Texting while driving has been long recognized to be a danger. The act of picking up a phone and reading the text or using our fingers to type out the letters of a text is a significantly taxing activity for the brain. We know this type of distraction leads to car accidents, and various solutions have been proposed to prevent this distraction from becoming deadly.

Researchers attempted to make texting a speech-driven activity, where the device would read the text to the driver, the driver could speak the words, and the device would translate the spoken words to text. This should solve the distraction problem, as there would be no looking at the screen or attempting to type the text with our fingers. 

Wrong. The researchers found the system was even more distracting than using hand-held texting. Language usage is a very complex activity, and it takes the brain’s focus away from driving.

The act of creating a text or even speaking on a phone is distracting, and when combined with the equally complex act of driving a motor vehicle, makes for a dangerous mix.

The urgency in fixing this problem due to the fact that those teens who are obtaining their licenses this year have never known a world without an internet and cellphones. Many have had their own phones since grade school, and texting is as second nature as breathing. The genie cannot be placed back into the bottle.

This suggests the distracted driving problem could grow immensely worse, as we have more drivers who have so internalized texting and driving that they would be unable to ever willingly stop. How can they stop a behavior they do not even realize they are engaged in?

Technology may offer a solution. Apple is apparently working on a feature that would allow texting to be locked-out while a vehicle is in motion. It may be the only option, as it may not be possible to legislate this behavior any longer.

Source: NPR.com, “Using Technology To Fix The Texting-While-Driving Problem,” Jessica Glazer, April 24, 2014