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Posted May 10, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Ask Dave the Car Guy: Distracted driving

By Dave Herman

"Iʼm listening to you talk about distracted driving, texting and talking on the phone, yet the auto manufacturers are giving us the options in the cars. Do they want us to have crashes?"

This is what a confused teen asks after seeing his parents using the phone in the car. But they are also wondering why social media is now becoming optional in many car models. Why would it be "allowed" equipment in your vehicle if you aren't supposed to use it?

Currently, we have on board copy/fax machines and phone options in our cars and trucks because many business people use their cars as an office when they have to be on the road. Parents like the option of silencing their children with a television or video game. So the manufacturers give them what they want.

But is this a wise business decision? Are companies responsible for making a good product, taking care of their employees and making a profit? Or are they the guardians of society?

Should the manufacturers tell a businessman he isnʼt to be trusted with these devices; he doesnʼt have the wherewithal to know when to use them? Should the automaker tell the parent that healthy conversation, time, attention and a good book outweigh the benefits of a television?

If life is about choices, who should make them? Ourselves? Government? Corporations? Who has the right to choose how we live?

This fall, social media will make its way into our cars. Toyotaʼs new Entune is a system that will link smart phones via onscreen information such as stocks, web access, weather, listen to or send text messages, tweets, and of course Facebook. Within the next five years, 90 percent of new cars will have "connected features."

No, the manufacturers are not out to harm you. Manufacturers are in the business of giving their customers what they want; it is up to the customer to be responsible. Some connected options will be only available when the vehicle is stopped, but the question remains: "Who is responsible for safety, health and freedom?"

Whose responsibility is it when we hit a telephone pole because we are texting? The manufacturer of the phone? The automaker because the option was allowed? The phone company for placement of the pole? The law, because there was no law? Seems silly, but isnʼt this the case when new laws are enacted daily to control our behavior?

There is a famous Pennsylvania case that eventually led to a law restricting the use of cell phones while driving. A man using a cell phone while driving hit a car carrying a woman and her child. The child was killed. The woman, though she was not using one at the time, habitually talked on her phone while driving. She came to realize there was no law restricting this use (forgetting of course "full time and attention" is a law) and it became her crusade to create the first ever law prohibiting the use of cell phones while driving.

According to the National Highway Safety Administration, one in six highway deaths are from cell phone distractions, or more than 5,000 deaths a year.

Should more laws be created? Should we quit manufacturing cell phones or cars? After all, people are walking out into the streets using their cell phones and getting killed by cars. Perhaps the way to make people responsible is to allow those of us who have common sense and self control to keep our freedoms, and those who are dangerous to society lose their freedom for life, or at least a very long time. Would people then have the self control to put their cell phone in the glove box while driving?

When something goes wrong, the first place to look is at ourselves. It is usually here you will find the solution to the problem. Are we dangerous because of our tools? Are we fat because of our food? Are we sick because our bodies have let us down? Are we unhappy because life has treated us unfairly?

The answer to all is no.

There are solutions to every situation if we take responsibility, think outside the box and quit thinking like victims.

If you want the freedom to make your own decisions about your life, such as what you buy, what you watch, what you eat, where you work, or what you can achieve, then you must take personal responsibility when things go wrong, or surely there are people, groups, governments and corporations standing ready to make such decisions for you.

Before his retirement, Dave Herman ran one of the largest independent German service centers in Northern Virginia. He has built, raced and taught racing to Porsche/BMW drivers. He lives in Shenandoah County, where he has opened a driving school. Email your comments and questions about anything automotive to info@nvdaily.com. Read more of his columns at www.nvdaily.com/lifestyle/guest-columns

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