Distracted Driving Cheapens Your Car’s Best Features

by Don Elliott on July 12, 2011

New and used cars come with a variety of entertainment and safety features. These features affect the vehicle’s new or used car value. At a car dealership over this past weekend, I had the pleasure to watch a young family shop for a new car. The dad was looking for a car with a little zip that would be fun to drive. The mom was all about the car safety features including air bags, car seats for the kids, and safety ratings. Their kids just wanted video for the back seat and wireless headsets. They pushed all the buttons on the radio and accidentally talked to the OnStar operator. It was an exciting day for this family who eventually drove off the lot with a new SUV.

Just as they were driving away, I noticed the dad on his cell phone. He was obviously calling someone to tell them about their new car. It occurred to me that all of the time put into shopping for a new car with safety features, warranties, engineering, and convenience features would be negated because of driver distractions.

Many states have enacted laws against driving distractions. More specifically, laws have been created regarding the use of cell phones while driving. This includes the newest issue of texting while driving. Enforcing the texting while driving laws and other cell phone laws will be a challenge for law enforcement agencies. Cops are just as guilty as the rest of us. Most patrol cars are equipped with laptop computers. Officers can text information to other patrol cars while engaged in high speed chases!

New York’s Congresswoman, Carolyn McCarthy, has proposed The Safe Drivers Act of 2011. This Act would establish one national standard for regulation of hand-held devices. She has proposed federal highway transportation funding reductions in states that do not comply within two years of the law’s enactment. “Manual, visual and cognitive distractions” would be regulated.

The U. S. Department of Transportation created a website, www.distraction.gov, devoted to distracted driving. The “official U. S. government website of distracted driving” reports 5,474 people were killed and 448,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted driving in 2009. The University of Utah conducted a test that established cell phone use while driving delays a driver’s reaction as much as driving while legally intoxicated.

Younger people take for granted that watching videos, texting, and Mp3 players are part of being in the car. For some, continuing use these products behind the wheel is second nature. NHTSA reports that 16% of drivers younger than 20 years of age are killed in car crashes where distracted while driving. For our young family, the car features and safety benefits lose their new car value when driving distractions are added to the driving experience.

“Just Put It Down” is the message from the Department of Transportation. Not a bad idea!

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