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Driven to Distraction: Is New Vehicle Technology to Blame?

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A few weeks ago, one of my customers at the dealership where I work drove away in a new 2011 crossover vehicle equipped with the latest technological features. This vehicle will find you the closest McDonald’s or bank ATM. It will tell you the score of the Lakers basketball game and knows over ten thousand voice recognition commands such as the interior temperature climate controls and panel display backlight colors. If you say, “Play Led Zeppelin,” it will search the radio signal stratosphere for “Stairway to Heaven.” It reads text messages and uses apps from your smart phone, but as of yet, still cannot cook lasagna.

The vehicle had 167 miles on it when the driver crashed and totaled the vehicle. The advanced safety features saved the driver from any major injury. But the vehicle’s advanced media accessories had distracted the driver so much, he had rolled the vehicle into a ditch.

This has been such an epidemic, the U.S. Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, actually developed an entire website devoted to the cause. The site states, “Talking, texting, emailing, entering data into a GPS, and other distractions contribute to 6,000 deaths—and more than 500,000 injuries—every year. Yet, seven of ten people between the ages of 18 and 49 readily admit that, even though they are aware of the danger, they remain unwilling to put down their electronics and concentrate on the road. The results are 100 percent preventable accidents that shatter the lives of too many families. The victims are not just statistics.”

Laws for driver safety, seat belt usage, and alcohol impairment-related issues have been rigidly enforced, but the issue of in-car technologies and their effects on distracted driving has scarcely been addressed until very recently. The advanced media features installed in modern vehicles can be a dangerous distraction. These sophisticated and equally complex electronic options are actually intended to keep our eyes on the road while we wirelessly download a Google search and get directions to the airport.

But where does it stop? My wife says that I am multi-task challenged, which I freely admit. I have never been able to pat my head and rub my tummy at the same time. But I have learned to appreciate driving to my destination safely. I can only hope that the new electronic gadgets made by automobile manufacturers are well thought out, with safety in mind. Unless, of course, the gadget can make a good lasagna.

 

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