Texting and Driving

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Submitted by Eric Mitchell Harpenau
on 12/14/2018

Living in a fast-paced world, something is happening somewhere, and people want
to know all about it. With today’s technology, it is easier than ever to communicate. Companies are constantly creating new ways for people to share their ideas by text, call, or video chat. There are times when using these apps is acceptable, but doing so while driving is not. Texting, using social media apps, and searching the web while driving is dangerous and can lead to disastrous outcomes.

Problematic smartphone use was most related to the fear of missing out (FoMO), depression
(inversely), and a need for touch. This explains why many people feel the need to stay connected to their phones at all times. Texting while driving can lead to tickets, accidents, and even death, but people still take part in this hazardous practice. In fact, about 75% of young adults engage in texting while driving. Over half of them do so on a weekly basis and about 17% access the web while driving.

Experts say texting while driving is 6 times more likely to cause an accident than drinking and driving. It takes the driver’s eyes off the road and instead focuses them on a screen inside their car. This distracts drivers from what is ahead of them and can cause fatal accidents. This is largely a problem with teens, but adults also take part in this illegal practice.

At any given time, there are an estimated 660,000 people driving while using their phones. The amount number of times drivers spend looking away from the road while texting and driving were about 400% greater than when the drivers did not text and drive. Drivers’ variability in lane position also increased by about 50% and there was an increase of almost 150% in drivers’ variability in distances behind the vehicles ahead of them. All these factors lead up to about 1.6 million crashes each year as a result of cell phone use.

The first part of the solution would be to pass a law requiring all car manufacturers
to install a microchip in the steering wheel that disables social media, web searching, and texting apps on any phone within a certain range. The range would have to be large enough to disable the driver’s apps but short enough to not inconvenience any passengers.

This could be achieved by using Bluetooth technology to sync the phone with the car’s chip. Many cars already have this technology and use it to automatically sync driver’s phones with Pandora. Manufacturers could use this connection to disable apps that could distract drivers. This solution could be the most effective in terms of drivers affected but the major flaw is that it would not be fully effective for many years because drivers whose cars were made before the insertion of these chips would not have them installed.

Insurance agencies could give incentives to have chips implanted, but we would not be able to ensure that everyone would comply. While this solution may be the most effective in the long run, another solution could affect a wide range of people in less time.

After beginning the manufacturing of the chips but before the chips are effective, a more immediate solution could be instituted by passing a law requiring all smartphones to have a pre-downloaded, non-removable app that detects when the phone is moving at more than twenty miles per hour. Once the phone reaches this speed, the app activates
and disables all texting, web searching, and social media apps to keep the driver from accessing them while on the road. It would not disable apps used for routing, music, or calling.

The app would need access to GPS location and could use that technology to track the speed at which the phone is traveling. Phone companies could make an update for smartphones bought before the initiation of the app to automatically download it to ensure that millions more people have it. On top of being a more immediate solution, it would also come at a minimal expense. The only costs would come from paying for the hours it would take the app makers to create it and any costs associated with making an update for older smartphones to automatically install the app.

To ensure passengers can still use their phones while on the road, it could send a code to the phone once it is moving faster than twenty miles per hour. Any passengers in the car or on buses could type in this password and regain access to their apps. This password would be long and complex (20-30 characters including symbols and numbers)
to guarantee the vast majority of drivers would be unwilling to risk typing such code while driving. When the message for the code pops up, it will say to leave out a certain character that is included in the code.

For example, if the code is fgH5lkf&fQrb2f91V and the message says to exclude any “f’s”, the user would not type in any lowercase “f’s”. This will make it impossible for drivers to copy and paste the code. If the car slows down to under twenty miles per hour to stop at a stop light, the app would not make the users retype the password. Instead, it would be programmed to only resend the message if the phone has been under its speed limit for 30 minutes. This will allow for quick stops at gas stations, fast food restaurants, and other locations.

To guarantee emergency messages can still be delivered quickly, the phones would still be able to make phone calls. This would enable people to discuss matters if they are in a situation where communication is needed at that moment, such as if a family member or friend needs to be rushed to a hospital.

This would drastically reduce the
amount of time the driver’s eyes are off the road because, for smartphones, answering a phone call is as easy as swiping left or right. Instead of looking at the phone for multiple seconds at regular intervals to text, the driver would only look away for a second to find their phone and answer the call. In fact, it is possible drivers would not need to take their eyes off the road at all if they could grab their phone and answer it without looking.

Though people may not be happy they have to type in a code when they get in a car,
the installation of this app would be the fastest, most efficient way to reach millions of people because about 77% of all Americans own a smartphone. That’s over 250 million people. If all new smartphones were sold with the app and all smartphones purchased previously were updated to include this app, it could potentially affect millions of drivers within days. To keep people from hacking or “jailbreaking” phones to disable the app, a law could be passed to make it illegal.

Just like there are laws against having open alcohol containers in the vehicle, laws supporting this solution would be constitutional. However, there is a flaw in this solution too; some drivers will attempt to type in the code. Though the number of drivers who do this would be far less than the number of drivers currently texting and driving, there could still be accidents.

In the future, when the majority of cars on the road have the chips, these ideas would be combined to get rid of their individual imperfections. They could be used together to form a more perfect solution. The microchip inserted in cars could activate the app on the driver’s phone. It would only activate the app within a certain proximity, so it would only affect the driver, not the passengers.

This way, there would be no need for a code to be sent to the phones and therefore no risk of the drivers who would attempt typing in that code while driving. Also, in order to avoid activating the app on passengers’ phones in passing cars that happen to come into range, the pairing between the chip and the app on the phone could have a pairing time of 15 seconds. With no code to type and with the chips finally effective, texting while driving would no longer be a major problem.

Submitted by Eric Mitchell Harpenau
on 12/14/2018

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