You may not have heard of “webbing” but you will soon. Webbing has nothing to do with Spiderman; it’s driving while trying to surf the Internet, update your social media postings, and generally watch a screen when you should be watching the road. State Farm Insurance Company surveyed drivers recently and found that, among 18 to 29 year-olds, 43 percent admitted to checking e-mail while driving. Thirty six percent say they touch base with their social media connections while behind the wheel. But it’s not just the kids making the roads that much more hazardous. One out of five drivers of all ages admits to these behaviors. The result is more crashes, and more injuries and deaths.
So who is aiding the abetting this dangerous turn of events? The car makers, of course. New, high-end vehicles come equipped with navigation systems that can connect to the Internet and allow the driver to surf the Web. Look at BMW, for example. According to their promotional webpage (of course) drivers have access to news, weather, Google, Microsoft Office and other diversions. Now, the driver is not actually supposed to be typing. Instead, he uses voice commands and the system talks back.
Better a talking screen that thumbing out a Web search, you say? Officially the jury is still out on that question but other studies have shown that drivers who pay too much attention to the radio, to making phone calls, and even to talking to other passengers are at greater risk of causing a crash. The automakers, presumably to calm their critics, disable some of the features when the car is in motion, but how long until some hacker figures out a way around that, if it hasn’t been done already.
So on one hand we have the safety experts telling us that texting, e-mailing and using electronic devices while driving makes us more dangerous than drunks, while on the other hand the car companies are enabling our visceral need to be in constant electronic communication with the entire planet. Perhaps the planet can wait until we get to where we’re going.
Source: MSN.com, “Distracted driving due to Web surfing is on the rise,” Douglas Newcomb, Nov. 29, 2012