The Wall Street Journal examines the effect of new technologies on automotive safety.
On one hand…
General Motors Co. this spring will release an 8-inch, touch-screen display for online applications, navigation and music that can be activated through voice, touch or steering wheel controls.Ford Motor Co. already allows drivers to receive Twitter feeds and stream online music through its Sync technology. New Mercedes-Benz cars this spring will tap into Facebook and perform Google searches. Mercedes drivers won’t be able to enter text while the car is in drive, but prewritten phrases can be selected with a click.
Customers say they love the electronics. “I like the way it looks,” said Jamie Kaye Walters, 38, a television production company executive who recently bought a 2012 Ford with the Sync system. “It’s a little bit distracting, but it kind of allows me to do work while I am driving without having to look down at my phone. I can do the whole thing with voice activation.”
On the other hand…
Rob Reynolds, executive director of FocusDriven, a distracted driving prevention group, said greater safety doesn’t equal safe. “The attitude that auto makers are taking is that we want to make distracted driving safer than ever,” said Mr. Reynolds, whose 16-year-old daughter was killed in an accident by a distracted driver. “They are putting a big filter on your cigarette so it will take longer to kill you.”
Auto makers point to studies, including one by researchers at Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, which show that talking on a cellphone increases the risk of a crash or near-crash by 1.3 times over regular driving, while physically dialing a number increased the risk 2.8 times. A person is more than 20 times more likely to be in a crash or near crash while sending text messages.
Photo credit: Ford Motor Company