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Graham Hurdle's blog: 17th September: New in car texting system doesn't make me LOL

Date: 17 September 2014

Graham Hurdle is managing director of E-Training World

Watching the advertisement for Ford's new in car text message reader made me sit forward and think W@? (Which I'm told by my daughter is text lingo for "what?")

At a time when most road safety professionals are trying to make it culturally unacceptable to use mobile phones at any time whilst driving (despite the law allowing hands free communication), and also trying to educate drivers to minimise the number of in-vehicle distractions, here we have a system that enables you to communicate via text messages while driving.

Looking at the information about this in car gadget, in-coming messages are read out to the driver who is then able to reply with some standard responses; one of which is "Can you give me a call?" (supposedly while I'm driving) and the other is the response of "LOL" which is clearly an urgent and important one to send whilst concentrating on the road ahead!

Ford's angle on this is: "Smartphones have quickly become an essential part of many people's day, however text messages can be a distraction for drivers, so the benefit of a system that can read messages aloud from compatible smartphones is obvious."

I don't dispute that. Yes, smartphones are part of everyday life. Yes, text messages are a distraction. And in some respects I can see that if drivers are going to flout the law and drive unsafely by texting while driving, Ford have helped to solve a very dangerous problem here.

But as a road safety professional it pains me to see things like this as I'd much prefer it if everyone involved in the automotive sector joined forces and pushed home the message that texting while driving should never happen.

Why are we adding more and more gadgets to vehicles that encourage drivers to momentarily take their eyes off the road? We all know an accident can happen in a fraction of a second when there is a lapse of concentration.

Why aren't the motor manufacturers doing more to make it impossible to use a mobile device while a vehicle is moving?

What message does it send out to drivers that it's acceptable to look away from the road, and search for a reply on a computer screen to simply send a text that says 'LOL'? A message that is not useful, urgent nor important.

For me, it's a step in the wrong direction and I'd much rather see a system that announces to a driver that they have a text message, but gives them no access to it until the vehicle has stopped and the engine is off!



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