I currently have the pleasure of being able to drive two new vehicles; one for work and one for pleasure. Both of them have new technology within the seating compartment that makes driving…shall we say…different than it was a mere ten years ago. Although some of these technologies may seem cool to have, they can add to distracted driving if used at the wrong time.
Remember when we just had the stereo in the vehicle? All you had to do was find the best six FM and best six AM stations, program them into the stereo and you were set. Now, you can program dozens of stations and that doesn’t even mention satellite radio. You can now plug in an mp3 to your vehicle and it will play hundreds of songs you’ve got saved in it over the car’s stereo speakers. Not only can you have more choices to the music, you get to decide which songs to listen to! Although that sounds cool, it’s also a distraction. Having just a few choices made it less distracting for drivers to choose their music. This allowed the driver to stay focused on their driving task.
The touch screen that many vehicles are getting will also allow you in many vehicles to see your text messages while your vehicle is stopped. This is provided you have Bluetooth capabilities. The Bluetooth capabilities also means you can have your GPS on the same screen while you’re driving. What happened to keep your eyes on the road? There are more electronic distractions that seem to be “standard features” with many new vehicles, but will they create a new distraction for drivers? Chances are it will…unless the drivers can control themselves.
When Bluetooth came out it was “sold” to drivers so they could keep their hands on the wheel while driving. That’s great, but you really drive with your mind and your eyes. Some of these technologies lead the driver’s eyes away from the driving task and focus their attention at the distraction. Perhaps we’ve gone backwards with our technology? Perhaps we need to “dumb it down” so drivers have less to distract them while they’re driving.
Until the automakers can make the vehicles less distracting to drive – perhaps make everything unusable while the vehicle is in motion – we as drivers need to control the technological distractions. If it’s the music, pre-program the songs you want to listen to so you can avoid making changes while driving. Turn off your Bluetooth while driving, especially when traffic is congested so you can focus on the driving task.
Even though you may have your hands on the wheel most of the time, with too many distractions already built into the vehicle, it really becomes more mind over matter as whether you can stay focused enough while driving. It’s either that, or go back to driving that 1974 Volkswagen Beetle where all it had was an AM/FM radio and a heater.