The real problem in reducing driver distraction is very simpoly that there is lots of money to be made selling all of those distracting little toys. So we have both the auto companies and their suppliers working franticly to produce different and new distraction mechanisms. There is simply too much profit i the business for it to ever be controlled by any civilized approach.
So we had best become immune to the toll in life and limbs that these distractions will continue to cause, since the courts have all been bought-off already and will not raise a finger to stop the distractions. Of course the legislators will demand safer vehicles that will protect the distracted drivers during those collisions, and that will make cars heavier, more expensive, and less fuel efficient. This will lead to a greater push for more public, tax supported, transportation systems, possibly like I have seen in other countries. The problem with that path is the very large loss of personal freedom, which some of us still value quite a lot. The freedom is gone because you can only go when the bus goes and where the bus goes, and only with what you can carry with you on the bus. Not by any means the way I would choose to live.
There is absolutely no doubt this is a growing problem. I do a great deal of traveling visiting clients and what I see on the highways, particularly the interstates, is really scary. It's almost as though people wait until they get in their cars to make a phone call. If you add speed to distraction you get a disaster waiting to happen.
There are reportedly 253 million registered vehicles in the United States. The NSC estimates 2013 deaths will reach 35,200. Those 2013 numbers will not be released until the end of this year. In Tennessee where I live, there were 1019 traffic-related deaths in 2012. Horrible numbers. Automotive companies are definitely on the right track in helping with this situation.
One real issue, particularly for me, is lack of vision on the left and right sides of my Volvo S-40. I think the Ford Integrated Blind Spot Mirrors would go a long way in elevating this problem. Let's hope other manufacturers are working on similar devices.
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At one time I had the brilliant idea to couple a scanner to receive the conversation of the cell-phone-distracted driver near me to a fairly powerful audio akmplifier with a horn speaker hidden under the hood. My thinking was that hearing their conversation outside the car would probably stop the conversation quickly. But the challenge of a scanner to pick the strongest signal, and the distraction of operating such a system intervened, and so it never was built. But it would certainly have been effective, I think. Now the 3G and 4G cell phone transmissions are all digital so it would take a lot more than a simple scanner. But possibly somebody could make such a system.
Check Click and Clack's mirror adjustment techinque(the Car Talk guys). I've found a couple of rental cars where there wasn't enough mirror or enough mirror range, but on most cars it seems to work. I have to adust regularly since my wife & I share the same vehicle and use different seat positions. That means I get a lot of practice. And I test it as soon as I can once it's set. I can watch a car approaching in my rear view mirror. As it begins to disappear in the rear-view, it begins to show in the side view. As it begins to disappear from the side view, I pick it up in my peripheral vision or with a side glance that doesn't require moving my head. I still take a quick glance before changing lanes, but I'm a lot more secure about what's around me. My wife complains from the passenger seat that it looks like my right side mirror is pointed at the ground. It is pointed down, but from my Tacoma Pre-Runner pickup, the place I can't see on the right is down and back, beside the truck bed.
That said, I did like the bumper cam on one of my recent rentals. That's about the only use I have for a video display in the front of the cabin. Take all the touch screen controls and fancy graphic displays and dump'em. Can't use them safely while moving, haptic-feedback-enabled or not.
For those drivers who are unwilling or unable to focus their attention on the task of driving, I don't see any solution. Like some famous person recently stated, "You can't fix stupid", which means that nothing short of revoking all their driving privaeges will stop the fools from driving unsafely. The only hope is that when they crash it is with another distracted driver.
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