Distracted driving is a large, growing, and complicated behavioral problem. Trust me, I know from experience.
You see, it was September 2008 and I was headed to work one day. As I pulled out of my driveway, I received a text. While driving down the road, I did what everyone would do—I took a quick peek and typed a quick reply. The funny thing is that I don’t even remember what the message was about, but I vividly recall what happened next.
A blur passed from left to right across the front of my car. It was a 9-year old boy riding his bike. I slammed on my brakes and watched, in horrifyingly slow-motion, the boy flying through the air. He landed in my neighbor’s front lawn. Physically sick to my stomach, and praying that he was OK, I got out of my car to investigate the terrible result of my own stupidity. Just then he stood up, white as a ghost but otherwise uninjured, stared at me and said, “Mr. Howard, please don’t tell my parents I was riding my bike without a helmet.”
As you can imagine I spent a ton of time over the next few weeks pondering what could be done to prevent me, and millions of others just like me, from texting, emailing, browsing, facebooking, and tweeting while driving.
Clearly, legislation and education are important components of any broad solution to the distracted driving problem. However, by themselves; they are not the answer. Indeed, modern members of society are so addicted to their mobile phones that “technology,” the very beast that created the problem to begin with, must itself play an important role in helping to modify human behavior so people are less distracted and more focused while driving.
Don’t agree with me? I would encourage you to check out the recent study from Pew Internet Research which finds that "people understand the risks of texting behind the wheel, but the desire to stay connected is so strong that safety takes a back seat to staying in touch."
In summary, all of us are smart enough to know that "telling people to stop" is the simplest solution—however, we are also smart enough to know that real world data suggests that giving people tools designed to "help them stop" is the right answer.
About the Author: Matt Howard is the founder and CEO of ZoomSafer where, together with his team, they have created patented software to promote safe, legal and responsible use of mobile phones while driving.