AAA, trusty rescuer of stranded motorists and happy enabler of hotel discounts, is looking out for us in other ways. PBS recently interviewed Jake Nelson, Director of Traffic Safety Advocacy and Research for AAA. The organization just completed a study and guess what? We are distracted while we drive! (This will be news to exactly zero percent of drivers, who routinely curse and yell at other drivers they see looking at their phones, just before glancing back down to look at their own device.)
But the real problem Nelson found is that much of what automakers are doing to fix the problems don’t work. Talking on your cell phone, for instance, “regardless of whether it’s handheld or hands-free” roughly “quadruples your risk of causing a traffic crash.” But talking on the phone is only a level 2 distraction in the AAA nomenclature. Worse are level 3 distractions–and those include the new technologies meant to make things safer. Voice-detect systems, for instance, are designed to free the hands (and mind) to drive without distraction. But these are –“even a perfect system”–level 3, dangerous distractions. You’re better off picking up your phone and risking a level 2. Though AAA would never recommend that.