People won’t stop using their phones while driving. Here’s why

by Svenja Borgschulte, Story & Social

Everyday 8 people are killed on US roads because of distracted drivers. Most of these accidents involve using a smartphone. But still, we should be allowed to use our phones while on the wheel. There is good reason for it.

It is not our decision whether we use our smartphones or not. It is the “fear of missing out” (FoMO) which is guiding us. FoMO is strong: It is a desire or almost a compulsion to stay continually connected with what others are doing. It leads us to check social media again and again and again. Did you know that we touch our phones 2.617 times a day in average? That is almost two times per minute and one million times per year. 10% of users touch it actually 5.427 times a day — 2 million for the less restrained among us.

Even the police can not leave the hands of the smartphone.

FoMO is not a new phenomenon, but is reinforced by modern communication techniques in connection with social networks. This is why smartphones are indispensable to us: they allow us to connect to our friends and family and stay in touch with people all over the world — no matter when, where and how we want to do it. We need it, because a missed text message or unchecked notification can be a chance missed or an invitation neglected.

Multi-tasking while driving: You are not the exception

It’s becoming clearer and clearer that we simply can’t live without our cell phones anymore,and there is no exception made while driving. However, it’s absolutely correct that we don’t use our smartphones behind the wheel. That is reasonable, statistics prove it’s incredibly dangerous: Answering calls while driving increases the risk on an accident up to 6 times, writing messages actually up to 23 times.

But distraction is a broader problem — and drivers aren’t the only ones responsible. An estimated ten percent of pedestrian injuries that land people in emergency rooms are due to distracted walking, a recent study found. That’s thousands of people injured and sometimes killed. Solutions are being made to tackle this. Instead of banning the mobile phone while walking, traffic lights are increasingly being installed on the ground.

Drive with a friend

So what advances are being made in the tech-industry so that smartphone use and driving aren’t mutually exclusive? Notifying you about new messages, sorting them out and helping to create quick responses. There are already some solutions on the market, from the car industry, app companies or from Google and Apple. However most in-car solutions are not as helpful as they seem, as a study of the German automobile club ADAC found out. Moreover an installation and commissioning is still difficult and immensely frustrating (read here for a buying experience).

At the end of the day, we need someone who can operate your smartphone for you. Not distracting you the screen, but reading your emails and fully understanding what you need to respond to and what exactly to respond. A digital co-driver, who can behave exactly as a friend sitting on the passenger seat would. A co-driver who makes sure that you keep your eyes on the road, helps with directions and steers you clear of traffic and even entertains you when you are bored. In order to keep you safe and as focused as possible this friend listens and talks to you.

Often when you’re in the car on the way to work, or heading into town to run some errands, there is no one in the car with you to give you the friendly help you need. Too bad. But wait: shouldn’t we build something like this friend, instead of banning the smartphones in general? Yes — let’s build it.

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Svenja Borgschulte (“Rosalie”) is responsible for Story & Social at German Autolabs. She loves flamingos, football and pasta.
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