About the author

Myron Levin is editor of FairWarning.

2 comments to “Mixed Message?”

  1. Mary Kay Kidwell

    Thank you, fairwarning.org, for featuring this issue. As someone who learned to drive a 1954 Chevy in the days when the only “gadget” was a poor excuse for a radio (no power steering, no power brakes, just a big heavy machine), I was taught to not only start the engine, work the clutch, shift gears as the situation demanded, etc., but to observe my surroundings, anticipate what other drivers might do, and basically pay attention.

    No one seems to focus on the intricacies of driving, especially in this age of speed and distraction. Vehicles have become accessories for our young people, and automakers cater to a strange need to be disconnected from reality, thereby shutting out important, often deadly, outside influences. Rather than enforce safe driving, we’re looking at solutions that will remove the driver from responsibility entirely. If you don’t want to be a responsible driver, take the train! Or a bus! Get off the roads!

    I am concerned that the majority of people I encounter nowadays are plugged in–in one way or another–seemingly to avoid their surroundings altogether (the solution to this would involve a psychological study).

    I am concerned that the quality of vehicles produced today is substandard (just take a look at the number of recalls announced every day); instead they are “loaded” with gadgets (I don’t see many gadget that save lives).

    And, I am concerned that those responsible for enfocing safety are influenced by politicians with their own agendas. I know that their methods for analyzing safety issues are based on numbers rather than on human life. They’ve lost touch with their basic mission.

    Thankfully, I learned to operate and control an unadorned car. More importantly, I learned to make focusing on my surroundings the primary use of my senses. It seems so simple. I wish it were.

  2. Rob Reynolds

    I appreciate this article for its content and because it covers the scope of the issue pretty well from many angles. However, the only thing that I would add is a victim’s perspective since the issue is affecting human lives and changing them irrevocably forever.

    Regarding the Super bowl ad, it saddens me to see such a huge distraction like anticipating and then processing important news while you drive. How many thoughts are racing through your head as you process a woman’s response to your first date?

    Inattention blindness is real. It happens when people engage in what would typically be a singular, cognitive activity (conversing, web surfing, working) and then add an equally taxing cognitive activity (like driving). The problem is, you make a mistake in one and you simply repeat your message; make a mistake in the other and the results can be damaging at best, fatal at worst.

    No one can predict when the mundane drive will take a momentary turn and become a split-second decision for the driver- the outcome of which will affect their life or another driver’s. People will ‘blank out’ for a moment, just as they so aptly show the guy do in the commercial, but notice how they offer no solution for his lapse in inattention? They simply show how easy and gratifying it is to do as he drives without incident. But is that real life?

    It’s sad that anyone would think that this is a good idea and that it could be deemed ‘safe’. Unfortunately for drivers and pedestrians in front of the drivers in these vehicles, there is no ‘opt in’ when they engage these attention-sapping entertainment options and implicitly say, “Hey, don’t worry people in front of me; I’ve got this under control. I’m really good at it.” Instead they make that choice for everyone and leave the consequences to something that’s been inaccurately labeled “just an accident”. But when you intentionally make the choice to abandon your driver responsibility for a few moments to catch up on your social network of choice, is it an accident?

    And if it’s so innocuous, so safe, will we be seeing these systems in school buses anytime soon? Cockpits? Too risky you say- then how about in your teenagers car? The 19 or 20 year old’s? Still a little uncomfortable? How about your kid’s grandparents? Who gets to say who can ‘handle’ this safely for the rest of us?

    Make no mistake, the auto industry is setting you up to do things you may not have dreamed of doing unless you had the cool gadget to enable you to do it already built into your car- and they are saying, “Hey, don’t worry, it’s ok. We think this is safe.” I mean, why else would they po$$ibly install it in your car if it wasn’t?

    I seem to recall the tobacco industry saying similar things about filters on cigarettes too.

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