By on December 2, 2019

Australia put up the first phone-detecting cameras in New South Wales over the weekend. The move is part of a broader plan to reduce roadway fatalities by 30 percent by 2021 — especially as new technologies continue to exacerbate the issue of distracted driving. “It’s a system to change the culture,” NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Michael Corboy told Australian media las week.

There’s nothing incredibly new about the cameras themselves. But they’re networked to an artificial intelligence that determines whether or not someone behind the wheel is using their phone. Suspect images are then forwarded to authorized personnel to be verified as truly criminal.  (Read More…)

By on October 1, 2019

Distracted driving is one the greatest scourges of our time, rivalling drunk driving as the roadgoing activity most likely to end in tragedy. Cell phones calls, texting, and cumbersome infotainment systems all contribute to a populace overwhelmed with distractions.

In light of this, the last thing any speeding driver needs is a massive roadside screen displaying a porno flick.  (Read More…)

By on May 16, 2019

As part of its push to eliminate the scourge of distracted driving, the UK has given the country’s notoriously rigid police force a new tool to help eliminate road deaths: the ability to levy $256 fines and six penalty points to motorists paying via Apple Pay at the drive-thru.

Thanks to new laws that went into effect this spring, the police, some of which take great pride in ridding the country of tools that fell off an electrician’s belt, now have the power to turn that late-night McDouble run into a costly nightmare. (Read More…)

By on April 30, 2019

With mobile phones now a ubiquitous part of modern-day life, distracted driving has ballooned into a legitimate public safety problem. Alarming studies continue to pour in, with many claiming that driver cell phone use is likely underreported by authorities in crash reports. It’s hard to quantify, especially since nobody wants to admit that their moment of weakness may have contributed to an accident.

Add in a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration survey that found 30 percent of drivers aged 21 to 34 believe texting doesn’t negatively impact their driving, and you’d be forgiven for picking up your keys with sweaty palms.

A new study claims the issue has only gotten worse, with drivers spending more time on their phone than ever before. However, the way the data was acquired is disconcerting in itself. Insurance companies are tapping traffic data startups to monitor people’s phones, and they’re already capable of tracking millions of American devices.  (Read More…)

By on February 28, 2019

(One of the above items is not like the other…)

Sometimes the most innocent actions can get you in trouble with the law, like the Maryland mother accused of using opiates because she ate a poppy seed bagel the morning she gave birth. A Connecticut man is challenging his conviction on a charge of distracted driving, claiming he was eating a McDonalds hash brown, not talking on his cellphone. No, this isn’t anything like Dan White’s supposed Twinkie Defense — the guy sounds like he has a legitimate case.

On April 11, 2018, Jason Stiber was pulled over in Westport. Westport PD Corporal Shawn Wong alleged that Stiber was talking on his cellphone while driving. Wong later told a magistrate that Stiber was holding a phone near his face and that his lips were moving. Stiber said the officer mistook his food for a phone. The magistrate apparently believed that Wong was right (sorry, I had to), and convicted Stiber of distracted driving, fining him $300. (Read More…)

By on October 1, 2018

Saying the Tesla Model 3’s interior is polarizing would be a massive understatement. While some absolutely love the minimalist design and singular, tablet-like interface, others criticize it for being too barren to be considered interesting. The vehicle also saw some blowback over its centrally mounted 15-inch display, which, for several reasons, can serve as a potential distraction to drivers.

In fact, it’s so big that one Washington resident found himself pulled over by a motorcycle cop for having what was presumed to be a computer attached to his dashboard.  (Read More…)

By on September 19, 2018

GM marketplace
Automakers began hunting for new revenue streams about two milliseconds after realizing they could put the internet into vehicles. While the earliest endeavors involved ride-sharing applications and new infotainment features, companies are now beginning to see new opportunities via automotive e-commerce, data acquisition, and in-car marketing.

However, the delivery system used for these new sources of revenue pose a legitimate safety concern. Distracted driving is on the rise and shopping while behind the wheel isn’t likely to remedy the situation. (Read More…)

By on September 11, 2018

Chevrolet is releasing a new smartphone app, titled Call Me Out, to help remind motorists to keep their eyes on the road and put their phones in their pockets while driving. Of course, individuals will still have to check their phones to receive the messages, which seems a little counterintuitive.

While the automaker appears to target “new and experienced drivers,” there’s nothing to indicate the product wouldn’t work equally well for experienced operators. Call Me Out basically functions as a guilt delivery system, using a person’s family and friends for ammunition. Once the app has been installed, the phone’s accelerometer and GPS wait until the car surpasses 5 mph. Then the phone plays recorded, personalized messages from the driver’s loved ones, reminding drivers to keep driving and avoid distractions.  (Read More…)

By on April 5, 2018

It’s odd how the same thing can make some people laugh and others feel offended. There are countless examples in a popular culture that cultivates a new outrage du jour practically every day. Even well-intended comments are seen as provocative. Hie thee to Twitter or Facebook for your regular fix of dopamine.

I was reminded of this while my siblings and I were making preparations for our mother’s recent funeral, may her memory be for a blessing. We were sitting in an office at the Hebrew Memorial Chapel, and along with guides and books on Jewish mourning practices, the funeral planner offered us some magnetic signs the chapel had made to discourage texting while driving, and also, I presume, to promote its services (it’s a non-profit community-based organization). (Read More…)

By on December 7, 2017

Amazon’s Echo has already invaded homes across North America, but it’s now beginning to creep into vehicle infotainment systems. My parents have one and both are quite fond of its ability to answer basic queries through intuitive voice commands. Though my mother refers to the system as my father’s “new wife,” it prefers to be addressed as Alexa when being issued instructions. If you need another point of reference, it’s reminiscent of Apple’s Siri, the computer from Star Trek, and any other automated technology using a female voice as the primary interface.

However, as handy as these systems are, they sometimes make mistakes. Alexa is great at giving me the weather but, when you give her more complex requests, she’ll sometimes get confused. That’s not a big problem when you are able to whip out your phone and go online, but it can be real annoying when driving. Early voice command interfaces in automobiles were infuriating — it was often easier to give up and input whatever information you were trying to shout at Ford Sync, BMW iDrive, or whatever decade-old system you happened to be using.

Thankfully, voice recognition is far better now than it was in 2008. But with so many concerns about automotive safety cropping up, it’s a little surprising that nobody has yet perfected an interface that effectively allows motorists to keep their hands where they belong — on the wheel.  (Read More…)

By on December 6, 2017

GM marketplace

After announcing its new in-car marketplace earlier this week, General Motors is taking some heat from the National Safety Council. While we weren’t entirely sold on the shopping service either, our concerns revolved mainly around the automaker’s initial push into consumer data acquisition and targeted advertising.

We glossed over the safety angle, for the most part, mainly because we hadn’t yet played with the feature. However, the council’s worries focus squarely on the potential risk for distracted driving.

Upon marketplace’s release, GM tried to make clear that the service took those dangers into account, offering what it claims is a safer alternative to mobile phone use. But National Safety Council President Deborah Hersman believes the app will only create more accidents, hinting at the role cumbersome in-car technologies may have played in last year’s 5.6-percent rise in U.S. auto fatalities. (Read More…)

By on November 30, 2017

driving with dog
There are few things that offer the same kind of trivial gratification as a photograph of a dog behind the wheel of an automobile. Assaulting several different pleasure centers of the brain simultaneously, the image of a dog driving a car is objectively perfect. Even thinking about it just now probably caused a positive reaction in your mind.

It’s as endearing as it is hilarious. Subaru developed an entire ad campaign around the concept and other groups have used similar tactics — resulting in viral videos and critical acclaim. However, as great as a dog pretending to drive a car is, there are few things less infuriating than when someone allows their dog to sit on their lap whilst operating a motor vehicle.

Apparently, I’m not alone in this opinion, as a bill has been introduced to crack down on this highly specific form of distracted driving.  (Read More…)

By on May 2, 2017

'Distracted Driving Law In Effect' Road Sign, Image: Public Domain

Back in 2012, a Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) spokesman said one reason southeastern Michigan had seen an increase in traffic crashes and deaths is because the area is more urbanized, thus has more motorists than the rest of the state.

In a column the next day on The Michigan ViewThe Detroit News political website, I countered the spokesperson’s claim, arguing “more motorists” logically explained “why” there are more accidents and deaths in urbanized areas, but did not explain the increasing frequency of those rates. (That column is also featured in my second book, Jimmy Hoffa Called My Mom a Bitch: Profiles in Stupidity. Pardon the self-promotion.)

What could be behind the rise after years of declining numbers? Maybe, I argued, it was a regulation legislators began enacting in SE Michigan, the state, and — in fact — the entire country in 2007: the ban on texting while driving.

(Read More…)

By on March 3, 2017

Enjoy The Freedom of a Car Postcard, Image: "Free!" (CC BY 2.0) by Payton Chung

“One day in Maryland about four years ago, Carr was teaching his 16-year-old daughter how to drive when two police cars went rocketing by on the interstate, doing 80 in a 55 mph zone without lights on.” From that tiny seed — which, let’s face it, is planted about fifty thousand times a day on American roads — a great tree grew. Soldier and veteran Glen Carr now spends a significant portion of his time photographing illegally-parked police cars. It’s hard to think of a more quintessentially American thing: a man comes back from war and decides to fixate on some injustice, major or minor. It’s a story that in various forms has underpinned everything from Victorian novels to the movie Walking Tall.

What makes Carr’s jihad so engaging and admirable? Perhaps it’s the certain knowledge that he is doomed to fail. At best, he’s gonna get tired of documenting these quotidian injustices. At worst, some cop is going to shoot him dead when Carr pulls out his camera then claim he thought it was a gun. You can’t fight City Hall. Illegal vehicle operation by police officers isn’t going to stop any time soon. It might not stop until every cop car is fully autonomous. Maybe not even then. Does everybody remember the quote from Blade Runner? “If you’re not a cop, you’re little people!”

Meanwhile, for the little people in the UK, things are about to get significantly more strict.

(Read More…)

By on November 28, 2016

Texting and Driving

There’s no denying that distracted driving is a dangerous epidemic, but consumer and safety advocates are split on the best ways to tackle it.

While the proposed guidelines for mobile device makers issued last week by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration won applause from safety groups, one consumer technology organization has accused the regulator of overreach.

It’s a “slippery slope” argument, now that the federal government wants mobile devices to operate in the same way as in-car infotainment systems. (Read More…)

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