A family-owned daily newspaper serving Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming since 1949

Our new ' smart car ' seems a bit

Apr 9, 2017 - By Randy Tucker

Do all these whiz-bang improvements really make driving safer?

We leased a 2017 Subaru Forester on our trip to Pittsburgh last week. I'd never leased a vehicle before but a short three-year lease on a vehicle we'll use to transport our little granddaughter Jayne while my wife does extended childcare seemed like a good idea.

The tax benefits and lowered cost are weighed against the common sense approach of actually owning the SUV. In this case it came out in favor of leasing the flashy red import.

We purchased a 2015 Chevy Terrain two years ago and thought the bells and whistles accompanying it were borderline ludicrous, but it doesn't compare to the gadgets, gauges and interfaces that have emerged in just the last two design cycles in the auto industry.

First, they digitized washers, dryers and refrigerators. Then smart stoves, smart houses and smart televisions joined the rank of smart phones. The only thing that wasn't smart in this equation was the human using all this fantastic technology.

I'm far from a Luddite, but enough is enough after a while.

Our Forester has sensors that beep when you cross the yellow or white lines outlining your driving lane. Maybe a good thing, maybe not. Only time will determine which. People claim it will make you a better driver, but all I found myself doing was purposely crossing the line to annoy my family as I tested the new device.

There are ergometrically designed power seats (heated), a user interface screen with a higher resolution than was available on laptop computers and televisions just three years ago, and even a warning light that comes on when a vehicle approaches the blind spot in your mirror.

Maybe the new designs are necessary now that America has become so obese. As a whole we're no longer able to turn around to look when we're passing another vehicle, but perhaps it's something else.

Backup cameras replaced the time-tested practice of looking behind your vehicle before you get in, of adjusting your mirrors and checking your surroundings.

It will be interesting to see just how long it takes for accidents involving cars in reverse to either increase or decrease. If there is a connection you'll find it in your insurance coverage with deductions for vehicles with or without cameras in a few years.

Years ago, on my commute to teach in Shoshoni, there was a woman I passed every day who read the paper while she drove toward Riverton.

We all thought she was a complete fool, but, miraculously, she never hurt anyone on her daily trek.

That's might not be true anymore with a glaring technology missing amidst all these whiz-bang improvements.

Texting-related accidents now are said to exceed alcohol or substance abuse cases in non-fatal crashes.

Think about that statistic for a minute. People choosing to use their cars or trucks, moving at up to 80 miles per hour legally in Wyoming, as a messaging center are creating more carnage than the local drunk rolling along late at night bouncing off trees, road signs and pedestrians.

There is a simple technological fix.

The same algorithm that allows your smart phone to redirect you in city traffic because it detects an accident or traffic slowdown a few hundred yards ahead and that can pinpoint your location exactly within inches is fully capable of shutting down texting.

Why don't the digital cell companies simply put an update in every device that blocks texting when the phone is in motion? All it would take is a five minute blockage of the ability to text and people would either stop driving or be forced to stop texting.

They couldn't have both, and the roads would be safer for responsible drivers who choose to drive defensively as good citizens.

Some would claim that it wouldn't be safe, a person couldn't text in an emergency.OK, when was the last time police, fire or emergency personnel arrived on the scene after an emergency text instead of a call to 911?

Phone calls would still be viable and if you wanted to extend the blockage to talking and driving that would be a good thing as well.

Yes, the new technology that allows phone communication via bluetooth to the onboard stereo system in your vehicle could be tied into the same block. Talk through a blu tooth interface all day while you drive, but, no, you can't hold the phone or wear headphones.

These devices really are smart, smarter than those who desperately must write LOL back to someone while running over a family of four.

I challenge you to keep track of the people you see driving and texting or talking on the phone in the course of just one trip through your town.

It's not hard to spot them as they furtively look up and down at the road while trying to hide their phone. They won't stop risking the lives of others and stopping them would be as easy as an auto update.

Whatever happened to hands at 10 and 2, mirrors adjusted, eyes on the road and looking ahead 200 feet as you drove to spot avoidable hazards, LOL this.


Editor's note: Staff writer Randy Tucker is a retired public school educator.


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