Where the text-driving story should be taking us

Instead of using this story as part of an effort to ban technology, let's use it as an opportunity to put that same technology to work on behalf of safety. Automate driving, and maybe your grandchildren won't need a license at all.

Today's "d'uh" study comes from Virginia Tech, where it is now proven that text messaging while driving is 23 times more dangerous than driving alone.

(The picture is from our friends at CNET, a May story stating 26 percent of drivers text while driving.)

ZDNet cell phone expert Matt Miller says he will absolutely forbid texting when his eldest starts driving next month. Already 14 states have laws on the books against it, while 36 don't.

The Virginia Tech study showed drivers took their eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds out of six while texting -- that's long enough to go 100 yards at freeway speeds.

I call this a "d'uh" study because anyone who drives anywhere knows that distraction is an epidemic. Look at the next idiot who cuts you off or misses a light. I almost guarantee there will be a cell phone in their ear.

A national dialogue on this is overdue. But so is new technology.

Current GPS systems aren't that accurate, but augmentations can get you within five feet and some work in conjunction with cell phones.

Combine GPS with cell networks and we should be able to pinpoint you very precisely indeed. And at that point we can get to work.

A GPS-controlled car should probably be tried first with drunks. Fail your car's breathalyzer test? No problem. Plug in a card electronically imprinted with your home address, a light starts flashing atop the car, and the computer takes over.

As we get enough drunks home safely we can scale the solution up to larger populations. Once it's the default we can dramatically increase the carrying capacity of our freeways, because the computers won't be texting while driving.

Instead of using this story as part of an effort to ban technology, let's use it as an opportunity to put that same technology to work on behalf of safety. Automate driving, and maybe your grandchildren won't need a license at all.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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