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Paying Better Attention to Distracted Driving

The automobile industry is attempting to lead the way in dealing with the problem of distracted driving. While 34 states currently have laws on the books making it a crime to use handheld cell phones or text while driving, and 95 percent of Americans agree that it is a very dangerous practice, just knowing it is dangerous and illegal isn’t always enough to compel drivers to stop. Analysis of crash data has shown that texting and driving distracts drivers and does cause car accidents.

That’s where the automobile industry and a number of private companies come in – by offering alternatives to help curb distracted driving accidents.

Private companies and makers of technological applications are addressing this problem by creating apps, phones and other devices that allow users to communicate hands-free. For example, the new SIRI voice-recognition system offered to Apple iPhone 4S users converts speech into text and sends and read text messages – allowing drivers to text while driving without taking their eyes off of the road or using their hands to type.

According to automobile industry leaders, this type of technology, which provides hands-free-texting, is the answer to the problem of texting and driving. Some auto manufacturers are starting to install hands-free systems in their cars in an attempt to curb the overwhelmingly negative impact texting while driving has on our roads and on motorist safety.

Is Hands-Free the Cure-All?

There are skeptics who wonder whether these types of tools will actually encourage drivers to pay closer attention to the road, or if such technology will only lead to even more distractions while driving. Vehicles are beginning to become mobile communication systems; by integrating technology into dashboards, it is possible that these features will actually increase the number of drivers that texting and make calls while operating vehicles.

Groups like the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) see the potential pitfalls in these new features. According to the GHSA, driving should be the focus when operating a motor vehicle and anything that distracts the driver from safe vehicle operation will create a safety problem on the road.

Additionally, many of these technology features are not foolproof. They allow for voice recognition and dictation, but still may require drivers to touch buttons or navigational screens – taking their attention away from the road.

Because hands-free and touch system technologies are so new, it is too early to tell whether it will help with the problem of distracted driving. Only time and crash statistics will prove whether hands-free texting and other mobile communication systems are new distractions to drivers.

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