Radar Gun Targets Texting & Driving - InformationWeek

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9/22/2014
10:30 AM
David Wagner
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Radar Gun Targets Texting & Driving

Commsonics' new "texting gun" aims to stop one of the most dangerous practices on the road.

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The next time you drive down the highway, the police may be aiming a new gun at you -- one that can tell if you are texting while driving. Commsonics hopes that its device, which is similar to a radar gun, can help police stop people from texting and driving.

The gun distinguishes the unique signal from sending and receiving texts from other background signals. This would allow police to meet their ticket quota... er... keep the roads safe with a simple device. Presumably, it could even be combined with a traditional radar gun to put the bite on you twice... er... save you from your own poor choices.

Next, the company will develop a gun that checks to make sure you are wearing your seat belt -- or that you're not getting too much of a groove on to your favorite jam, daydreaming about winning the lottery and quitting your job, or looking for the french fry you dropped behind the seat.

[Apple patent takes on dangerous distractions. Read Apple Transparent Texting: Faceplant Prevention?]

Let's face it, banning this gun would be the only gun control even the NRA would support. Everyone will hate this. Texting and driving is one of those things that everyone knows is stupid and does anyway... like watching NCIS or going to casinos... or voting for president. According to a recent poll, 94% of Americans say sending a text while driving is dangerous, and 91% say reading texts is dangerous. Yet 45% admit to reading texts, and the other 55 percent lie. We all do it, just as no one drives the speed limit unless they are behind a truck going up a hill.

The good news is that Commsonics still needs to test the guns with law enforcement to see how much money the things will make the state... er... to make sure they work reliably. It raises some questions for me:

  • My phone pulls texts whether I'm reading them or not. How will they account for incoming texts I'm not reading?
  • Given how quick the signal for a text is, how often will these guns actually find people texting and driving? Won't you have to be driving by and texting in just the split second the gun is pointed at you? That seems unlikely. People speed for miles and miles. They text for seconds intermittently.
  • If this works, wouldn't it be easier for all of us to just write a check directly to Commsonics and the state?

It's easy to make light of this, but texting and driving is a very real problem. The National Safety Council believes 1.3 million crashes are caused by texting and driving each year. If that's not convincing enough for you, maybe this video will help:

What do you think? Are you scared of the texting gun? Do you text and drive? (Be honest!) Should states use them? Tell us in the comments.

If the world weren't changing, we might continue to view IT purely as a service organization, and ITSM might be the most important focus for IT leaders. But it's not, it isn't, and it won't be -- at least not in its present form. Get the Research: Beyond IT Service Management report today. (Free registration required.)

David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio
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asksqn
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asksqn,
User Rank: Ninja
9/28/2014 | 8:30:51 PM
The new red light camera only worse
The text reading gun will be just as effective as red light cameras are - it's not about reliability or safety- it's about cha-ching! Fine in the mail.  You can pay your $350.00 fine on our new paypal enabled website.  We accept all major credit cards for your convenience. 
Angelfuego
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Angelfuego,
User Rank: Ninja
9/25/2014 | 3:04:26 PM
Re: CDC and distracted driving
@mak63, I think what you wrote ablout making a pledge to stop using your phone while driving is a great idea. Oprah Winfrey was a part of a campaign to get people to sign a pledge in an attempt to get people to stop using the phone while driving. Here is the pledge if anyone is interested: http://www.isd21.mb.ca/ISDESD/pdfs/no-phone-zone-pledge%20.pdf
Angelfuego
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Angelfuego,
User Rank: Ninja
9/25/2014 | 2:57:01 PM
Re: CDC and distracted driving
I am guilty of reading and sending texts at red lights. I justify it by saying I only do it sometimes and only at red lights. I'm going to try to stop that now, especially after reading your article. Not only do I don't want to be a target for a texting while driving radar gun, but I don't want to a pay a fine and have points on my license. More importantly, I don't want to be a cause for an accident.
mak63
IW Pick
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
9/24/2014 | 7:37:37 PM
CDC and distracted driving
I thought it was appropriate to pass out what I found on the CDC and distracted driving webpage

There are several things you can do to keep yourself and others safe on the road:

Steps for all drivers:

  • Model safe behavior behind the wheel—never text and drive.
  • Always stay focused and alert when driving.
  • Take the pledge—commit to distraction-free driving.
  • Speak out if the driver in your car is distracted.
  • Encourage your friends and family to designate their cars a "no phone" zone when driving.
  • Spread the word—get involved in promoting safe driving in your community.

Steps for parents of teen drivers:

  • Know and obey the laws in your state. Many states have Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws that include cell phone and texting bans for young drivers.
  • Discuss what it means to be a safe driver with your teen and set ground rules for when they are behind the wheel.
  • Make a family pledge and have other members in your family commit to distraction-free driving.
  • Set a positive example for your teen by putting your cell phone away every time you drive.
Tony A
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Tony A,
User Rank: Moderator
9/24/2014 | 12:25:50 PM
Re: We Don't All Do It
David - I could put my position very simply: I'm against almost all forms of surveillance without a specific target, and generally in favor of regulations that improve social well-being overall. I'm afraid your perspective could justify the removal of environmental, financial and public safety regulations of all sorts, because you don't draw a very clear line between what freedoms you think are protected from regulation and what should be regulated. But it is at least clear that you would allow behavior that has a clear potential to be fatal to innocent people, not to mention oneself, even if it could be regulated and proevented. So I can't get behind the broad position you outline, any more than I can support the NRA's position on gun control. 

I will concede that I would not support something like a built-in breathalizer or text disabler unless it could be shown that those technologies pinpoint the exact problem we want to correct and do not also impede normal behavior in vehicles. I have a right to text or be drunk in a car, I just don't have a right to be the one driving it at that time. To me, doing so is like firing a gun at random and hoping you don't hit anyone. We can do better as a society and still keep the freedom's that make us a great democracy.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
9/23/2014 | 3:39:21 PM
Re: We Don't All Do It
@tonyA- Not sure I agree. Our government could easily make us 100% safe from harm. It could lock each one of us in a cell covered in bubble wrap. It could feed us only the most perfect food while forcing us to exercise at gun point. They could isolate us from germs and keep us alive for a very long time. 

We choose not to live that way. We choose to live in a society which is mixed with a certain amount of safety and a certain amount of danger. We've known the problem of drunk driving for decades but we don't have to take a breath or a blood test before we get behind the wheel, because as a society we choose a little extra danger and a little extra personal responsibility over being forced to take such a test. I, for one, don't want to live in a society that forces us to live a single way.

i believe in the ability of adults to come to responsible decisions when discussed over time. 

That said, I don't have a problem with an optional technolgical solution being developed. I just don't believe that we as a society will choose it. And I'm sort of happy about that. 
Tony A
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Tony A,
User Rank: Moderator
9/23/2014 | 3:25:01 PM
Re: We Don't All Do It
David - I'm not sure I agree with you that approaching people who do something flagrantly antisocial and dangerous by saying, "Hey, I do that too, everyone does!" is the most constructive way to engage them or get them to change their behavior. But rather than argue that, I think the focus should be on the solution. It seems like we agree that putting more radar guns in the hands of local PD's is not going to change anything, other than paying the salaries of people who spend their days and nights manning speed traps and trying them in local kangaroo courts. This is no solution, not only because it is ineffective but because in spite of our own weaknesses and vulnerability, public surveillance of all types has gone out of control and needs to be reigned in, not expanded. (Maybe a small "improvement" in the technology would let the roadside cop read what I'm texting to my wife?) Automobiles are equipped with all kinds of safety devices, environmental controls, etc., some by law, others because manufacturers compete on this basis. Since anti-texting technology is only going to sell vehicles to resposible parents buying cars for their kids, it has to be mandated by law or regulation. Anti-drunk driving technology is also possible and should be mandatory as well if it is proven to work. Technology misused or in the wrong hands is one of the geatest threats we face. Technology used for the right purpose, in the right way, can have enormous social benefits. i'm happy to engage people in an exchange about texting and driving but in the end this is something that can and should be prevented by technology whether or not the offenders recognize the error of their ways.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
9/23/2014 | 2:47:50 PM
Re: We Don't All Do It
@TonyA- Well, self-reported stats are notoriously low.  that is what I'm getitng at. That said, if I'm wrong, all the better. But nearly half of America doing something as dangerous as texting and driving is alarming and shocking. We have to admit our failing as a society. We have to accept that something that that many people do means we are all not doing a good enough job of talking about it. 

I know this-- text shaming doesn't work. It is like fat shaming. I could have tsk tsked about it from the beginning and people would have simply turned off. 

Instead, let's be honest. People sneak a look at their phone when they shouldn't. Let's all admit we're in the same boat and we're not perfect. If you bring everyone into an imperfect group, accept our failings together, we can have an honest discussion about it. 

Saying, "I don't do it, and the people who do are horrible" isn't really the best way to get people on board with what you are arguing. 

David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
9/23/2014 | 2:47:50 PM
Re: We Don't All Do It
@TonyA- Well, self-reported stats are notoriously low.  that is what I'm getitng at. That said, if I'm wrong, all the better. But nearly half of America doing something as dangerous as texting and driving is alarming and shocking. We have to admit our failing as a society. We have to accept that something that that many people do means we are all not doing a good enough job of talking about it. 

I know this-- text shaming doesn't work. It is like fat shaming. I could have tsk tsked about it from the beginning and people would have simply turned off. 

Instead, let's be honest. People sneak a look at their phone when they shouldn't. Let's all admit we're in the same boat and we're not perfect. If you bring everyone into an imperfect group, accept our failings together, we can have an honest discussion about it. 

Saying, "I don't do it, and the people who do are horrible" isn't really the best way to get people on board with what you are arguing. 

Tony A
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Tony A,
User Rank: Moderator
9/23/2014 | 2:35:32 PM
Re: We Don't All Do It
David - here is what you wrote: "Yet 45% admit to reading texts, and the other 55 percent lie. We all do it..." Those numbers do not back up anything except the fact that you are making assumptions. I did not see any numbers regarding the number of people who say they send texts, which is the critical issue; even reading a text, though a bad practice, is nothing like trying to punch out character after character on your tiny little cell phone touch display, typically using your two thumbs that are essential for control of the wheel while also losing sight of the road. Even as far as reading texts, you simply assert that people lie. If that were generally true about polls then practically all the data we have about  public behavior, from sex to voting to television preferences, would be fatally flawed by people lying even under the cover of anonymity. I don't know if you have the expertise to suggest that this is the case. Polling is statistical science, and pollsters have methods of accounting for false self-reporting. It sounds very much like your unspoken point is, "I do it - and I hope everyone who says they don't is lying so I'm not in a small minority of people with very poor judgment." If that's not the case then please present the actuall references to pllls that show that most people send text messages while driving.
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