To Distract or Not To Distract… That Is The Question

20 10 2010

Dale BertramRemember way back when (it seems like a long time ago now) we worried about drivers being distracted by noise in the car from passengers or when they looked away from the road to change the radio station?  Then along came cell phones, texting, navigation tools, entertainment and even more sophisticated communication devices to make drivers even more distracted. It is called…in-car infotainment.

Telematics have come along way with hand free devices using voice activation systems but many wonder if that is enough to keep us from being distracted.  Just because a driver has both hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road does not mean the conversation they are having on their voice activated, hands free system is not causing a distraction.  Have you ever walked through an airport and watched people wander about with their eyes glued to their cell phone or heard an agitated conversation someone is having on their cell?  These people aren’t behind the wheel of a car but they are completely distracted and even seem disoriented. 

A lot of research has been done and is still ongoing about how easy we are to distract.  It seems that listening and responding to email using voice commands while driving is just as distracting as texting.  Scary thought!  It reduces the driver’s attention by 30%.  One researcher says that if it takes longer than 15 seconds to complete a task while parked, don’t even think about doing it while driving.

Last year statistics showed that almost 6,000 people were killed and 500,000 injured in car crashes due to driver distraction.  We used to assume that most accidents were due to drunk driving…but that isn’t so. The Department of Health and the Department of Motor Vehicles did a study that showed that 23% of traffic accidents were alcohol related…that leaves 77% due to other causes such as driver distraction due to technology. 

Accidents overall are down this year as is the amount of driving we are doing this year so we can’t be sure this is due to improvements in technology or not.  The question I have to ask is this…do we really need to be connected 100% of the time? 

Whatever your views are on the subject, and the subject is being debated across the country, keep your eyes open and beware.  It only takes seconds for an accident to happen.  Don’t worry though…soon our cars will be driving us and we can sit back and enjoy all the infotainment coming our way.

Happy Motoring,

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