New Technologies May Help Curb Distracted Driving

An article published in the New York Times this week indicates that cell carriers are now looking at technologies designed to prevent distracted driving. The technology is not new per se (see this blog post, and this one from last spring); what is changing is its embrace by the companies we buy cell service from. The Times notes that this may be happening, in part, because fewer and few customers pay for their calls by the minute any more. For cell carriers margins are now found, instead, in applications and other value-added services.

Call-blocking technology usually works to prevent distracted driving here in Oregon and elsewhere by linking a piece of software to a phone’s GPS function. When the software detects the phone being in motion it automatically sends all incoming calls to voice mail and texts to an archive. In some extreme versions it simply disables the phone entirely.

The technology has an obvious appeal to parents worried about teens falling victim to distracted driving while behind the wheel. There is also, the newspaper indicates, quoting a T-Mobile spokesperson, a segment of the adult population “who know they get distracted while driving and feel responsible enough to themselves that they want help.” Designers have been working to overcome potential barriers to use: notably ways for the phone to remain usable when its owner is a passenger rather than a driver, and for other applications, such as GPS-enabled directions to remain functional.

The obvious question this development raises for those of us concerned about Oregon distracted driving is why anyone would want to pay several dollars per month for a call-blocking application when several free or pay-just-once options are already out there, offered by third parties. According to the Times the potential attraction lies in the cooperation of the cellphone companies – something which might offer significant improvements in the (until now) less-than-ideal functioning of call-blocking software.

The most telling comment in the article, however, comes from an official at the National Safety Council: “There is already a simple technology that prevents people from using their phone while driving – the off switch. But people aren’t using it.” Obvious, alarming, sad… but true. The simple fact is that technology alone will not make Oregon distracted driving go away. Nor, by themselves, will distracted driving laws like the one that went into effect here in Oregon a year ago. That is why the advice and assistance offered by a Portland distracted driving lawyer will remain crucial for many people in the wake of accidents caused by Oregon distracted driving.

New York Times: A Short-Circuit to Distracted Driving