Next to drinking and driving, texting while driving is the surest way to cause impairment in a driver’s ability to control a car and react to quickly changing traffic conditions.
Now that smart phones have infiltrated nearly every section of humanity (hey, I just got one, which is a sure sign everyone else in the world already did), they are wreaking havoc on the focus of drivers everywhere. With Facebook updates, NFL scores and email access just a thumb-swipe away, it’s easier and more tempting than ever to take eyes off the road and lose them in the all-too-familiar comfort of the retina display touchscreen.
A USA Today report cites a study that recently polled 4,000 drivers aged 18 and up. The study discovered a truly alarming amount of people surf the web while driving, which apparently is now known as “webbing.” (No comment on the lameness of that new word!)
Among drivers 18 to 29 years old, almost half admitted to this practice in 2012, up from 29 percent in 2009. Frankly, I think the key word here is “admitted,” and that the real numbers are far higher.
Heck, I’m 35 and have been guilty of seeing if anyone liked my latest, incredibly witty, Facebook status while in traffic. It’s just so… easy. That ease is deceptive, though, because just a few seconds with eyes off the road can result in a serious car crash.
Automakers are struggling with how to address this safety issue. Is it best to build high-tech systems that integrate our phones, or create technology that makes them unusable while their owners sit behind the wheel?
Here’s what Siri in your Chevy can do:
- Make voice-activated, hands-free calls to Contacts on your iPhone
- Play songs in your iTunes library, and even switch music sources automatically from AM/FM/XM radio to iPod mode
- Listen to, compose and send an iMessage or text message to a phone number or anyone saved in Contacts
- Access your Calendar and add appointments
- Minimize distraction by keeping the screen of the iPhone from lighting up, even when Siri answers simple questions, such as game scores
- While in Eyes Free mode, Siri will not provide answers to complex questions that require displaying a web page.
This approach obviously tries to safely integrate phone use into the car’s systems so the driver remains focused on the road. It’s still up to the driver, though, to use it when it might be easier to just hold the iPhone in one hand while steering with the other.
Would you use Apple’s Eyes Free technology if it were in your car, or just keep using your phone as normal?