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Tech Bytes - Text & Drive


By Mitchell Walbridge

Fri, Apr 12th, 2013
Posted in All Features

Text & Drive

Technology, normally I would argue, usually has its benefits outweigh its downfalls, however, I believe that you can have “too much of a good thing.” One example of the overbearing technology in our lives is rooted in cell phone usage, particularly the act of text messaging.

Last week, I was on my commute to my morning sociology class at Winona State University when I could see a rapidly approaching driver in my rear-view mirror. Understandably, it’s a well-known fact that a lot of people may push the speedometer a little on the way to work in the morning. Guilty of a lead foot myself at times, there is a clear difference between a slight fudging of the speed limit and excessive speeding.

Speeding lecture aside, glancing in the mirror revealed a lot: another typical college student running a few minutes behind, whether from hitting the snooze button one too many times or having trouble getting the car to start, is trying to make up for lost time. That is, until she caught up to me. With a ‘No Passing Zone’ in place, she was forced to slow down. Perfect time to respond to some text messages, right? Wrong. In a split second anything could have happened.

Looking back periodically this crazy person had her cell phone strategically balanced on the top of her steering wheel while driving down the road, even trying to pass me at one point while simultaneously texting. I’m sure you can imagine my feelings in this situation.

Access to technology is omnipresent in our lives, even in the car. But just because your phone is available and within an arm length does not mean it needs to be utilized around the clock, especially while you’re driving.

Following this incident I was even more interested to see if this encounter was isolated, or whether it was occurring more often. While waiting at a stoplight for the green light, I watched the cross traffic move through the intersection. There’s no way I can guarantee what was occurring in other people’s vehicles, but as the cars proceeded, I counted four drivers looking down and taking their eyes off of the road.

Distracted driving, including cell phone use and specifically texting, accounts for upwards of 25 percent of all vehicle crashes in Minnesota. In a University of Utah study cited by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, drivers look away from the road and their surrounding environment 4.6 out of every 6 seconds while texting. At an average highway speed of 55 miles-per-hour, this length of time allows a vehicle to move the distance of a football field.

Texting while driving is illegal in the state of Minnesota for everyone, even while sitting at a stoplight. So if you’re worried about missing an important conversation or think you need to respond immediately to a message, there’s a smartphone application provided by AT&T that can help your correspondents know that you’re unavailable while you’re on the move. AT&T DriveMode is available to even those who do not carry AT&T service. The application sends an automated response message to incoming messages explaining that you are behind the wheel and will respond as soon as you become available.

April is Minnesota’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month to prevent distracted driving crashes, injuries, and deaths. If you feel the need to text and drive, remember, if you don’t care about the risk you are imposing on yourself, you are also endangering the innocent lives of others.

Comments:







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1751

9:13:06, Apr 12th 2013

ErikWood says:
The CDC just reported that 60% of older teens routinely Text and Drive. I think its starting to become clear that legislation has value in raising public awareness in forums like this one but it will be difficult to solely legislate our way out of this issue. I also read that over 3/4 of teens text daily - many text more than 4000 times a month. New college students no longer have email addresses! They use texting and Facebook - even with their professors. Tweens (ages 9 -12) send texts to each other from their bikes.

I decided to do something about distracted driving after my three year old daughter was nearly run down right in front of me by a texting driver. Instead of a shackle that locks down phones and alienates the user, I built a texting asset called OTTER that is a simple and intuitive GPS based, texting auto reply app for smartphones. While driving, OTTER silences those distracting call ringtones and chimes unless a bluetooth is enabled. The texting auto reply allows anyone to schedule a ‘texting blackout period’ in any situation like a meeting or a lecture without feeling disconnected. This software is a social messaging tool for the end user that also empowers this same individual to be a sustainably safer driver.

Erik Wood, owner
OTTER app
do one thing well... be great.


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