Technology etiquette and safety: the times they are a changin' however –

Posted on December 24, 2009


When it comes to technology and our gadgets, there was a time when any type of behavior seemed acceptable. Technology etiquette remained an after thought. Consideration among those in close proximity became secondary behavior; thus, it was not uncommon to:

  • Hear a cell phone ring disturbingly during a movie,
  • Be seated next to someone on a train who was speaking loudly on their mobile device,
  • Be in a taxi where the driver was more focused on managing a call rather than the driving.

Over time, society has made progress. Some noteworthy changes have occurred that take into consideration those around us.

  • It has become standard fare to be informed prior to the start of a movie or Broadway show that cell phones must be turned off.
  • SEPTA, which runs public bus and train transportation in Philadelphia, recently instituted quiet train cars where it is prohibited to speak on cell phones.
  • In the past week, a new rule was passed for New York City Cabbies with regard to ear pieces.  Essentially, NY City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission has banned the use of ear pieces from cabdrivers. Violation is severe in that cabbies can lose their licenses after three violations, and stricter fines may be implemented in six months.

However, not nearly enough is being done on the safety front.  In particular, text messaging while driving vehicles has reached epidemic proportions.  At the time of this article, 19 states, the District of Columbia and Guam ban text messaging for all drivers. So, yes progress is being made but it is a far cry from a National law. With each passing moment lives are being lost. On the White House blog, the problem has been acknowledged and referred to as “the distracted driving epidemic.” The blog goes on to say that a driver operating a cell phone or texting while driving is six times more likely to be involved in an accident.  Along those lines, 80% of car accidents occur while drivers are distracted in some way.
These are not baseless claims. A recently released
study by the VirginiaTech Transportation Institute found that:

  • Truck drivers who were texting were 23 times more at risk of a crash or near crash event than non-distracted driving.
  • Talking on cell phones resulted in 1.3 times the risk for car drivers.

Moreover, a 2007 study conducted by AAA and Seventeen magazine found that 61 percent of teens admit to risky driving habits. In drilling down further, forty-six percent of that 61 percent say that they text message while driving.

Some progress is being made in laws and behavior, however it is not nearly enough.  As the White House blog points out, “Suddenly, everyone–automakers, safety advocates, motorists’ associations, insurance companies, school officials, trucking industry groups, parents of victims, children of victims, law enforcement agencies; newspapers, websites, bloggers, editors, television networks–is saying the same thing: distracted driving needs to stop.” No one disagrees. However, one must wonder if it is a question of priorities, lack of awareness, or some other reason why more has not been done more quickly. It is not a political issue…misuse of technology leading to safety issues does not discriminate.

To quote one of the great lyricist of our time, Bob Dylan, “Come senators, congressman; please heed the call. Don’t stand in the doorway; don’t block up the hall. For he who gets hurt; will be he who has stalled. There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’. It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls. For the times they are a-changin’.”

Unfortunately, at present, Bob Dylan’s lyrics from a different song seem to be more applicable. “And how many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died? The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind, The answer is blowin’ in the wind.“