The Problem of Texting While Driving and a Possible Solution

Texting is, by far, the most popular way for people to communicate with one another. Unlike a phone call, sending a text avoids the social anxiety of responding to the other person immediately, and it affords an easy way to say uncomfortable things. Because of its many benefits in conversations, texting applications have been enhanced to also send other forms of media like video clips, sounds, songs, etc. A consequence of this is that now we can communicate in new ways, with multimedia texts, which were simply not possible with a simple phone call.

There are, of course, many downsides to texting; one of them is texting while driving. Unfortunately, texting has become one of the leading causes of automotive accidents. In 2014, for example, nearly 330,000 accidents were caused by drivers who were texting. On average 8 teens die each day in the US due to texting while driving.

The reason why texting while driving causes so many accidents is that texting engages three different parts of your mind/body, which are then not available to attend to driving. The first is visual since your eyes leave the road to read the screen. The second is manual since you need to type a message, which means less contact with the steering wheel. The third is cognitive, which means the mind has to process information received in the text and is thus hampered in processing the information related to driving. Even if it takes just five seconds to send or receive a text, a vehicle driving at 55 miles per hour would have traveled the length of a football field. In such a distance the road and traffic conditions change entirely which causes accidents.

Apple recently announced a solution to this problem. Their new phones and latest iOS updates will determine when a person is driving and automatically disable texting (and other applications) or when the phone is plugged into a cable or Bluetooth. Therefore, a person driving will no longer receive any text notifications or notifications from applications. When the car has stopped moving, these notifications will be displayed. The driver will only be able to use applications such as Maps while driving. Passengers, on the other hand, will have full function of their mobile devices. It remains to be seen if this is going to be popular with the public at large and whether other phone manufacturers will follow suit.

In my opinion, I think it is a great idea to help reduce the texting-while-driving incidents. However, I have several reservations. I am doubtful that many teenagers will plug in their phone into a cable or Bluetooth upon entering a car for the sake of safety. Additionally, there arises the possibility of the software simply not registering its user is driving. Motion detection can be a tricky thing, and the details surrounding the technology remain unclear. There could be several false movements that can accidentally turn the software on and off. Nevertheless, I believe it is the right step and a possible solution in preventing texting-while-driving automatic incidents.