Thought for the day: Steering clear of danger

From next month it will be an offence to hold and operate a mobile device while driving. While Simon Moores agrees this is a good...

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From next month it will be an offence to hold and operate a mobile device while driving. While Simon Moores agrees this is a good thing, he admits technology is not entirely to blame. Many car owners have long been convinced of their ability to multitask when they are behind the wheel.

 

 

On an old PC which is gathering dust in my attic, is a Microsoft Windows CE presentation from more than five years ago, which shows how mobile computing will revolutionise our lives.

This was in the days before the Palm and The Pocket PC, but Microsoft, in conjunction with Ford, imagined that today’s Focus or Mondeo would have e-mail and Outlook as part of the car’s entertainment system as the stereo and, perhaps, the mobile phone.

But mobile phones and PDAs became portable gadgetry and we found we no longer needed a separate and expensive mobile telephone number for the car.

Where driving is concerned, I rarely use the car, preferring my motorcycle and all the risks that go with it. No congestion charge, reliable parking and predictable appointment times. I also use my mobile phone, hands free, of course, and only to take calls, which invariably cause me to pull over because of the noise or shout, “I’m on the bike – talk later."

On 1 December it will become an offence to hold and operate a mobile device while driving, or to use a device, even if it is fixed in a cradle, for sending or receiving data. This finally ends the dream of in-car and on-the-move communications because it includes e-mails, text messages, picture messages and accessing ComputerWeekly.com on the internet. Try using your phone without a hands-free kit in a manner that interferes with the proper control of the vehicle and you can be fined £30 and charged with careless or dangerous driving.

From a London motorcyclist’s perspective, this isn’t such a bad idea as you have to develop a sixth sense for dealing with mobile phone users. Normally, these are very easy to spot. Approaching from behind and even without seeing the driver, there is a definite signature to a person’s driving when they are on the phone, from a slight telltale weaving to an almost complete loss of attention.

To be honest though, as a society, we have now taken our cars so much for granted that there is no end to what we will try to do in them while we are driving.

I have seen people eating their breakfast with both hands and drinking hot coffee, and using the rear-view mirror to apply mascara in the fast lane of the motorway. More unusual, but steadily increasing, is using a laptop keyboard while overtaking, watching TV, making notes with the hand which isn’t holding the mobile phone and using the elbows to steer.

The list  appears endless and, from the direct experience of knowing an IT director who drove his BMW into a motorway bridge, each inattention kills on a regular basis.

If we leave aside the other habits, it’s the brutal pressure of work and the 24/7 presence of technology, which is putting lives at risk. The problem though, is that for a £30 fine, the government isn’t going to change a collective behaviour other than make drivers more circumspect about waving their hands around or  keeping their wireless laptops open on the passenger seat, which will force them to turn their heads 90 degrees to the side to read their e-mail while on the move.

The truth of the matter is that we are addicted to our technology in a world where movement rarely exceeds 10mph in the cities and frequently less on the motorways. The future is one where we will find more communications and entertainment technology jammed into tomorrow’s cars as people spend more of their time trapped in their cars and living the miseries of the commuting day.

What do you think?

Do you think the ban on using mobile devices while driving will change people's behaviour?  Tell us in an e-mail >>  ComputerWeekly.com reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the website. Please state if your answer is not for publication.

Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of leading industry analyst Dr Simon Moores of Zentelligence.

Acting globally, Zentelligence (Research) advises governments, suppliers, business and the media on the evolution, application and delivery of leading-edge technologies and specialises in the areas of eGovernment and information security.

For further information on Zentelligence and its research, presentation and analyst services visit www.zentelligence.com

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