Automakers Raise the Distracted Driving Stakes

Depending on how one looks at it, the view expressed by automakers in a recent New York Times article represents either a resigned but forward-looking attitude toward electronics and driving, or a bid to maximize profits with little regard to the dangers of distracted driving here in Oregon and elsewhere across the nation.

According to the newspaper, the car companies are moving forward with plans for “connecting smartphones to in-dash systems and putting internet-based information into so-called connected cars for 2013.” It notes that while ever-more-elaborate electronic dashboards have been a fixture of our cars for some time, the newest car models will allow drivers to buy movie tickets, check restaurant reviews and make, read or listen to Facebook posts all while attempting to cope with all of the other distractions one encounters behind the wheel.

The government is concerned, the Times reports, noting that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “issued a 177-page set of proposed guidelines for in-car electronics” earlier this year. “The report repeatedly mentioned the complexity of dashboard displays,” it adds.

Carmakers say all of this is no more than the evolution of music systems and, more recently, technologies like GPS that have been in cars for years. It is worth mentioning, however, that unlike your car’s old CD player many of these services – from satellite radio to streaming, app-based internet services, require subscription fees. In other words, they certainly are conveniences – but conveniences that also help the carmaker derive a revenue stream from vehicle owners long after the car loan is paid off.

No one wants to be a technological luddite, but there is nothing backward-looking in wondering when the demands on a driver’s attention reach a saturation point. For a Portland distracted driving lawyer these are distressing developments. It is difficult to see how this trend does not, ultimately, result in more Oregon bicycle accidents, more Oregon pedestrian accidents and more Oregon traffic accidents in general. We shouldn’t need the law to enforce responsible conduct behind the wheel but, unfortunately, we often do.

New York Times: As Apps move into cars, so do more distractions