When I saw so many states begin outlawing the talking on cell phones while driving, I immediately speculated that cell phone-related accidents would rise sustantially, as people switched from merely speaking on the phone to texting instead, so they can keep the phone below window level and thus out of view.
Unfortunately, I’m old enough to remember when what has evolved to cell phones today was invented; they were called “car phones” and they were monstrous phones that were hooked into the vehicle’s power supply to operate, much like a stereo or CB radio. They were invented so people could make use of their time that was, up until then, wasted while driving, using the phone to take care of business, keep in touch with family and friends, etc.
At the time, they were expensive, and thus a status symbol; you could even get a fake one to put in your car, to make people think you were rich enough to have a car phone.
The point is this: people aren’t going to stop using their cell phones while driving—which was why they were originally invented in the first place—just because there are more and more “laws” forbidding it.
Instead, more and more people are, indeed, switching to texting, in order to keep their while-driving phone use out of view—a behavior that is much more dangerous than merely talking on the phone while driving—and yes, accidents are now skyrocketing as a result.
However, when I read this article by Gabriel Noble and watched the video with Katie Couric and Groove’s inventor Scott Tibbitts, I realized I was missing a major element to this issue: incoming texts and notifications. Since I’ve never owned a smart phone, and still don’t—I still ue a simple cell phone, with only voice and text capabilities (I know, I know)—then getting incoming notifications while driving—from apps such as Facebook, Twitter, or email utilities—simply hadn’t occurred to me. I was only considering user-intiated cell phone use.
So, while I still hold the position that if talking on cell phones while driving was re-instated as legal, the incidents of traffic accidents caused by texting would diminish considerably, the article and video enlightened me to the issue of incoming texts and notifications, and their obvious temptation to view and respond to while driving. Definitely a problem.
Well, there may be a market-driven solution to that problem: Katasi’s “Groove” is a gadget that, when installed in the vehicle, blocks texts, emails, and other notifications such as those from social media from reaching the driver’s phone—and it was invented by a “rocket scientist” by the name of Scott Tibbitts.
According to the article: in 2008, a friend of Scott’s, Dave Sueper, while on his way to meet with Scott, was struck and killed by a “distracted” teenage driver who had run a red light. Scott, who at the time was a chemical engineer and space entrepreneur making motors for NASA, was deeply affected by the accident and death of his friend, and began thinking of ways to prevent such incidents from happening in the future. Since he had recently sold his space company, Starsys Research Corp., and was looking for a new professional challenge, he committed himself to finding a solution to the problem of distracted driving.
His solution: the Groove.
Katasi works with telecom providers to actually block incoming texts and notifications to the driver while the vehicle is in operation. It also has a reward system for accruing safe drive time without cell phone use, which can be redeemed for coffee, food, and other treats, and even bigger rewards such as event tickets. Or, if you prefer, you can “pay if forward” by cashing in your Groove points and donating to your favorite charity.
This could be one awesome deterrent to the problem of distracted driving. Definitely worth a watch: