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No Tech Panacea For Tech-Distracted Driving 257

Posted by timothy
from the stupid-and-expensive-cya dept.
The Washington Post features an article on the continuing problem of drivers distracted by technology, specifically by texting or even talking on the phone while at the wheel. The piece mentions a few apps designed to disable phones, or at least some phone features, when they detect sustained motion that might indicate that the user is driving. Trouble is, as the writer points out, these apps are trying to do a context-sensitive task (under the best of circumstances) with only the broadest of clues. Further, many of them require ongoing subscription fees, just to be able to disable phone functions — and yet feature override features simple enough for a driver to activate.
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No Tech Panacea For Tech-Distracted Driving

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  • Google car? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by k(wi)r(kipedia) (2648849) on Monday June 11, 2012 @08:13AM (#40281873)
    You'll just have to wait a few more years for it [wikipedia.org] though. Until Google rolls out a beta.
  • Worse than tech... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by csumpi (2258986) on Monday June 11, 2012 @08:20AM (#40281941)

    ...are toddlers. I have two of them. They fight, drop their toys, want milk, spill milk, scream, open window, throw things out of the window, get out of their seats... and all these issues have to be mitigated while doing 65 on the interstate.
     

  • Re:GPS? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dskoll (99328) on Monday June 11, 2012 @08:21AM (#40281955)

    On the contrary, I value my time very much, which is why I like it when random callers can't interrupt my train of thought.

  • Re:GPS? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gideon Wells (1412675) on Monday June 11, 2012 @08:22AM (#40281967)

    Yes, this would have worked oh so well when that time my editor, myself, and third reporter were rushing home to get an immediate article out. We even snagged a designated driver. Our sole source of wi-fi in this remote area where Amish were a majority population was my hot spot enabled smart phone and the satellite trucks the big boys sent in.

    Look, if you are reaching this point of trying to not-distract people then you might as well take the next steps:
    * No cup holders to encourage drinking while driving. Drinking/eating anything is also a distraction.
    * No radios or other music devices. Distractions are distractions.
    * Maybe even a ban on talking while in a vehicle. How different, when you get down to it, is talking on a phone and talking to a person next to you. One sideways glance to see their reaction at the wrong moment, blammo, road carnage.

  • Re:GPS? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by foniksonik (573572) on Monday June 11, 2012 @08:23AM (#40281977) Homepage Journal

    This is the latest hyped up excuse for poor driving. Driving is about making decisions, at 50mph. Teach people to make good decisions and the problem is solved.

    Sending a txt while going 5mph in a traffic jam is not going to kill anyone. Likewise while stopped at a red light. Ditto for holding up a map on a phone, depending on speed and congestion.

    There are many scenarios where using a smartphone while driving is no more riskier than driving in general.

    So judge the risk and put the phone, burger, drink, paper map, etc down if there is too much to be safe.

    Some teens/people are horrible at this. These same teens/people will likely have something else that causes their accident if not texting.

  • by dskoll (99328) on Monday June 11, 2012 @08:24AM (#40281983)

    IMO, driving while texting should be treated the same as driving with blood alcohol over the limit. First offence should get you a three-month license suspension. Second should get you six months. Third should be a lifetime driving ban.

    And that's if no-one is killed or injured. If someone is killed and you were texting or your blood alcohol was over the limit, that's second-degree murder in my book. If society doesn't take these things seriously, we'll continue to kill thousands of people a year.

  • Yes there is (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JWW (79176) on Monday June 11, 2012 @08:27AM (#40282005)

    There sure is a tech panacea for distracted driving.

    SELF DRIVING CARS

    There. Solved, Q.E.D.

    I want my self driving car and I want it very soon.

    What frustrates me most of all is that the biggest hurdle stopping self driving cars is the damn lawyers who are salivating at suing the first self driving car manufacture who has a problem, even though technology like this would virtually eliminate distracted driving completely.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 11, 2012 @08:32AM (#40282035)

    I don't see a point to trying to nanny bad drivers. They suck no matter what you do.

    And what would you call it when cops ticket people for running a stop sign? Isn't that an attempt to "nanny bad drivers"? I mean, in both situations you're doing something careless and endangering people. And most states now consider texting while driving a violation of traffic laws. So are you arguing that mild fines for disobeying traffic laws isn't going to stop bad drivers from sucking?

  • by vlm (69642) on Monday June 11, 2012 @08:35AM (#40282057)

    My car has a nanny for the built-in GPS map. You can't do anything while you're driving. even at 2 MPH which means you have to pull over just to select a different destination.

    Of course, someone hacked the somnabitch and normal usage is re-enabled. I don't see a point to trying to nanny bad drivers. They suck no matter what you do.

    This is my number one reason not to waste money on a built in GPS system in my car. I'm old enough that my wife used to use "paper maps" like ink on cellulose, then we used a hand held GPS, and now android phone with google navigation app. If I had a built in GPS system, I would not be able to use it, and my wife would have to go back to paper maps. So I'm paying thousands of dollars for an option that does ... nothing. They could make more profit by shipping a paver brick.

    The number two reason is I can afford it but I'm too stubborn to pay thousands for a factory option when I can buy a handheld GPS for a hundred with 48 hours of battery, or just use my phone for a couple hours until the battery dies (at which point I need to plug it in)

    A speed cut-out for a GPS is a technology destroyer. It would be simpler for everyone for the FCC to stop granting a license to import. Which is too bad, GPS is kind of handy.

    The other thing I've never understood is if 10 people get killed by people Fing around with a GPS, that is a national call to action. But if 100 people get killed by people Fing around with paper maps, eh, thats just business, thats how it goes, too bad so sad. I'm not sure destroying GPS as a usable technology is worth killing 90 additional people or nine-tupling the "navigational death toll", but it seems almost inevitable at this point.

  • Re:GPS? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vlm (69642) on Monday June 11, 2012 @08:39AM (#40282091)

    These same teens/people will likely have something else that causes their accident if not texting.

    However it won't be an easily tracked metric. Public outrage is directly proportional to ease of reporting numbers, not actual danger or risk.

    From personal experience children in a car seat are by far the most distracting thing you can have in a car. Even "girlfriend in a skimpy outfit" is not as distracting.

    Another automotive killer is travel. Simply make it illegal to operate a motor vehicle more than 50 miles from county of registration and that alone will cut accident rates by a considerable amount.

  • Re:GPS? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hattig (47930) on Monday June 11, 2012 @08:43AM (#40282127) Journal

    When you are doing a manoeuvre that requires some attention, you can:

    1) Not choose to pick up your drink at this time
    2) Zone out of the radio - this is why talk radio is popular, it's mostly a drone that you can zone into when you need something to keep your brain awake, and zone out of when driving is requiring some braining.
    3) Tell other people to shut up, or they will also see that you need to concentrate and will shut up.
    4) You will be looking at the road and mirrors.

    However it appears that people on the phone when driving don't say "I'm driving". I don't know why. The person on the other end doesn't know you are about to do something that requires your full attention. You are compelled to pay attention to their words because you think the call is important (for whatever reason, be it your boss, or your other half nagging). And accidents happen because of this.

  • Re:Yes there is (Score:4, Insightful)

    by epine (68316) on Monday June 11, 2012 @08:49AM (#40282179)

    I've worked in IT for years in various functions. I do not trust computers to drive my car for me.

    Fly much?

  • by ZankerH (1401751) on Monday June 11, 2012 @08:57AM (#40282269)

    I can't get my own children to sit down and shut up when being driven

    You are the reason people want to restrict breeding rights.

  • by CubicleView (910143) on Monday June 11, 2012 @09:05AM (#40282337) Journal
    I've wondered about that myself. Assuming the traffic light system remains unchanged, 2 reasons I can think of against allowing any flexibility in running red lights are

    1. Force of habit, if John Doe is used to running red lights since the junctions nearby are always empty he might plough into someone absentmindedly when at an unfamiliar junction.

    2. Ambiguity, a red light is a red light, a “clear junction” is open to interpretation

    I’m sure there are plenty of other reasons against the idea, but the above two seemed enough to me.

  • Re:GPS? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MrTree (188626) on Monday June 11, 2012 @09:06AM (#40282343) Homepage

    * No cup holders to encourage drinking while driving. Drinking/eating anything is also a distraction.

    Eating and drinker are both distracting behaviors, although not as much as talking on a cell phone.

    * No radios or other music devices. Distractions are distractions.

    The kind of audio distraction caused by radios does little to affect driving attention.

    * Maybe even a ban on talking while in a vehicle. How different, when you get down to it, is talking on a phone and talking to a person next to you. One sideways glance to see their reaction at the wrong moment, blammo, road carnage.

    Passengers tend to share the driver's situational awareness, so they are significantly safer to hold a conversation with than someone on the far end of a cell phone. A sideways glance is no problem - the driver's gaze is often off the road to check, for example, speed.

    See this paper for a good overview of distracted driving behavior:

    http://www.nhtsa.gov/DOT/NHTSA/NRD/Multimedia/PDFs/Crash%20Avoidance/2008/810787.pdf [nhtsa.gov]

  • Re:GPS? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by itsdapead (734413) on Monday June 11, 2012 @09:07AM (#40282349)

    Look, if you are reaching this point of trying to not-distract people then you might as well take the next steps:

    True, but texting on a mobile phone, or dialling on a handset, really is in a moronic league of its own c.f. talking to a passenger, popping an M&M into your mouth or even using a hands-free. Most people are incapable of walking in a straight line while texting.

    However, there shouldn't be any need for new legislation - in the UK there's always been "driving without due care and attention", and I'm sure other jurisdictions have similar concepts. The cell-phone ban was just so that politicians could be seen to be doing something about the Sunday headlines, and had the unfortunate side-effect of legitimising hands-free kits. What's needed are less cameras and more actual, adequately trained, police eyeballs looking for real dangerous driving rather than petty speeding (e.g. doing something about the bloody Audi or white van driving 2' behind you because you have the audacity to only be doing 10mph above the limit).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 11, 2012 @09:15AM (#40282413)

    Fuck you.

  • Oh really. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gr8_phk (621180) on Monday June 11, 2012 @09:41AM (#40282671)

    This is the latest hyped up excuse for poor driving. Driving is about making decisions, at 50mph. Teach people to make good decisions and the problem is solved. Sending a txt while going 5mph in a traffic jam is not going to kill anyone.

    So I was in a 3 lane traffic jam at a stop ending a call - I was in the center lane. I looked down to press the button to end my call. The was a bang, I looked up and it took me a good while to figure out what was happening. The car in front (or 2 in front I dunno 'cause I was looking down) of me had left a gap for someone coming out of a parking lot to cross all the lanes to get to a U-turn lane in the median (a 4th lane). The 3rd lane (left of me) had cleared quite a bit, so someone in a truck pulling a trailer was going rather quickly past all the stopped cars in the other 2 lanes. The SUV pulled through my lane into the 3rd lane just in time to get T-boned and pushed sideways a good 70 feet which involved going over the curb and part way around the U-turn before coming to a stop. As traffic started and I passed them I could see the vehicle quite caved in right at the B pillar (closing point of driver door). The entire picture of what had happened did not become clear to me until I drove past, where it would have all been clear from the start had I not been looking down at the critical moment. Let me rephrase this - someone may have died 20 feet in front of me and I didn't even see it or know what happened until I had a chance to piece it all together after the fact. This lapse was due to simply pressing the red button to end a call.

    Now from my imagination: Imagine you're stopped at a red light sending a text. Just as you hit send someone honks loudly from behind you. You look up, the light is green and the car in front of you is already through the intersection. What is your reaction? Most people (you can claim to be special, but most people) will hit the gas to get moving while neglecting to take a few seconds to assess the overall situation (pedestrians, bikes, cross traffic, etc...). That loss of context can be very hazardous. Driving is about knowing what's happening so you can make decisions while sitting in the driver seat - not just at 50mph.

  • Tech solutions (Score:4, Insightful)

    by miltonw (892065) on Monday June 11, 2012 @10:49AM (#40283479)
    People will do stupid things. If this were only a tech problem, then perhaps a tech solution would be appropriate -- but it isn't.

    Are we asking Starbucks for "hot drink while driving" solutions? Are we asking McDonald's for "eating food while driving" solutions? Are we asking business owners for "looking for a store" solutions? Are we asking advertisers for "distracted by billboards" solution?

    Until someone comes up with a "stupid drivers who do things instead of driving" solution, there isn't a solution for the "distracted driver" problem.

    The problem isn't tech, the problem is stupid drivers.

Going the speed of light is bad for your age.

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