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John Bair
John Bair
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Disabling Cell Phones: The Solution to Distracted Driving?

3 comments

The movement to end distracted driving has been gaining steam lately. Statewide trial lawyer associations in Massachusetts , Rhode Island, and New York have pushed for statewide efforts to combat distracted driving. Most recently, the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, led by President Scott Cooper, kicked off their EndDD campaign . I was honored to give the EndDD presentation at my daughter’s school last week and have received excellent feedback from faculty, students (and even my daughter). The efforts of these organizations and of individuals who present on the topic, argue for legislation, and write articles and blog posts on the dangers of distracted driving have brought the issue into the forefront of our minds, but are they enough to end the epidemic?

Two researchers from West Virginia University, Dr. Jeffrey Coben and Dr. Motao Zhu, don’t think so. Last week, Coben and Motao published an essay in the Journal of the American Medical Association in which they cite a 22% increase in distracted driving-related fatalities between 2005 and 2009. The authors suggest that while passing legislation to ban distracted driving is important, it is not enough to force drivers to leave their phones alone. Instead, Coben and Zhu suggest that the focus needs to be on new technologies that automatically disable phones when driving.

Although it sounds like a drastic measure, I’m inclined to agree. New York’s “hands-free” law for cell phones may have had some effect, but I know that I’m still guilty of picking up the phone on occasion, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen other drivers doing the same. Even laws like New York’s proposed total ban on cell phone use (even hands-free) are unlikely to completely prevent cell phone usage in vehicles. Perhaps we need the technology to make the decision for us.

I’m interested to know what others think—should cell phones be automatically disabled in cars? Is that the ultimate answer to ending distracted driving?

3 Comments

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  1. Jay Farlow says:
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    Stopping distracted driving requires changing behaviors. When a phone signals an incoming call or message, the desire to respond is almost Pavlovian.

    Families can help each other avoid the strong temptation to pick up smartphones while on the road with an app for iPhones and Android phones called, Canary. Canary reports to an accountability partner (e.g. parent, spouse, friend, employer) and creates a log entry anytime a person uses a smartphone in any way (including texting, tweeting, surfing the web, etc.), while traveling at least 12 mph. Users find the resulting reports sobering (most have no idea how often they are risking their lives and the lives of others). Also, the knowledge that someone else will know helps them resist the temptation to look at a text, etc. while driving.

    More information is on the Canary Project’s website: http://www.thecanaryproject.com/

    Also, here’s a link to a story that an Indiana TV station recently did about Canary:
    http://www.wane.com/dpp/news/local/app-helps-cut-down-on-distracted-driving

  2. Glenn says:
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    There is a new device all over the news that is supposed to make it so you can’t start your vehicle until you put your phone in this special docking station. It’s called Origo. here’s a vid from the news:

    http://ozarksfirst.com/fulltext?nxd_id=779752

  3. John Bair says:
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    Jay and Glenn, thank you both for your comments. I hadn’t heard of either Canary or Origo before and will certainly do some research on them. It’s great to know that there are steps being taken on the tech front to eradicate distracted driving.