Are all the new features in out cars and trucks compounding the distracted driver problem?
My family bought a new car last fall, well, new to us anyway. It had a few miles on it, driven by a little old lady who only drove it to the Piggly-Wiggly on Wednesday and church on Sunday. You know the story.
Cars have changed quite a bit since our last purchase back in 2008, to say the least. Back then, a great selling point was the six-disc CD changer and the copious number of cup holders. Ours had eight (cup holders), yet only seated five passengers. I guess you need to prepare for those riders with two drinks to enjoy on the trip. By the way, I don’t think we ever loaded more than two CDs at any one time.
This new ride came equipped with more computer power than NASA had in 1968 when we successfully sent men to walk on the moon and return safely. Disregard that if you are like some I know who swear the agency faked the moon landing and Marvel’s superheroes are based on real life characters.
This car warns you if you are too close to something but fails in telling you to which thing you are too close. This feature is particularly aggravating when driving up to the ATM, which by being able to reach the ATM violates the appropriate safe distance built into the auto. Several times I have been alerted and never found any clue to what I had been alerted.
It doesn’t even have a CD slot, much less a multi-CD changer. But I can play my music through my phone, one of a number of “sources” from which to choose when I want the radio to play something. I don’t actually have any music on my phone, so I don’t use that feature much either.
It came equipped with a TV screen (sorry, LED Display) with way more information than what I need while driving to the Piggly-Wiggly, and an infinite number of menus on said screen, that enable me to change all sorts of things, including the ambient light settings inside the car for night driving. These settings are still where they were when we drove of the lot.
And don’t even get me started about the parallel-park assist. We tried it once, pulling up next to my truck in our driveway and pushing the button. The steering wheel began to spin wildly, and the car went into reverse, backing at what felt like about 50 MPH, and put us directly behind my truck in perfect parking position. Once my heart began to beat normally again, and my wife woke up from fainting, we decided we would wait a little longer before trying this in the real world.
This vehicle also has a little mini-screen on the dash where the speedometer used to be, with all sorts of information like speed, distance to empty, fuel economy, and other driving related data. It too has 3-4 menus that also tend to confuse older folks. You know who you are.
My point is, the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC) says every day in the United States, nine people are killed and over 1,000 injured in accidents related to distracted driving. We normally think of texting or talking on the phone as the primary causes of distracted driving, but how much are we distracted by all the bells, whistles, and notifications coming at us from behind our automobile displays?
The Owner’s Manual supplied with our new car contains hundreds of warnings about not using the displays and menus while driving, but who cannot react, even for a few seconds when something beeps or flashes at you while trying to navigate through traffic.
It’s only for a few seconds, when your eyes are off the road, but that’s all it takes. Makes one question if some of our technological “improvements” are worth the actual cost.