Is technology helping or hindering our focus on driving?
If you're driving a car that's 6 or 8 years old, chances are you're not familiar with the latest in automotive technology.
Test drive a new vehicle, and you'll be impressed with the computerized innovations. Among them are Bluetooth capabilities. Many car models let you quickly upload your cellphone's contact list and plug in voice-activated speed dialing for frequently used numbers. Now, with the click of a button and the command to “phone home,” you can let your spouse know you're on the way home or running late. You can quickly check in with Mom or phone a friend without taking your eyes off the road. Instead of holding a phone, you might talk, answer and hang up while keeping both hands on the wheel. Chatting on the phone while driving is no more distracting than visiting with a passenger sitting next to you.
That would have helped the woman who was so busy talking on her hand-held phone Thursday that she cut the corner too sharp while I was approaching a stop sign. Had I not been an observant, defensive driver, I might have smacked the side of her turning car.
That's not to say all technological advances will keep drivers from distractions and make roads safer. As syndicated columnist Peter Funt explained, innovations keep coming, and several states are crafting legislation to ban drivers from wearing Google Glass. Not surprisingly, Google has hired lobbyists to fight the legislation and argues that its hands-free device will combat rather than contribute to distracted driving.
But here's how Google Glass works: The device, which Funt says will be interfaced with Hyundai models next year, will allow motorists to access data such as text messages and directions in visual form that appears before their eyes. Google Glass also lets wearers watch videos, even while driving cars.
Think you could do that while driving without being distracted? Think you want to be on the road—or want your loved ones on the highway—with drivers buzzing around while watching some video?
I know I don't. And I also wouldn't want the woman who turned in front of me yesterday to be watching a video through her glasses the next time I meet her on the road.