‘Are we there yet?’
‘Are we there yet?’
‘ARE WE THERE YET?!’
I’m sure you’ve been there before on a long road trip. I certainly have.
Not because my kid has been screaming this at me from the back seat (he’s only six months old so can’t talk yet). No, I’ve been in this position as the screaming child!
I can’t remember exactly how old I was, maybe I was in grade three, so around eight, and my brother was around 10 at the time. We were heading on a long holiday up the east coast of Australia. Driving from Melbourne up through to Sydney, and then onwards to Queensland all the way up to Port Douglas.
A hefty drive. A hefty holiday. And for a couple of youngsters that get the fidgets after an hour or two…well the inevitable was, inevitable.
I have no doubt that we were as annoying and distracting as kids can be when they want to get out of their seatbelt prison. I can’t remember if Dad yelled at us or not. We would have deserved it either way.
And we’re pretty confident you’ve either been on the receiving end of this or been the perpetrator.
This kind of ‘in car experience’ can be incredibly distracting. And at its worst can even result in an accident. Of course that’s not the only distracting thing in a car. Anyone in the car can be distracting. Focusing on the road and focusing on a conversation can be hard, to the point of it being dangerous even.
And of course we all know the perils of device distractions in the car. Using a mobile phone in the car can be more dangerous than drink driving. Texting, calling, trying to manage Google Maps, all of it adds to driver distraction.
Authorities worldwide have had enough
That’s why across the world authorities have declared it illegal to use a mobile phone while driving. If your car is on, moving and you’ve got your hands on the phone, you’ll get nicked.
Sometimes even when you’re not moving you’ll still get nicked. And I should know.
I’ve got a confession to make. I got ‘done’ using a phone in my car. I was on the M25 ring road around London. And as is quite typical for the M25, in standstill traffic.
The car was at a complete stop in all the traffic. As we weren’t going anywhere I thought I’d pull out my phone to quickly WhatsApp my wife to let her know I’d be a while.
As I did, a BMW pulled up on my left hand side, also coming to a standstill. Unfortunately for me, that BMW was an unmarked police car. The high-vis wearing officer in it flagged me and told me to follow him…once the traffic was moving again.
He wasn’t particularly lenient, and I clearly had no excuse. I lost six demerit points (we only get 12 in the UK) and a £200 fine. It just so happens that about a month earlier the UK had decided to double the penalty for using a phone.
If I get ‘done’ again I’ll lose my licence. Needless to say, I haven’t touched the phone while in the car — even while stationary — since. I guess those harsher penalties work.
However, while I don’t use the phone while driving. I do have it hooked up to the car’s entertainment system. So if I do get a call while driving I can answer it via the steering wheel and use it in handsfree mode.
This practice is commonplace now due to harsher penalties for using a phone while driving. And most cars now have some kind of integration so that we can use the phone in handsfree mode.
But if our nanny state authorities would have their way, soon you won’t even be able to use handsfree…or even talk in your car. In fact, if we continue along the trajectory we’re heading, you won’t be allowed passengers or even your kids in the car.
Hands-free not as safe as you think
Here in the UK the Commons Transport Select Committee has warned the use of hands-free is misleading in that it’s safer than holding onto the phone. According to the Express & Star, Labour MP Lilian Greenwood (who chairs the Transport Select Committee) said:
‘There is also a misleading impression that hands-free use is safe. The reality is that any use of a phone distracts from a driver’s ability to pay full attention and the Government should consider extending the ban to reflect this.’
That’s right, if talking on the phone is distracting, the government is preparing to ban even talking on the phone. And if you want to go down the path of distracting, just having passengers in the car can be equally as dangerous then as talking on the hands-free.
And if we can’t use our phone, can’t talk on the hands-free, can’t talk, can’t carry passengers, and definitely can’t carry screaming children — then what good are our cars for?
Of course there’s another inevitable outcome here. One that’s been years in the making and is right on the verge of tipping into the mainstream. Self-driving cars. In a vehicle that drives itself you can do whatever the heck you like.
You can text, tweet and play games to your heart’s content. You can chat with passengers, you can have a beer, a wine, you can play with the kids, you can have a sleep. It doesn’t matter.
That’s the direction the law is pushing. And if they get their way and ban any kind of distraction from cars, it’s going to kill off the car as we know it.
The world of self-driving cars is here, it’s ready for primetime and thanks to over regulation and the nanny state, it’s coming sooner than you might think.
Editor, Money Morning
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