I've been a converged device (PDA and multimedia) and mobile devices advocate for nearly two decades. Consumer technology has brought unheard-of advances in society and culture, and stimulated the economy and created jobs during a time when they were sorely needed. However, some of this tech, like smartphones, has created a new wave of hazards that many are finding difficult to resist—especially when they really can't afford to be distracted. Like while they're driving or walking the busy streets of a humming city like Chicago.
Yesterday on MSN the National Transportation Safety Board recommended all states ban the use of mobile devices, with the exception of navigation devices in all motor vehicles. This includes even devices that employ hands-free communication via Bluetooth or a wired headset. Most of the responses, including the one at InformationWeek, recount the decision and comments made by the NTSB Chairman, Deborah Hersman, and invite readers to comment.
Unfortunately all of this really hits me the wrong way.
I'm a Quality Assurance director by day. My job is figuring out the real causes of problems and keeping them from recurring. I see the NTSB vote and ultimately its recommendation as deeply misinformed as to the root cause of the problem: the distracted driver.
I haven't seen the agency say one word about what alternatives the NTSB explored before making its recommendation. I assume an agency as influential and important as the NTSB would have looked into technological solutions first.
But I really can't make that assumption, and neither should you. And no relevant publications that I can find cite any of their thought processes or considered alternatives.
The NTSB and the world must realize that smartphones, tablets and other mobile computing devices are not going away. Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and the like are here to stay. Texting revenues for all of the cell carriers amount in the tens to hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Use of these tools and technologies is only going to increase as time goes on.