Are You a Distracted Driver?

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With the surge of new technologies and society’s growing reliance on them, distracted driving is something we all need to be aware of. I know from a personal standpoint that I have fallen victim to checking my cell phone for text messages or e-mails, reaching for something in my purse or on the passenger seat, and even changing the track on my iPod, all the while knowing the dangers that may lie ahead. So why do I do it? Why do we all do it?

It has got to be this blase attitude that we have all succumbed to with regards of distracted driving. According to Wheels.ca, 99% of licensed drivers state that they are safe drivers yet that same group of drivers admitted to engaging in activities classified as distracted driving, so does this mean we are unsafe drivers all together?

I don’t think so. Humans are becoming wired in a way that makes us feel that, without our technology we aren’t complete, which leads us to multi-tasking our daily activities. This may involve checking our facebook, twitter, e-mails and news while we are brushing our teeth, eating breakfast, and ultimately, in the car on the way to work.text
That being said, we may have mastered the art of multi-tasking and this puts us in the mindset that we will never be put in danger. However, multi-tasking while driving, has been shown to simply be an activity that only puts drivers in harm’s way, which is illustrated through CAA statistics when they state that 4 million motor vehicle crashes in North America each year are impacted by driver distraction.
Despite the current advocates and legislation for distracted driving, which can be found here, society needs to turn this blase attitude into a socially unacceptable topic that will involve serious consequences. It is clear that we have brought up the issue, analyzed it, and implemented charges that will be laid if individuals are found guilty of this, however, I’m not convinced and I don’t think society is either. Perhaps if we make changes like the ones stated below, this societal issue will turn into an issue of the past…

1. Financial Consequences
Financial consequences will play a major role in whether we are able to change the face of this societal issue. Currently in Ontario, fines relating to distracted driving range from $155 to $500 which generally include texting while driving and this act must be seen by a police officer. copsThese fines essentially amount to a slap on the wrist to drivers and will not aid in reducing the amount of distracted drivers. Perhaps increasing these fines will gain the attention of drivers who drive while distracted? Or, the consequences should include a license suspension or the act of impounding cars once the driver is charged. As stated by Wheels.ca tougher laws may be met with resistance until the activity becomes a social taboo. This was seen in the 1970’s when new seat belt laws were implemented, the laws were initially met with resistance until society realized the laws were supporting a serious issue. Right now, the current fines are simply not high enough and just by taking a quick 10 minute drive around my city, you can see these fines haven’t made much of an effect.

2. Preventative Technology
After doing some research, I’ve come across 3 new technologies that are being implemented to help combat distracted driving.

  • Driverless Cars – This new technology is currently just emerging but may face some acceptance issues. This is because these cars can steer, accelerate and brake automatically. They can survey the surroundings due to the cameras placed at the front and rear of the car and it also has radars to measure the distance between cars in front and behind it. Does this seem like a good idea to you? Not to me!! If anything I think that these cars will promote MORE distracted driving, taking the attention of drivers off the road and onto the various items in the car. My mind set would be “well I don’t need to steer, or accelerate, or brake… so I might as well text.” And how can law enforcement lay charges for texting while driving in a driverless car when these cars are made to reduce the human errors that we are prone to? We are essentially stating that humans will not change their destructive behaviours so we need to apply technology to the cars that will reduce the liabilities of the drivers. This may not be the best solution to our growing issue.
  • Alcohol Detecting Technology – currently in Boston, researchers at QinetiQ North America are using new technological advances to deter drunk drivers from even being able to start their car. We are all aware of breath detection technologies that are placed in cars after drunk drivers receive DUI’s, however this technology takes it one step further by making the driver provide two validations of being sober or drunk. If this new technology is implemented globally, there will be alcohol detecting sensors placed in the steering wheel which will use the driver’s breath as an indicator and also a finger detector that will use an infrared sensor that would be able to detect whether the person in the passenger seat is leaning over to press the button. blogAlthough, like many technologies, there may be ways to “cheat” the system, by and large, this technology would deter many drivers from having even one drink before getting in their cars at the chance of being stranded where they are and thus reducing distracted driving since drivers know they are being monitored.
  • Speed Monitoring Technology – We’ve seen how smart phones make the act of driving easier, using GPS’s and voice activated controls, however this device has taken this one step further. By installing a device into the family car, parents are able to monitor the top speed their child reached, where they went during the day, and if they ever had to press the breaks suddenly. This gives parents the opportunity to speak to their children when they believe they may have been putting themselves or others around them in danger. I think this technology is of highest reliability against distracted driving, especially to be used with young, inexperienced drivers who may not understand how driving can be a very dangerous act.

3. Individual Behaviour
On top of all the research and new technologies being introduced, I think the most pressing issue with distracted driving lies in how we, as individuals, act during driving. We need to make changes and CAA has offered a variety of tips to eliminate distracted driving:

– Eat or drink before you get in your car
– Turn off your cell phone or put it away
– Prepare playlists or choose your CD before you start driving
– Review maps and directions before leaving the house

If we are able to put extra time aside to prepare our driving trips, distractions will be greatly reduced and we will have more time to focus on the road and what’s around us. Or maybe if we had more awareness commercials such as this, distracted driving will become an issue of the past.

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