Friday, July 12, 2013

Distracted Driving

When I look at drivers at all, I see far too many of them with their eyes aimed down instead of out toward the road. The more conscientious might be holding their device up on the steering wheel so they can glance up at whatever they are hurtling toward at 50-70 miles per hour. In the case of oncoming motor vehicle traffic those closure speeds would be 100-140. They're still not paying full attention, no matter what they might think.

On Wednesday I posted this idea: To reach distracted drivers, someone needs to invent a device that will broadcast a text alert to any cell phone in active use within 100 yards. Don't bother trying to get idiots to improve their driving habits. Just send them a text of your own. "Cyclist ahead! Eyes on the road, doofus!"

I realize now that a text alert reinforces their idea that their behavior is acceptable. Besides, that message takes too long to read. So the transponder cyclists could carry will interrupt the signal of any phone in the target range and cause it to heat rapidly to 300 degrees.

In the case of hands-free voice-to-text devices, they will simply emit a piercing shriek, or perhaps say, "Pay attention to your driving! Watch where you're going! Slow down! Give that cyclist three feet of passing room!"

Transponder owners could customize their outgoing message. It might say something like, "That rider carries a gun and can shoot the eye out of a flea at 50 yards." Or, more realistically, it could say, "Good luck getting ALL the blood off your car. Better pass with lots of room."

The classic "Hang up and drive" is nice and direct. But it doesn't acknowledge the essential stress and boredom of driving that motivates people to seek distraction in the first place. If driving was as great as the car advertisements portray it, no one would want to dilute the ecstasy with phone calls and text messages.

Summer traffic around here dramatically increases the numbers of the angry and the stupid. It's our little taste of what life is like in Sprawlopolis, the seething, built-out circles of Hell from which these vacationers have briefly escaped. Between the traffic and the parking, it's a great time to be on a bike, slipping through it, instead of in a car, stuck in the middle of it.

If you call me it's going to go to voice mail.


Steve A said...

Around Ocean Shores, the drivers seem to mellow a bit when they get here.

RANTWICK said...

Heat the phone! Heat the phone! That's the best one.

Scott Robertson said...

How about an app that alerts drivers if they are too close to a pedestrian or a cyclist?? A short sharp beep and they know they're in the wrong...But, I have a feeling this ain't gonna happen...

cafiend said...

Some fancy cars have proximity alarms. I wonder how often the drivers of them go, "what's that noise?"

cafiend said...

@Steve A: I noticed that drivers seemed weirdly tolerant on the outer end of Cape Cod. There's a hugely popular recreation path out there and a lot of bikes on the roads. I haven't ridden on the inner Cape, but I bet drivers aren't as laid back closer to where they just fought their way across one of the bridges.