Can The Auto Industry Help Drive The Anti-Texting-While-Driving Message?

Fordsync-b1Last week in Essentials we cited a piece from Wired on the issues surrounding texting while driving as discussed at a Senate hearing last Wednesday by senators, the Department of Transportations and the FCC. From the article:

At issue is the Distracted Driving Prevention Act of 2009 (.pdf) that Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) and Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) introduced Wednesday that seeks to ban texting while driving, a category that includes using a PDA, checking e-mail on a BlackBerry or manipulating a GPS unit with your hand. The bill (S. 1938) also targets drivers who make calls without using a headset. Texting or calling while pulled over on the side of the road is fine, but not while at a red light.

It got me to thinking about the difficult position of the auto industry in all of this with the increasing pressure to combat Gen Y’s cooled attitude towards cars by staying technologically relevant. Young drivers, after all, are a fair market to target with all different types of technological add-ons, whether it be safety or information related like Ford’s recent Sync platform designed by college students or the more entertainment-driven approach of the Nissan Cube which was described by a member of the marketing team as another one of the young owner’s “essential mobile devices”  to be used for “connecting with friends, sharing music and sharing fun.”

It’s a tough line for these carmakers to walk between maintaining a hip, tech-friendly youthful image and enabling risky on-the-road behaviors like texting, using a GPS system and/or fiddling with an iPod. And even though more opportunities to plug in on the road may compound the issue, the root of the problem still remains in the cultural norm we’ve created and condoned as a society, less than with the automakers and cell phone providers who offer these services and products.

Still, unlike the risk that comes with drunk driving, by adding these features and helping to create the message that cars are yet another gadget to converge with every other device,  manufacturers and marketers in the auto industry do play some role in undermining the severity of the tech distraction issue. I can’t help but think of the power that might come from adding more than just support for the texting-while-driving ban. I think we could see real impact from a collective industry effort to join with in-class educational efforts, awareness campaigns or even working with more grassroots teen-led efforts like SADD, which now has been changed from Students Against Drunk Driving to stand for Students Against Destructive Decisions.

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  1. Eric Jaffa

    RE “targets drivers who make calls without using a headset.”

    It’s too bad that the bogus distinction between talking on a cellphone-held-in-one’s-hand and talking-on-a-cellphone-with-a-headset is being embraced in Congress.

    It’s the distraction.

    Simulations show drivers do just as badly with headsets as with handheld-cellphones.

    It isn’t safe to talk on the phone while driving, regardless of whether you’re wearing a headset.

  2. Michael Lach has a solution to these sad issues.  For a small fee you get a bumper sticker with an 800 number just like the ones we see on commercial vehicles.  Call is immediately placed to parents to react right then.  It takes a community to raise a child!  Never m

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