Cell Phone Manufacturers: Safer cell phones
Hands Free and Voice Activated Features Dominate
cell phone manufacturers rapidly turnover form factors to produce the next generation of cell phone models. But cell phones are much more than good looks. Today’s phones must double as audio players, cameras, video players, and personal business assistants. But with all this usability comes the temptation to multi-task even while driving.
Driving while talking or texting on a cell phone is a leading driver distraction. A number of states—with more to follow—have made talking on a phone illegal unless it is via hands-free device. Washington State has now made texting illegal while driving.
New Features Designed for Safer Driving
When redesigning phone models, how can cell phone manufacturers help reduce driver distractions? A few basic phone models still require operators to manually dial numbers and scroll to redial. Dialing diverts a driver’s eyes from the road, which is naturally unsafe. In an attempt to alleviate some distractions, manufacturers have redesigned cell phones to offer more safety-conscious features:
- Voice activated dialing lets users dial numbers based on corresponding voice commands. This function keeps drivers safer by keeping hands free for driving even when dialing.
- One touch redial allows the operator to press one button to redial the last number called. While this seems basic, many cell phones do not come with this feature. Scrolling through the call log is labor intensive and unsafe for drivers.
- Speed dialing functions make it simple for cell phone users to program frequently called numbers and dial them with one touch of a button.
- Voice activated messaging and other phone options can sometimes be customized to your voice commands. Features such as these are less common.
- Built-in speakerphones are a convenience, but drain the battery. For brief and impromptu hands-free conversations, this feature may fit the bill.
- Memo systems let operators record short messages for later. This keeps drivers safe from the urge to jot notes.
Accessories Add Safety Functionality
Of course hands-free devices are a necessity. In four states drivers may only operate cell phones with hands-free equipment. But according to general safe driving tips, all drivers should use a hands-free accessory if they must use a cell phone. Choose a device with which you are comfortable.
- Bluetooth headsets may be used with phones packaged with built-in Bluetooth technology. Headsets range in price from $65 to $250. Go completely hands-free.
- Hands-free earpiece microphones offer basic and affordable hands-free functionality. Check to make sure the model is compatible with your phone before you buy. Cost is typically under $25.
In the late 90s the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had already conducted a comprehensive survey of driver characteristics. The NHTSA used the data to illustrate how cell phones and other behaviors serve as serious distractions to driving. Even then the NHTSA could foretell of the safety movement: “Distraction potential can be minimized by ergonomically sound cellular phone designs.” Numerous new smart phones and accessories are constantly being reviewed on popular Cell Phone review websites.
Promotions for Responsible Cell Phone Use
Partly out of altruistic reasons and to avoid liability, cell phone manufacturers and wireless providers have each found a voice to give to cell phone safety. Here is what a few have done:
- Sprint-Nextel designed a teen driver education-focused program, Focus on Driving, which was initially rolled out to Virginia teens. Now the program has been introduced to at least a handful of other states and will continue to expand. The program includes a classroom video, instructor materials and a powerful poster series which shows kids that common distractions are insignificant in comparison to the responsibility for commandeering an automobile.
- Motorola sponsors a program that has the endorsement of the AAA. The brochure, “A Parent’s Guide to Helping New Drivers Recognize and Manage Distractions,” is designed to inspire parents to have serious conversations with teens on responsible driving.
- Cingular Wireless has a teen driver campaign that it, too, provides to driver education programs. “Be Sensible—Don’t Drive Yourself to Distraction,” includes a video, posters and instructor materials.
Cell makers have a lot riding on their products and reputation, literally. Responsible design, delivery of a clear safety message, and follow-through with safety measures define leaders.