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Opinion: Transportation Guidelines for Reducing Electronic Distractions Missing the Point

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distracted-drivingYesterday, I wrote about hands-free texting being just as dangerous as manual texting. Today I read that the US Department of Transportation has published new guidelines for auto manufacturers, urging them to limit the distraction risk of their on-board devices.

Interesting thought, but I’m not sure that addresses the real problem.

I’ve had issues with on-board electronics for a long time, especially TV screens viewable by passengers. When I’m driving behind a car with a TV screen, it distracts me. A part of my brain can’t help trying to figure out what movie or show is being played. I can only imagine how distracting it would be for the driver, even if he/she can’t see the screen. Can you imagine listening to The Little Mermaid for the upteenth time? Even if you can’t seem Ariel swimming around. (Yeah, I know. It’s an old Disney movie, and I just dated myself.)

The guidelines wouldn’t address that issue because it’s not a screen visible to the driver.

I assume the guidelines would cover Bluetooth linking between auto and phone so that if you had your phone paired with your car, there would be some mechanism in place to disable certain functions while moving. But unless my car is going to turn on wireless cell shielding while moving, I can’t imagine it can disable my phone that isn’t paired to the car in some way.

I don’t believe we can legislate intelligent behavior, nor should we. I think car manufacturers shouldn’t have built all the electronic gee gaws we now have in cars, but they have. That genie is out of the bottle. Sure, we shouldn’t use them. But some of us do. Adding more electronics to limit other electronics just doesn’t make sense to me. At some point we have to trust people to make responsible choices or pay the consequences if they don’t.

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