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Distracted driving? Soon, the car won’t let you be

October 8, 2018

Just two seconds.

That’s all it can take for otherwise responsible drivers to take their eyes off the road. That slight distraction can make the difference between life or death, according to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration.

Glancing down at the phone, fiddling with the radio or paying more attention to a cup of coffee than the road all are potential distractions. And they can be deadly.

Consider that in 2016, more than 9 percent of traffic deaths, some 3,450, were linked to driving while distracted. People — as we know from watching drivers on the streets of Santa Fe — often do not listen to appeals to common sense. They want to check their phones or put on their makeup or otherwise keep their eyes off the road.

Turns out, technology could be the answer, at least when it comes to electronic devices. According to a report in the New York Times, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration and the Auto Alliance manufacturers’ trade group are working to make drivers safer.

Car companies are programming vehicles so users can’t turn up the radio too loud or pair Bluetooth devices while the car is moving. There are other safety devices as well — headlights that automatically turn on when windshield wipers are running or one that mutes the radio if seat belts in the front aren’t fastened. Some cars beep when a vehicle drifts into another lane; others offer automatic braking to prevent a collision with a pedestrian or vehicle. A brave new world of driving is almost upon us.

Eventually, we might be safe, despite ourselves. Until the car does the driving for us, making it easier for people to eat and follow Twitter without risking life and limb, we suggest an old-fashioned method of stopping distracted driving.

Put the phone in the glove compartment. And turn it off. Because while two seconds passes in the blink of an eye, it’s long enough to die.

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