WASHINGTON – Technology itself may not be the key to stopping distracted driving.
As federal leaders, safety advocates and automakers come together to address the issue, some potential technological solutions are being shown to have unintended consequences.
Front and center is the issue of “blocking” cellphone use when a car is in motion. There has been a lot of talk about cellphones that can recognize when they are traveling above a certain speed limit and then shut off.
But that option comes with question marks.
“You can end up blocking not only your car, but the cars next to you. Cellphone blocking is a very difficult thing to do,” says David Strickland, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“It’s analogous to work under way in the prison sphere, where they would like to block cellphone usage in prisons, but you have spillover and you end up blocking highways, and you end up blocking other homes,” he says.
NHTSA and the U.S. Department of Transportation are studying a range of options to curb distracted driving. Strickland says it is a two-pronged approach — making the car itself safer, and then focusing on nomadic devices that drivers bring into cars.
“We want to make sure that people have the opportunity to use particular technologies that are under way (while driving), but bottom line — it has to be a person’s individual responsibility to drive safely. We will never escape that,” Strickland says.