Here’s public health specialist Nick Wilson on a potential measure to stop drivers from using their phones.
But it is possible that there are other options to be explored, including ones that we canvas in the NZ Medical Journal piece. One of these options could be a requirement that all new cars imported into NZ (eg, from the year 2018) could be required to have technology that automatically stops mobile phones in the vehicle from ringing when the vehicle is in motion. That is “smartcars” could automatically turn off “smartphones”.
A non-exhaustive short list of reasons why this seems a bad idea:
- Unless you’re relying on a Bluetooth connection with the car, you’d need some kind of compliant phone that automatically interfaces with the car. International phone manufacturers and car companies don’t exactly jump when NZ says so.
- Bluetooth is sufficiently finicky that it wouldn’t work automatically.
- If you are connected with your car via Bluetooth, it’s typically to run a hands-free calling system with your radio. Phone rings, you hear it through the radio, you say “Answer”, it routes the call through the radio’s speakers. The system that would let you shut down call answering is the one that enables hands-free answering.
- The first thing I would do if Nick got his way on this would be to download an app blocking it.
- How could the car tell which phone belongs to a driver and which belongs to a passenger? Do you want to ban passengers from talking on the phone too?
- If NZ is the only country adopting this idea, you’re going to have a hard time convincing any car manufacturer to support the tech. Best you could then hope for is something that gets added onto the car at point of import. Something that could be ripped out of the car by me when that happens – sheer bloodymindedness can be a powerful motivation for learning which bit of electronics needs to be circumvented.
- It’ll hike the cost of new cars compared to used ones, encouraging people to keep older cars on the road for longer, worsening our fleet average age and our emissions profile.
- Talking is hardly the most distracting thing you can do with a cellphone while driving. Reading Twitter is another. Will the system have to decide which apps are allowed and which ones aren’t? How, when there are a billion potential apps out there?
- Get off my lawn and get out of my car. That can be a reason. One that isn’t given enough weight these days.
If we really want to hit the biggest source of in-car distraction, there is really only one solution. The back seat needs to be separated from the front section. Preferably in its own separate bubble.