A couple of days ago, I happened to be in the car when NPR’s The Kojo Nnamdi Show was playing. It just so happened that it was “Tech Tuesday,” and they were talking about new findings on distracted driving. Some of the findings would probably shock most people. For instance, would you have guessed that there is no (statistically) significant difference between talking on a cell phone with bluetooth and without bluetooth? I wouldn’t have. And, in fact, part of me thinks that the study maybe wasn’t designed optimally for testing the hypothesis, but I didn’t read the journal article.
One of the more interesting parts of the conversation was when one of the callers brought up the point about having cell phones automatically “lock” themselves when the car is in motion. One of the guests pointed out that this is already out there. She mentioned that there were apps that would “lock” the phone if the car is in motion. Then, Kojo brought up the point about passengers in the car — would they still be able to use their phones in the car? At this point, the guest then explained that getting around the “locked” phone is not too difficult.
After listening to this exchange, I realized that car safety (ala cell phones) is a choice. That is, it’s a choice by the driver. It’s probably not possible to completely legislate away a person’s ability to use their cell phone while driving (meaning: it likely wouldn’t hold up in court), so then it becomes a choice for driver. Does the driver want to increase their chances of causing an accident? Because that’s what happens when a driver decides to use their cell phone while driving. They’re increasing their chances of causing (or being in) an accident. To take this down a psychological tangent, it’s possible that they don’t value their life (as much as the next person) and so they’re willing to take this kind of risk.
As I got out of the car and began walking to my destination, my thoughts floated back to the 2009 book, Nudge (I think I’ve mentioned it on here before). I was trying to think of a way that we, as a society, could help nudge people to make better choices when behind the wheel. Is there some way we could nudge drivers away from using their cell phone?