We have talked repeatedly about the dangers of distracted driving, particularly the distraction of texting. Studies have shown that texting while diving can be even deadlier than driving while intoxicated. The proliferation of smartphones have only exacerbated the problem. However, perhaps the greatest driving distractions may come from devices built into the cars themselves.
Gone are the days when the bulky car phone was a rare luxury enjoyed only by a few incredibly wealthy people. Nowadays, the cars manufactured both domestically and abroad are becoming "virtual iPads on wheels." Multitasking has become the norm. Drivers can even order movie tickets, get stock quotes, or receive status updates from their Facebook pages. The Facebook update feature received focus during one car commercial that debuted during Super Bowl XLV.
If the car companies have their way, this can only get better (or worse, depending on your perspective). Mercedes-Benz is working on a feature that would allow drivers to project readable information on the windshield. Ford is working on a feature that would allow a smartphone to be converted into a wireless router, giving drivers internet access. It is anticipated that in five years, 90% of new cars will come equipped with some form of internet access.
The purpose of this technological arms race is to reach the so-called millennial generation, believing that this 19-31 age cohort sees app technology "as extensions of themselves." Consumer surveys reveal that 75% of potential buyers would like touch-screen technology and in-dash apps in their new vehicles. In other words, car companies are simply responding to consumer demand.
While touch-screen "auto infotainment" seems to be the wave of the future, there is fear that we are not ready to implement this new technology safely. Touch-screen dashboards require more attention than the traditional push button interface of most cars, says David Champion, director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports. According to Champion, touch-screen controls by their very nature require users to look down at them, causing them to take their attention away from the road. And according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers who glance away from the road for even two seconds increases their risk for accidents twofold. Even Clifford Nass, a consultant to automakers who specializes in automobile interfaces says that "there really hasn't been enough research on how to safely design for these things."
Despite the apparent risks of creating cars with greater distractions, companies say that the purpose behind these innovations is to increase safety. Jim Buczkowski, Ford's director of electrical and electronics systems, says that a major reason for these innovations is that consumers are already partaking in texting/Facebook updating/stock quote checking while driving. Since these acts aren't going to stop, the next best thing is to attempt to make them safer.
However, as many a personal injury attorney can tell you, all the attempts in the world to make distractions "safer" won't change the fact that distracted driving is still inherently dangerous. Injury lawyers at Sansone/Lauber believe that the best way to protect yourself against distracted driving is to focus full attention on the driving and road ahead of you. For information on how to protect your legal rights if you or a loved one has been seriously injured, call one of our Missouri car accident attorneys today at 1-314-863-0500.
Source: "Cars connectivity seen as a safety hazard," by John Boudreau, published at StAugustine.com.
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