We all know talking on the cell phone while driving is distracting, and it’s dangerous (not to mention illegal in several states). Yet many of us still do it. In fact the National Highway Transportation Safety Association says that at any given time, 1 million drivers are yakking away on the phone.
So is it a better idea to outlaw it entirely, or to invent safer ways for drivers to do what they’re “already doing” — including things like checking Twitter and sending text messages? ABC News took up the issue this week, reporting on the growing ubiquity of voice-enabled dashboard computer systems that let drivers call, text, and more, while driving.
Doug VanDagens, a spokesman for Ford, defended the in-car computer systems on pragmatic grounds.
“We looked at what people were already doing in their cars. … If they’re doing that in their cars, we’re going to make it safer with voice [command]. Voice orientation … allows you to keep your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road while you do things you normally do in the car. [Sync is] a safer alternative to how people use phones in the car.”
It’s an important issue for field service workers and fleet managers, too, both of whom deal with a workforce that’s mostly on the road and trying to connect with home base. To ban the use of cell phones while behind the wheel would likely be to cut field service workers off from communication technologies they’ve come to depend on for large swaths of the day.
Already, thirty-five states have banned texting while driving and another nine have banned handheld cell-phone use altogether. The National Transportation Safety Board has already pushed for cell phone bans, hands-free or not, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration — which governs trucking licenses — has banned cell phone use for truck drivers. No such laws have been passed prohibiting such in-dash computers, however.
So, what’s your field service firm’s stance on in-car mobile technology?