The National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) recently announced it was pushing for further bans on cell phone activity behind the wheel. However, despite traveling more miles than ever last year – and millions more cell phones being used – auto fatalities have dropped to an all-time low per miles traveled. Would a complete and total ban on cell phone use behind the wheel further lower the rate of fatalities and injuries?
Some propose a lock on your phone that, making it inoperable if the car’s GPS can tell the car is moving. But how does it work if your passenger’s on the phone? What if you use your phone for its navigation?
Two years ago, when several Toyotas were having an issue with their acceleration, drivers had to call 911 for help. A cell phone lock would’ve trapped them.
In 1908, two psychologists, Robert Yerkes and John Dodson, described the correlation between stimulation and performance… Too much stimulation, and performance suffers due to fatigue. Too little and performance also suffers – the mind wanders to keep itself occupied.
I’m sure you’ve seen old footage or pictures of early racing drivers: the goggles, the scarf, the hands tight on the wheel, their teeth clenched. And they may have been going 40 miles an hour. With those open-air deathtraps, on tires more fit for a bicycle, it took every muscle and thought in their bodies just to keep the car pointed where they wanted it to go.
Now, with all of the safety features built into our cars, we find ourselves at an interesting crossroad… our cars are giving us less to pay attention to. With our mind sub-optimally stimulated (below the “sweet spot” where we’re fully engaged), we look for other ways to pass the time. And that web-connected cell phone in our hands may prove too large a temptation.
This sense of security the technology in our cars gives us may be ill placed. Like when Volvo suffered a PR disaster showing off its new automatic braking system. It was said to be able to “see” the road ahead and brake to avoid a collision. Trumping this feature to the media, its self-braking C60 ran into the back of a tractor trailer.
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We’re to a point now where all cars are reasonably safe. They all get reasonable gas mileage. Their performance is on par (minivans now can go zero to 60 almost as quickly as old muscle cars, all while having best-in-class seating and DVD players for the kids). Are these new features going to become the only thing that can differentiate one car from another? If we continue to load our cars with things that help do the driving for us, we’re going to let them. Maybe even become reliant on them. And behind the wheel, that could be just as dangerous as someone talking on their cell phone.
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