With just about every driving-related sector trying to make distracted driving less prevalent, is dashboard Facebook access necessary? Clearly, no. But that’s the newest development in a distracted driving “arms race” that has engulfed car companies, each trying to develop cutting edge technology designed to make distraction easier and safer behind the wheel. Of course, some are concerned that making technology easier to use while driving will automatically harm road safety. But due to our society’s focus on business, stopping this trend may be difficult.
Car Talk’s Paul Atchley puts it well. “The sad truth is, distracting technologies also help to sell cars. If you’re a manufacturer, cars are all about profit – in fact, automobile companies have a fiduciary responsibility to make a profit,” he wrote. “Until consumers demand otherwise, we need to get ready for a lot of new 21st century cup holders. For those of us who spend our days working to reduce deaths and injuries on our roads, that’s an ominous sign.”
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has said he hopes to reduce distracted driving injuries and fatalities by boosting enforcement of distracted driving laws and supporting a federal law against the dangerous practice. But so far, these measures have shown limited success in Congress. So what can we do to reduce these accidents before lawmakers get around to passing such legislation?
Well, distracted driving remains a secondary offence here in California and in most states, meaning that you can only get a ticket for it if you are pulled over for something else. But, as Gary Richards of the San Jose Mercury News notes, accident victims can currently subpoena phone and text records. So if you suspect that the accident occurred while the other driver was distracted on his or her cell phone, you can prove it in court and receive the damages you deserve. Of course, that would require a lawsuit, which can take months and even years to wrap up.
On thing is certain: distracted driving technology will continue to grow, making distractions easier and potentially less safe. You can’t control the safety habits of other drivers, but you can make the personal decision to stay safe behind the wheel and avoid distracted driving.
Photo credit: Mike Babcock