The Woes of Distracted Driving
“Soon, humans won’t be trusted to drive cars,” reads the headline of an editorial by Vivek Wadhwa in The Dallas Morning News. Wadhwa predicts that “in less than 15 years,” we will be seriously discussing whether humans should be allowed to drive on highways. He continues:
After all, we are prone to road rage; rush headlong into traffic jams; break rules; get distracted; and crash into each other. That is why our automobiles need tanklike bumper bars and military-grade crumple zones. And it is why we need speed limits and traffic police. Self-driving cars won’t have our limitations. They will prevent tens of thousands of fatalities every year and better our lifestyles. They will do to human drivers what the horseless carriage did to the horse and buggy.
And in an essay appearing on Huff Post Impact, Fran Moreland Johns wonders why cars today — with their touch screens on digital dashboards, gadgets for audible texting, confusing GPS systems, and voice-activated music and phone calls — are designed to distract drivers. These various features distract even drivers who have both hands on the wheel, Johns writes.
Johns goes on to write about being a passenger in the car of a female friend — a “highly skilled multi-tasker” who was driving at 75 miles per hour on a highway. The friend was so distracted by a blink and a friendly voice message on her car’s dashboard screen that she never noticed a police car, red and blue lights flashing, that was stopped at an accident.
Imagining that the flashing police lights had been warning of a hazard ahead, or that another driver on the highway had been distracted and veered out of lane, Johns wonders if her distracted-driver friend would have been able to navigate safely. She adds that she would prefer to be a passenger in the 1962 Volvo of a friend of hers, a car that long predates any distracting technology. But unfortunately, most of the other cars on the road have the distracting features, Johns writes.
In a related news item, News12 Westchester reports that New York State’s tougher new distracted driving law went into effect on November 1. Under that law, young and new drivers who are caught texting while driving, or using a cellphone without a hands-free device, will be subject to a 120-day license suspension, and if they are caught a second time, they can lose their license for a full year. In a comment to that article, Barb Minniefield Celez writes: “Personally I think the fines should be even higher, too many people on their damn phones!!”
And in another related item, Wayne Harrison reports for wxyz.com, a Detroit ABC affiliate, that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has posted a viral video on its YouTube page. The video features a young woman talking about how her life changed for the worse after she crashed while texting and driving in 2012 when she was 17, Harrison writes. The young woman, Liz Marks from Baltimore is now blind in one eye, has no sense of smell, can’t hear well, and has trouble sleeping. In the video, Marks says she went from being very popular in school to having no friends
You can see that video here: