Companies shouldn't have to release apps to limit distraction from your phone

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| January 16, 2014

Cell phones and cars don't usually mix very well, especially now that smartphones are in the mix and you spend more time looking at your phone rather than holding it up to your ear. We've all probably been there. Our phone will be sitting there in the passenger seat, or maybe in the cup holder in front of you, and you hear the text tone alert go off. Instinctively, you want to pick it up and read it. Whether you actually chose to read it or not was up to you, but just about anybody would tell you that picking it up and reading it would be nothing short of foolish, if for no other reason than the fact that you are driving a two-ton hunk of metal hurdling down the road at a far greater force than anybody would like to deal with head-on. 

The solution to such an issue seems simple - just ignore your phone. Put it on mute or something. Put it inside your glove box so you don't even notice when it goes off. One of the first rules of driving is to always keep your eyes on the road because you never know when something could unexpectedly come out in front of you, or pull up behind you. If you've never heard of this rule, you probably either don't or you shouldn't have your driver's license. So when it comes to answering a text message or notification, it would seem obvious that doing so would be considered distracted driving to say the least. But some might argue that it's almost an addiction to read whatever notification or text message has come through immediately. If nothing else, it's habitual.

In fact, dealing with drivers who are reading or responding to a text message has even been found in some studies to be more dangerous than drinking and driving, yet it's more acceptable because texting and driving is still a very "fresh" situation. To a lot of people, at least the ones in my life I've addressed specifically about the issue, they feel that they're "good enough" drivers to text and still be able to drive safely.

And I'm here to say that I don't believe any of that. Just because you haven't hit anybody or anything at this point while texting and driving doesn't mean you're so good that you've avoided anything. To me, that just means you're lucky. Really lucky.

Many of you are aware of AT&T's "It Can Wait" campaign, which is their campaign to completely end distracted driving with cell phones altogether with the subtle reminder that it can wait. Then you have the campaign from New York, which was trying to install "Texting Zones" so people could pull off the road and text if they needed to. Today, I learned of Samsung's "Eyes On The Road" application. It's a simple application that will shut off all notifications of incoming calls, text messages or any other application notifications when it detects that you're going faster than 20 kilometers per hour. All you have to do is launch the application. Sounds pretty cool, right?

I guess it would be, if it wasn't for the fact that Samsung feels the need to create an application in order to remind people to not actively try and put theirs (not to mention others') lives in danger. Is this really what it has come down to? Nevermind the fact that every single phone on the market already has a feature installed that works just like the Eyes On The Road app - it's called a power button. You push it down and no notifications come through. When you're ready to use it again, you push the power button again. It's like magic. It's called common sense. 

I get that phones are addicting, I really do. But there has to be a point where it's just not worth it. Especially for something like a text message. It's a text message for a reason - you can read it whenever. I think it's great that Samsung wants to actively help end distracted driving involving smartphones with this application, but I don't feel like this is going to work any better than any other method has. If the people who text and drive aren't willing to turn off or mute their phone for the drive, then they're probably not going to open an application. If the initiative to have a significantly better chance of not being seriously injured or killed isn't enough, neither is this application. While I appreciate Samsung's, and everybody else's for that matter, efforts to end distracted driving, I'm ashamed that this has become as big of an issue as it has.

Image via Digital Trends, PolHudson