More than 3000 drivers were killed in 2010 in accidents due to distracted driving. Distracted driving is becoming more of an issue on the roads, not just in the US, but in Canada and other countries, as well. Recently, US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood issued some “common sense” guidelines for auto makers to consider when equipping their vehicles with multiple devices that may distract drivers. However, the question lingers: Is it the responsibility of the auto makers to limit the availability of electronic conveniences inside the vehicle?

After all, auto makers are driven by competition. Many are relegated to keeping up with current trends. The “common sense” approaches proposed by LaHood, such as making sure hands-free functionality is available for mobile devices, addresses only part of the problem.

Hands-Free Is Not the Total Solution

1.) The major issue with distracted driving in any capacity is the fact that the driver’s mind is distracted from the task at hand, which should be driving. Adding hands-free components to mobile electronic devices does not consider that it is the mind of the driver that is distracted, not their hands.

Considering that the mind of the driver is distracted, just how much good would hands-free devices added to vehicles do to alleviate the distracted driver issue? Though hands-free devices would help the driver to keep their hands on the wheel, common sense tells us distracted driving occurs when the driver’s mind is distracted.

Distracted Driving Involves More than Electronics

2.) Hands-free devices and other modifications to vehicles only address a small part of the problem with distracted driving. Distracted driving is an issue due to several other factors which have nothing at all to do with electronics. For example, distracted driving includes eating or drinking in the vehicle, smoking, conversations with passengers or children, even applying makeup while driving.

We could demand that lawmakers mandate that all of these behaviors be prohibited while inside the vehicle. However, again plain common sense tells us that, no matter how many laws we have, until drivers take some personal responsibility and stop allowing themselves to be distracted from driving, these external controls will merely produce new income streams for municipalities and states.

Disabling Texting, Social Networking and Internet May Help

3.) One suggestion put forth by LaHood was the possibility that auto makers could limit the functionality of their electronic devices while driving. For example, disabling texting, social networking and Internet access may actually help with the issue of distracted driving. However, once these distractions are eliminated, who is to say that other distractions will not occur? Again, the problem with distracted driving is not limited to access to mobile devices. Those drivers who may have gotten accustomed to driving while distracted may find a void in their attention spans when their electronics are disabled. That void could easily be filled with eating, drinking, smoking, conversation or a million other distractions. Again, the bottom line is this: Distracted driving is a matter of self-discipline. Somehow, distracted driving has become somewhat socially acceptable. What happened to make this so?
Maybe watching our parents do 10 things at once while they were driving has conditioned us to think driving while distracted is just normal. Maybe we have engaged in this behavior for so long, we have lost the ability to focus on driving while we are behind the wheel.

Whatever the cause of our lax driving habits, the truth still remains that the main combatant against distracted driving needs to be the drivers themselves. Pay attention to driving while behind the wheel! Don’t accept the status quo when you are a passenger and the driver of the car is distracted. Ask that they focus on driving because, after all, your life is in their busy hands.

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