Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Don’t drive and text

I've been hearing and reading a lot about this new software feature that will be available for cell phones sometime next year that makes it so you can't call or text if you're driving. It uses the built-in GPS to detect movement at speeds you can't achieve on foot (unless you paid $6M for new legs), then notifies your carrier to push all incoming calls to voicemail. It also blocks texting in both directions. Cool idea, but it doesn't stop you from trying. And what if you're on a train? Or a passenger in a car? Or a taxi? The software has a "passenger" mode that will allow normal operation.

Do you see anything wrong with this picture? All I have to do is lie to my phone, and I'm just as distracted as before. No problem. Whatever happened to common sense? Besides not being common. I don't see this as being a $10 well spent. I don't text and drive; I use my Bluetooth hands-free headset when I talk on the phone (which some have said is just as dangerous as holding the phone up to your ear, but I don't agree). I also consider myself a safe driver. What we have here is just another excuse to blame our problems on someone else.

Listen people; no one is making you use your cell phone while you're driving. You're doing it yourself. You're making a choice; and a bad one. Driving is NOT an easy thing to do, even though I've been doing it for about 30 years now (holy cow! I AM getting old!). Even without cell phones I see people every day doing stupid things while driving: putting on make-up (women), shaving (men), reading the newspaper, reading a novel, watching the kids fight in the back seat, trying to pick up CDs from the floor. Some things need to be done at home, but some things can't be helped. Even before I had a cell phone I have driven distracted (see the part on watching the kids fight in the back seat).

It all comes down to knowing what's going on around you. Situational Awareness or SA (military term). If you have SA, you're good. You know that the car behind you is following at an unsafe distance; you know that the motorcycle in front of you is being stupid and swerving in and out of lanes and using the dividing line as his own lane; you can see the people around you in their cars that are oblivious to the fact that other cars are around them.

Ok. I'm done ranting, I think.

This piece of software is a cool piece of technology, but it is useless without SA. Yeah, it's nice and all, but it's like putting a lock on the liquor cabinet. If I know where the key is and I'm weak, I can still open it. Just exercise a little self control and go buy yourself lunch with the $10.