While reading one of my favorite publications recently, I came across an article by Eddie Alterman. While I do enjoy Mr. Alterman’s insightful commentary and think he is a fine journalist, I was taken aback by this recent piece.
Mr. Alterman’s subject was the NHTSA’s new set of guidelines to reduce driver distraction. These guidelines, according to him, were not strict enough. Mr. Alterman goes on to say that the best way to avoid phone distractions while driving is to have cars that disable phones altogether. This is where he and I disagree.
Personally, I need a modern car that has everything: All-Wheel Drive, generous cargo room, power accessories, a comfortable interior, modern infotainment, navigation (because I always get lost) and more than enough power. Add to that list, a car that is cell phone friendly. Laws that prevent holding the cell phone are alright with me. I can deal with a Bluetooth headset. I cannot deal with being unable to pair my cell phone to my car.
How many times have I been on my way to a destination and needed to call to say that I’m running late or that I am waiting outside. Let’s face it, I am like many Americans – I need my phone!
Personally, I don’t think that Legislation and gadgetry is the solution. Cars that offer the latest in communication technology and connectivity should be monitored, but Audi, BMW, Cadillac (and a host of others) are not to blame for driver accidents and rising insurance costs.
Even if your new “DeauBachary SPS Long-Wheelbase Limited Edition Sedan” reads your texts, emails, newspapers and even takes your blood pressure, it is still THE DRIVER’S CHOICE to yield to the distraction. THE DRIVER decides if a text is more important than piloting a two-ton vehicle at 75 miles per hour. Stop blaming the automakers, stop blaming the technology suppliers and stop issuing Government mandates. The reason that traffic in my lane is slower is because someone is talking on the phone, not because their BMW 7-Series read them a text. I agree that there should be a few nannies (i.e., certain features disabled to the driver while the car is in motion), but I don’t agree with putting a kibosh on the cell phone use altogether.
It is our choice, as drivers, to be distracted and to be responsible as well. Just like fire, it is great when you are attentive, but tragic if you are careless. I hope that I am not punished because automakers and NHTSA decide to eradicate my gizmo laden cars. If the Government wants to keep me safe, don’t stifle my in-car technology. Instead, give me more training on how to use it. Make it more user-friendly and easy to use. Finally, for-the-love-of-God, make all of it intuitive (ahem, Ford and Cadillac).
I have said it before and will continue to say it; this is the only country where obtaining a driving license is child’s play. Yet, when we get one, we want to do everything BUT drive. I am old enough to remember when there were complaints about driver looking down too much to operate the radio. We went from dials to buttons and now to controls on the wheel. However, we didn’t delete the radio. Let’s not make our cars less advanced, let’s make ourselves more disciplined.