Technology Can Stop Inhibited and Distracted Drivers and Save Lives: But Will It Take Over?
Technology is both loved and hated for some very good reasons. Robotic machines have replaced humans in factories all over the world and that means less jobs, but specialized robotic mechanisms also perform delicate surgeries that save lives and help to restore people’s health. Google has been toying with driverless cars for some time and Toyota already markets some smart and very human looking robots for home and business use. With all that in mind, driverless cars are about to hit the streets as Google and Toyota plan to roll out smart cars which are unencumbered by the need for an operator. That is just one area where technology can provide a solution to the problem of people who cannot or should not be driving.
We already have breath sensors that can measure alcohol levels and keep someone from starting their car, but that has not been enough to stop drunk driving deaths. More importantly, alcohol consumption is no longer the only reason that someone should not be behind the wheel of a vehicle. Sleepy, distracted and drugged drivers are becoming increasing problems on the road. People are dying because some drivers are half asleep; others are taking prescription drugs or using legal marijuana which can reduce their ability to operate a motor vehicle; while still others are reading, eating, texting or busy on a laptop or cell phone.
When I first got my Driver’s Permit I took Driver’s Education which was offered at the high school which I attended. On my very first foray out on to the highway with the instructor and three other students in the car, we saw a man driving in the fast lane with a book perched on the steering wheel right in front of his face. Although the other students and I were shocked by what we saw, our instructor told us that situation was more commonplace than most people realized. Those were the days before cell phones and other modern technological driving distractions, but what happened illustrated a good point: If people have something else to do while they are driving, they will do it regardless of the consequences.
At some point governments, the auto makers and consumers will have to decide how much they want modern technology to control their lives when it comes to driving. Thanks to all the people who abuse the privilege, driving may no longer just depend on getting your license, being insured and owning a car. Anyone who has ever been to traffic court has heard the “driving is a privilege, not a right” speech given by speeding ticket judges. Given that, I believe a time is coming and is almost here when getting a license will mean more than just passing a multiple choice and driving test.
It is almost certain that people who apply for a Driver’s License in any state will soon have to submit to some sort of electronic test which will instantly reveal the presence of alcohol or drugs in their system. If a test shows they are taking prescription medications, I think they will be required to get a doctor’s note for a license and under go some sort of short class or electronic tutorial which is personalized and explains when they can and cannot drive after taking their prescription medications.
I am not opposed to technology which saves lives and given the cavalier attitude that some people have who get drunk, take ability inhibiting drugs, text or do other things they should not while driving, I can see almost no alternative to using technology to keep some people from doing increasingly stupid things while driving. My only fear is that governments will take things too far as they often do.
Before you know it driving restrictions will not just be placed on people who abuse alcohol, drugs or continually exhibit bad driving habits, but on drivers who fail to place their smart phones, lap tops or tablets in the trunk or some other special storage compartment where they are out of reach while driving. Imagine a car or truck with technology that can detect a cell phone in an operator’s hand, tablet on a driver’s person or instantly check a driver for the presence of drugs or alcohol in their system? If those situations are present, you cannot start or operate the car. Sound crazy? Read George Orwell’s prophetic novel entitled ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ written in 1949 and be shocked at how well he predicted a future when freedom would become whatever a government says it should be.