Have you ever seen or been involved in a car crash caused by a driver who’s texting? I’ve seen a couple and the awful results cured me of texting while driving (TWD).
What’s interesting is that the phone companies have the technology to prevent this, but don’t. An article in last weekend’s New York Times highlighted some of the conflicting elements that have caused this dilemma. For example, Apple was granted a patent to prevent TWD, but didn’t deploy it. AT&T has said that TWD has addictive qualities but hasn’t added any measure to prevent it (although they do have an app, Drivemode, that can stop incoming texts).
The companies reason that prevention is in the control and responsibility of the driver. After all, this is a mobile technology we’re talking about, so making it not work when mobile seems contradictory. Meanwhile, Google and Apple are both rolling out their version of no-hands, voice activated digital controls that operate the phones while driving, which might side step the whole TWD issue.
The smartphone industry and lawmakers are struggling to come to terms with this, as with many other new technologies like drones and self-driving cars. On one hand, I like the libertarian view that it’s up to the driver to act safely. But on the other hand, dangerous machines in the workplace don’t rely on the operator; they have elaborate lock-out mechanisms to prevent injury. It’s a tough call.
So should phones be required to be locked out while driving, at least for texting? So far the answer is no, but there are lawsuits on behalf of accident victims that may change that. In the meantime, TWD is illegal in most states, but enforcement is almost nonexistent, at least as far as I can see. I see TWD every day on my commute to and from work, but no one is ever pulled over for it. I’m guessing police see this as a low-level infraction and ignore it. So how about some other way of enforcing it like cameras at intersections that take photos of drivers TWD and then mailing them a fine, like many tolls do? I’m in favor of enforcement because TWD hurts not only drivers, but their passengers and victims in other vehicles. They deserve to be protected.
Safety first…the texting can take a back seat as far as I’m concerned.