Soft facts: a study conducted by the University of Kansas found that distracted driving can in fact save lives. After subjecting 45 participants to a test, in a simulator, for 30 minutes, the researchers discovered an interesting fact: talking on the phone while driving can actually increase the attention that the driver pays to the road and to respecting the traffic rules and regulations.
The above is, if you like, a sum-up of what the average American is subjected to in terms of information about distracted driving. Government authorities, led into this apparently noble battle by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, are taking any chance they get to tell you, the distracted American, that if you talk or text while driving, you will die. Or kill somebody. And chances are, you will.
For some reason, however, the authorities are blaming the wrong people. Or should we say, government authorities are not actually blaming anyone. LaHood described a while back distracted driving as being a plague. Meaning that it exists, but it's not really anybody's fault that it exists. Distracted driving just is, as if it had appeared out of nowhere, controlled by a malicious force that texts you on your cell just as you are about to take a dangerous corner. And here's where you, the distracted American, come in.
Last December, government authorities have called for the introduction of cell phone blocking technologies in cars. Mobile network operators were faster and have begun announcing, since the beginning of the new year, various techs and services that will be deployed in the fight against distracted driving. Or should we say, more technologies aimed at squeezing more money out of you, the distracted American. How is that? Bear with me...
You, the distracted American, own a phone. And a car. For years, you have used both, at the same time. More recently, all the statistics thrown at you by the government have scared the bejesus out of you. So, what's the first thing that crosses your distracted head? Pay somebody to block your phone while you're driving...
Unable to restrain yourself from picking up the phone for all and any reasons while behind the wheel of a car, you need an authorized mobile phone operator, to which you will pay a monthly fee , to block incoming and outgoing calls and messages. Instead of simply turning the phone off (extreme measure) or ignoring it all together (common sense course of action), you choose to pay somebody to do it for you.
Apparently, the distraction levels have long left the confines of your vehicle. You are no longer distracted only while you're driving. You are distracted while you eat, while you breath, while talk to your kids, while you live.
In Europe, there is little talk about distracted driving. It exists there too, it claims its fair shares of lives, but has long stopped being a major issue. Wireless devices are widely used, texting and talking on the phone are banned and carry huge fines in most European countries and nobody pays any eurocent for a service they really have no need for.
The US have tried, and are still trying, to enforce rules and regulations on this subject. Even Oprah joined the fight, and the DoT has launched the Faces of Distracted Driving campaign in an effort to give its efforts a human side. Nothing works.
Chances are that cell-blocking services will catch on. You'll pay the required fee and even be glad about it. You'll even brag to your friends about the new toy you are subscribed to. Or at least to the one close friend whose number you will include on the white list of the service, so that you can still talk to him or her while driving. They will catch on, but chances are they will still not work.
Because, what the US has failed to stress until now is that the one responsible for the effects of distracted driving is you, the distracted American. The one who would rather pay attention to the ring tone than to the traffic light, the one that would rather pay someone to block his phone instead of doing himself this unthinkable deed. The one that will still try and find ways to answer the call and trick the very service he pays to prevent him from doing just that.
Some of you will tell me that most of these services will not be meant for individuals per se, but for fleet operators. Same deal. Imagine a transport company that has to pay $2 each month for 100 or more of its drivers. When it could as well not pay all that money.
There is, however, one advantage to all of this. At least, parents will have a way to limit the exposure to distracted driving of their children.