By Joel Waithman
Last week, along with Nigel Maund, Walt Fischer and others from Webtech Wireless, I attended NAFA in Atlantic City, New Jersey. I’m sure it’s a fun place in the summer, but in April there wasn’t much to distract me from the trade show (except perhaps a visit to the roulette table).
While at the conference, I attended an excellent presentation called, “Breakthrough Technologies and Future Trends for Fleet Telematics”, which described how telematics is going to impact fleet management in the next few years. The format of the presentation was a panel of four telematics specialists (responsible for huge fleets such as ARI) and a moderator. They fielded about ten questions and spent about ten minutes answering each question, except for one: The big question on everyone’s mind was distracted driving. This topic consumed a whole hour of the presentation time with many people from both commercial and government fleets weighing in on different points. Questions included, “How can we solve it?”, “Are we invading the privacy of the driver?”, and “What applications are available?”
So, gambling may be a fine distraction in Atlantic City, but no one’s gambling on distracted driving. One commenter compared cell phone use while driving to gun ownership. After all, a vehicle is potentially as lethal to operate, so some form of regulation is needed to ensure people use it properly. But is it the responsibility of governments to enforce? Some government operators suggested that unions might resist (unless required to comply by government regulations) while others embraced the idea (particularly commercial operators who shoulder a great deal of responsibility regardless of whether cell phones are used for private or company purposes). Everyone was aware of the Coca-Cola settlement of last year that set a precedent across the board for companies to monitor their drivers’ cell phone habits more closely.
On a lighter note, this year AT&T set up a demo car on the trade show floor equipped to demonstrate the risks of distracted driving. To try it, we put on special goggles that simulated a driver’s view and then we were given a cell phone to type on while driving. The demo could measure our level of distraction using graphs that measured speed fluctuations as we texted. People who tried the simulation were surprised by how distracted they became.
These experiences reminded me how critical our Webtech Wireless MDTs with hands-free voice are to preventing distracted driving. Even our auditory alert warnings (such as on the Accelerometer) to warn of excess speed, braking, and other erratic driving behavior ensure safety by keeping drivers focused on driving rather than texting. There are many ways to be distracted nowadays, but it’s in no one’s interest to gamble on road safety.