was performed.

Part of the problem with IVIS is that, without any data to back this, we are being directly or indirectly lead to believe that we can have our cake and eat it too. Fact is that anything that takes even a portion of our attention off the road is a distraction that can lead to accidents.

If you want to read the whole study, it is located here and is 46 pages in length.

Steering Clear of Distracted Driving

We mentioned last week on this blog that April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and provided you with a link to the NSC website.
The ASSE (The American Society of Safety Engineers) has also put together a webpage with a lot of really great information about how to avoid being one of the estimated 5,474 people killed on the roads each year due to distracted driving.

The average teenager stays “connected” via cell phone and computer 24/7. The idea of disconnecting for however long it takes to drive from point A to point B is absolutely unthinkable to them; so much might happen in that amount of time (Just witness the speed at which a Facebook post disappears down the page and gets lost). Unless we can get them (and us) to understand how life threatening this really is, we are going to see an ever increasing number of people die on our roads.

The ASSE website page entitled “Prevent Distracted Driving” has some great documentation regarding research that has been done and the results of those studies.

Two studies that are available on their website that are especially interesting:
Distracted Driving – Examining the effects of in-vehicle tasks
Tips to Avoid Distracted Driving What you should know and how to get you there safely!
Managing Unsafe Drivers & Their Unsafe Habits

The first of the above links has a number of charts and diagrams illustrating response times based on travelling at 50 mph or 60 mph and the devastating consequences. Do yourself and your teenagers a favor and learn to turn off your cell phone while driving. It is simply too tempting if it is on and you hear a message come through or the phone ring.

Download FREE DSWW 2011 Materials

The “Network of Employers for Traffic Safety” (NETS), in conjunction with the Department of Transportation (DOT) is providing free downloadable material for “Drive Safely Work Week (DSWW). Focusing on distracted driving the material is part of the “Focus 360°: Getting there safely is everyone’s business” campaign. It focuses, not only on the driver but also on pedestrians, bikes and passengers, making it something that is essential to all of us.

Sign up on the NETS website and you will be given access to:

  1. Facts and tips sheets that include information and statistics on distracted driving, tips on how to avoid distracted driving as well as idea on how to get the message out.
  2. Daily Activities that include supporting resources and a lot more
  3. Graphics, posters and more

What is “Distracted Driving”?

We are hearing a lot, lately about “distracted driving”. Because of the use of cell phones, GPS, texting, etc… distracted driving has increasingly become a major concern. In spite of having the lowest highway mortality in years, distracted driving is going to change those stats very soon unless some major changes come down the pike.

What is it that we are talking about when we use the term “distracted driving”?

According to a new website by the U.S. Department of Transportation Distraction.gov they come in three forms:

  • Visual – taking your eyes off the road
  • Manual – taking your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive – taking you mind off of what you’re doing

Essentially, anything that takes the eyes, the hands or the mind off of the task of driving the vehicle is classified as a distraction.

The reason that texting has become a major issue recently then, has to do with the fact that all three factors are involved. The eyes are obviously not on the road as the driver needs to look at the screen, the hands are not on the wheel as at least one hand is being used to text and the mind is not focusing on driving because it is engaged in thinking about what the driver is busy texting. It’s not hard to see why it is so dangerous. Statistics tell us that a driver using a hand-held device is 4 times more likely to be involved in a serious accident which will result in injury to himself or others.

According to distraction.gov other distractions include:

  • Using a cell phone
  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming
  • Reading, including maps
  • Using a PDA or navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Changing the radio station, CD, or Mp3 player.

It is, of course, unrealistic to believe that we will never be distracted. CD players and radios are standard in vehicles. When we look at the last distraction especially, it becomes obvious that much of our driving is done while distracted (the nature of driving itself lends to daydreaming). Understanding this, however, should make us all the more cautious about driving ourselves to further distraction.