08/16/09 274 W - + 10 - 6 Driven to Distraction

In late July, the New York Times started an excellent series of articles on driving and distraction. They've published three stories so far, as well as interactive "texting while driving" game. There's also an editorial debate on cellphone use, and if it should be illegal. The first article in the Driven to Distraction series is an excellent primer on the issue, which is greater than simply texting. There's a big body of evidence that phone use, with or without a headset, is a considerable risk. And, as the lengthy article notes, wide awareness of the dangers does not necessarily translate into wide efforts to curb usage. We may recognize texting while driving as taboo-- or at least taboo for everyone else, since "it won't happen to me"-- but are we willing to regard phoning while driving as such? Probably not. Read the article series.

For discussion, there are many thoughts to have on this issue. Will we as humans become better adapted to operating motor vehicles while also using other devices? Or is there a "cognitive limit" to same? How will smarter cars affect this issue? Say, an automobile with a partial auto-pilot, that takes care of braking for hazards, drifting out of lanes, etc.? Driving is also dangerous, period. How do accident rates compare historically with the introduction of other distractions, such as clocks or radios or more fully-featured dashboards? And, finally, for public safety, are there implications for solo police officers and fire/ems chief officers? (Though they've been driving and using communication devices-- radios-- for decades.) Lots of food for discussion.

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