By Ajay Jain:
I finally did it! After four and a half years of living in smartphone bliss, I ditched my iPhone over the holidays and switched to my new and shiny Nexus 4 that I was lucky enough to order during its botched launch. While the main motivation behind switching was due to the total lack of data connectivity at my place of work on AT&T's network, I have since realized a possible life altering benefit. Let me explain.
A large majority of iPhone users have complained (and still complain) about the puny 3.5" inch (and now 4" inch) screen on the iPhone, I personally felt that the engineers at Apple had built the perfect sized phone for one hand use. I could text, surf, reply to emails effortlessly with one hand - even while driving to/from work. While I always knew in the back of my mind that it was a matter of time before I would add to the alarming increase in accidents caused by distracted driving, my addiction to staying connected and respond to every text/email as they came in got the better of the left side of my brain. Not anymore - the Nexus 4 is just too big to text/surf/email comfortably with one hand. Problem solved.
Lighter things aside, distracted driving is fast becoming the leading cause of traffic accidents/deaths across the country, specially among the always connected and increasing mobile young drivers from the Gen Y. This infographic provides a number of useful data points regarding the number of accidents/deaths caused by distracted driving, breakdown of usage between teen drivers and adults and the current state of state regulations and technology for tackling this serious issue. I think we need to do more, we can do more - for the sake of people we care about. Following is a list of my out of the sky ideas around tackling distracted driving -
- Just like Federal Reserve classified a number of the larger banks in the country as 'Too Big to Fail" after the 2008 financial crisis, the FCC and the NHTSA should undertake some studies and certify smartphones with their seal of approval with a "Too Big to Text" logo (a.k.a the Good Housekeeping Seal.)
- Imposing a levy/surcharge on consumers buying smartphones without the "Too Big to Text" classification (on the lines of gas guzzler tax.) The additional revenue can help pay for increased law enforcement, marketing and education efforts and helping victims of distracted driving.
- Phone Carriers introducing higher tiered pricing for data/text access when the user is driving - $0.99/text, $1/MB of data usage and so on.
- Retail Cell Phone Outlets conducting a "hand-to-phone" fitness test at the time of phone purchase and offering subsidies for consumers opting for a phone that is harder to use with one hand.
- Device manufacturers requiring a '17' digit pin to be entered every time a user tries to use the phone while driving (except for emergency calls and a list of whitelisted phone numbers)
- Auto manufactures/Insurance companies investing in technology for jamming data/texting capabilities for cars/trucks and offering incentives for consumers opting in (on the lines of Progressive Insurance's Snapshot device.)
- A recent article on Forbes declared 2013 as the year of Self Quantification - taking the lead, device manufactures providing capabilities for users to monitor their phone usage while driving and introduce elements of gamification for helping with behavior change (a friend and I built an iOS app last fall for self quantification of distracted driving but even after 4 months of ongoing dialog with Apple engineers, we haven't had luck in getting it approved for the App Store - that story for another blog post.)
I would like to hear my readers' thoughts, stories and other ideas for tackling this growing epidemic facing our society. And please, don't text while driving. If it is too hard to resist, get a phone that is "Too big to Text" with one hand.