Driving & Texting

8-19-2013

Terri Golter, an EMT from New Castle, NH Fire Department said to me “The Accidents caused by Driving & Texting far outnumber those caused by DWI these days.” This was her response to my telling her that a driver who was texting had hit my car.

 

The other day I joined a line of cars waiting for the green light. I looked up, and through my rearview mirror I saw a car approaching. Strangely the driver was not looking forward. She was looking down. I sensed a hopeless urge to honk. In a fraction of a second, her car hit mine, and the rest is history. Nobody was hurt. Her car was damaged badly, while my car just lost its rear bumper. All together the cost must have been in excess of $5,000.00.

 

Suddenly I became aware of this modern phenomenon called Driving & Texting (Texting while Driving – TWD or Dexting, etc). I have been aware of many people on the phone on the highways in the morning and evening commutes. I also notice that some drivers on the phone are not as agile as those not on the phone. However, the serious risk from Texting while Driving didn’t seem to me as worse than being on the phone.

 

So this week’s column will be dedicated to the potential solutions for the problem of Texting while Driving, a complex social, psychological and technological phenomenon sweeping the world.

 

First of all if you haven’t been aware of the serious tragedy brought about by an accident from TWD, please look for various videos available in the Internet. The one most harrowingly intense and effective is the one produced by Werner Herzog, a famed German film director. Here’s the link:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2013/08/09/werner_herzog_texting_while_driving_documentary_from_one_second_to_the_next.html?wpisrc=newsletter_jcr:content

 

Now let’s think why texting has become so popular among drivers especially teenagers.

  • Texting is much more reliable than cell phone conversation. It is short, crisp and has no failures despite varying service strength.
  • Texting is far more direct than phone conversations. No “Can you hear me?”
  • One can text things he or she normally hesitates to say over the phone.
  • It’s 24/7 and the user has option of responding or not responding immediately.
  • For professional people who rely on fast communication connection, texting is a perfect medium. The attraction and urgency it offers often can far outweigh the potential danger.
  • Additionally, texting has become in vogue with young people. It is a strong sub-culture all by itself.
  • Also small screen displays beside cellphones are on the rise again, and drivers would use to download music, video, games and other apps thus distracting them from driving safely.

 

Now let’s discuss the damage TWD causes to this country.

 

  • 5,000 deaths a year are directly attributable to TWD and this is rising, while the total death in traffic accidents in 2011 were 32,367. (AAA Foundation)
  • Of the 5.3 million crashes in 2011 1.3 million crashes involved distraction caused by a cell phone.

 

Now let’s discuss potential remedies:

 

  1. Legal: Enact strict laws to ban texting. This is easy to say and hard to implement. Some sort of monitoring system has to be developed in cooperation with service providers. They know who is texting, and GPS data locate texters.
  2. Motion Detection: Using the built-in GPS in the cell phone, it will disable the texting feature when the car is in motion. (Available already) But, the app can be disabled easily. Also people who use public transportation would be inconvenienced.
  3. Self Discipline: Put the cell phone out of your reach in the car when you are driving. Again it’s easy to say but very hard to enforce even by yourself.
  4. Develop an audio interface so that both the call out and call in will be in the form of speech. Text would be read by the computer-voice (not via audio channel) – thus retaining the text’s reliability. Thus texting becomes no more distracting than the voice call.
  5. Develop a Head-Up Display so that text will appear on the windshield. This would reduce the degree of distraction.

 

I am awaiting all readers’ suggestion. NO TEXTING while DRIVING!

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