DOT vs. Social Media in Cars
Have you seen the new car commercials? The one’s where the driver can check his Facebook page from the dash while driving? This is an accident waiting to occur.
Social media is the “big thing” these days. Every day, more people embrace it, and the increase in mobile access has vastly accelerated that growth. People are tweeting, updating on Facebook, and checking their email everywhere, including, unfortunately, while driving. This is a subject I’ve covered before in “The Facebook Car — A New Era of Distracted Driving?“
Distracted driving is one of the biggest causes of auto accidents on modern roads. How much more distracting is it to be splitting your attention between multiple information streams while attempting to safely navigate the highway?
Joe White, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, wrote a great piece about this recently. This particular quote speaks exactly about that issue:
Anyone who has driven a new car decked out with the latest technology knows it is possible for a driver to get a dizzying amount of information about the vital signs of the car, its location, the types of music available from various sources, who’s calling on the phone, or even whether a car is hiding in the blind spot.
Dictating commands into voice-activated navigation devices or telephone interfaces can be an involved process, especially for owners new to the gadgetry.
Additionally, many studies point to the fact that it is the splitting of your attention, rather than simply using your hands that is truly dangerous.
Keith Laing, a blogger for The Hill, brings us a succinct quote from the U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood:
‘There’s absolutely no reason for any person to download their Facebook into the car…It’s not necessary.’
Yet, despite the lack of necessity, in-car social media access, through services such as OnStar, is proliferating. Under LaHood, the DOT is hoping to roll out a set of guidelines for in-vehicle communications technology. One integral aspect of those guidelines is supposed to include studies on whether “hands-free” devices provide any significant impact on driver safety.
In addition, La Hood is also encouraging car companies to free up ad funding for anti-distracted driving commercials and public service announcements. Subaru and BMW AG have already agreed to do so.
This will be an interesting tug of war to watch. Since the auto industry is deeply indebted to the federal government for the richly contested bailouts the industry has received, consumers are demanding more and more access.
Just look at General Motors, a company that is still partly owned by the government at this point. Its recent ad campaign promoting the Chevy Cruze focuses on a Facebook update feature operated through the car’s OnStar communication system. In the ad linked below, watch carefully — even though this is a hands-free unit, notice how the driver still removes his attention from the road several times to check his Facebook status:
Seems like this is just one more thing to distract you from the task at hand — driving.