While we applaud the efforts of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving, we question the effectiveness of one of its most recent recommendations.
The NHTSA proposed in February for automakers to include technology that automatically disables built-in devices used for making phone calls, sending text messages or emails or using the Internet. But as automakers have indicated, that could lead to even more distracted driving.
For example, if your new car's built-in navigation system or music system is automatically disabled when you begin to drive, there's nothing to stop you from simply using your handheld navigational device or MP3 player. In other words, if drivers can't get information from one source, they'll find another source, and then we're right back to where we are now, only we'll have expensive new and essentially useless technology on our new vehicle.
Opponents of such technology also point out that it could interfere with wireless devices in nearby vehicles, or devices being used by people nearby, which is obviously an unacceptable side effect.
Distracted driving is certainly a growing concern. Drive down Broadway or any other street in Minot and you'll see drivers texting, talking on the phone or flipping through choices on a handheld music device. Minot is no different than any other city in that respect. States including North Dakota have made texting while driving illegal, but we wonder how effective the law has been.
There is no simple, effective solution for distracted driving. Consumers will always find a way around laws or technology. But automatically disabling certain features on automobiles is not the answer. It won't work, and in most cases, will make the problem worse.