Holding Apple to a Higher Standard – Solving Texting While Driving

on April 1, 2013

I love my iPhone. I use it all the time. I take it with me everywhere. Yes, everywhere. I have tried and tested numerous smartphones over the years. I can confidently state that you can do no better than the iPhone. However, iPhone – Apple – can do better by us. Too many of us are texting while driving, and dying. More than nine people everyday, in fact. This has to stop.

Yes, it’s easy to claim that people’s foolish behavior is in no way Apple’s fault. Probably, you are right. I don’t care. I hold Apple to a higher standard. I don’t pay a “premium” to purchase Apple products. There is no “Apple tax.” I pay Apple’s higher prices because their products are the best: the best value, the easiest to use, the most intuitive, the most functional.

Apple even promotes this idea. Witness their latest marketing campaign for iPhone. No pretty women in leather jumpsuits, no ninjas, no lasers – no need. Instead, the powerful truth: iPhone is an amazing device, simple to use, and offers a nearly un-ending amount of fun and function for everyone – from anywhere, as their iPhone “Discovery” ad makes plain.

iPhone ad anywhere

iPhone doesn’t merely dominate the U.S. smartphone market, they dominate pretty much every relevant metric for smartphone use and engagement. Tragically, we remain engaged with our iPhones even while driving.

According to a recent AT&T study, nearly half of adult drivers in the U.S. admit to texting while driving. Over 40% of teens admit to texting while driving. Worse, the numbers are rising.

It’s not ignorance causing this. The texters-and-drivers are fully aware of the potentially deadly and devastating consequences of their actions. Doesn’t matter.They text anyway. No doubt they also tweet, check Facebook, choose a playlist and more, all while behind the wheel.

What’s Apple going to do about this?

Yes, I want Apple to do something. Because possibly only Apple can do something to fix this. Apple gave us the smartphone revolution. The iPhone changed everything. We now use the iPhone – and all the copycat smartphones – everywhere we go, no matter the setting, no matter who we are with. This recent IDC study, for example, noted that well over half of all Americans have a smartphone and a vast majority of us reach for our smartphones the moment we wake up and then never put it away. We use them in the movie theater, at the gym, while we are talking to other people in real life. Don’t believe that getting behind the wheel of a car suddenly changes everything, whether it should or not.

No, I do not care if it’s unfair to place any blame for our behavior on Apple. The fact is, we text while driving. We aren’t going to stop. Apple needs to accept some responsibility for what they have wrought. As much as I want a beautiful Apple Television, as much as you may want an iWatch, and as cool as this patented wraparound display iPhone is, none of that should be a priority for Apple until the company makes using the iPhone while driving a car much, much safer proposition. Or impossible. Either way, the problem needs to be fixed, soon.

Possible solutions? Honestly, I don’t know. Perhaps the iPhone will recognize when we are driving and simply stop working. Maybe Apple can require apps to mess up when we are in a moving vehicle – not autocorrect our texts, for example. Maybe Apple engineers can get Siri to work great, all the time, whether for texting, tweeting, checking our calendar, selecting a playlist. I don’t have the answers. That I leave to Apple. And we need the best they can give us.

Slogans, such as from AT&T’s  “It Can Wait” campaign are unlikely to work, I suspect.

it can wait texting

It Can Wait videos admittedly offer some truly heartbreaking stories of people whose lives have been irreparably and profoundly damaged because someone was texting while driving.

Tragic, sad – but how will this help? As AT&T’s own study says, 98% of those who text while driving already know it’s bad.

It was sobering to realize that texting while driving by adults is not only high, it’s really gone up in the last three years.

That quote is from Charlene Lake, AT&T’s senior vice president for public affairs. You think more marketing is the answer? No. Showing tragic stories may shock a few into proper behavior, I don’t doubt. Realistically, however, this is that rare case where we need a technical solution for a cultural problem.

According to TechCrunch:

The Center for Disease Control says that there are an average of nine people killed in texting-related accidents each day, with 1,060 injured in texting-related crashes.

Since texting occupies your eyes, hands, and mind, it’s considered one of the most dangerous distractions on the road, and elevates the risk of a crash to 23 times worse than driving while not distracted.

Nine people killed every single day. Read that again. Nine people die every single day from texting-related accidents. Going to stop what you’re doing now that you know?

I don’t believe you.

Apple gave us the iPhone. It was like nothing ever before. But Apple’s job is not complete. The iPhone is magical and revolutionary. We mortals have not yet learned to fully control its power. We need Apple’s help.

Images taken from Apple’s iPhone “Discover” commercial and AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign against texting and driving.