Distracted driving the problem, not just technology

Ontario’s new law prohibiting driving while phoning has come into effect.

Meanwhile, a poll shows 90 per cent support for the ban on hand-held communication and entertainment devices while driving.

I’m not against reducing distractions while driving. But we haven’t seen any government banning kids in the back seat – as all parents know, post-soccer game carpools also have a lot of distractions.

When it’s not children causing distraction, it’s something else.

I once saw a neighbour with her oversized SUV, navigating with her knees as she has a phone in one hand, coffee in another with a cigarette dangling from her mouth. It’s an insurance claim waiting to happen.


No one is calling for legislation to ban cigarette smoking or coffee drinking or car-pool fighting or other similar distractions. I’m not convinced we need another law on the books – enforcement againt dangerous driving for any reason should be enough.

A year ago, I wrote that it is unclear that we have enough fact-based research to support the legislation that targets electronic devices. The bulk of the scientific literature seems to be pointing to a broader problem: driving while distracted – and we know that this includes distractions coming from many sources. Some papers refer to attention being diverted by being engaged in conversations – even those with someone else in the car.

Ontario cited some research when announcing the mobile device ban. A 12-year-old study from Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre is listed as the number two source by the province. Shouldn’t this issue have been a focus for some stronger research?

In the meantime, the new legislation should help stimulate a mini-boom for the mobile accessories business.

See related story: Ontario’s handheld device ban for drivers expected to boost Bluetooth sales

For the next three months, the province will use the legislation for education – expect to see commercials, print ads and a radio blitz. Police will issue warnings as opposed to tickets.

But, as of Feb. 1, it is a $500 fine for drivers to talk, text, type, dial or email using hand-held cell phones and other hand-held communications and entertainment devices. Smile – you may show up in candid photos.

How are you going handsfree? Is the speakerphone in your handset enough?

For those Blackberry users who can’t resist reviewing and responding to incoming messages, last year I wrote about an interesting solution by Waterloo-based IMS, providing text-to-speech integration with Blackberry mail functions.

See product review: iLane promises a productive drive, delivers frustration

I have recently started using a Bluetooth-equipped rear-view mirror, from Montreal-based Bluesky Tech. It can broadcast over FM or use built-in speakers.

An earbud is magnetically attached on the side of the mirror if you need to switch to a more private conversation. For everyone else in the household, we are using Bluetooth earpieces – can’t these be made better-fitting, and maybe cushioned?

And while I am on a rant, how about something like the ‘Clapper’ that lets your $150 earpiece tell you where it is hiding? Has anyone else lost more than one?

Mark H. Goldberg is the head of a telecommunications consulting firm based in Thornhill, Ont. He blogs regularly on communications issues and today is an invited guest-blogger for ITBusiness.ca.

What is your hands-free solution for using your mobile device while driving? Share in the comments section.

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