Radar Gun Targets Texting & Driving - InformationWeek

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9/22/2014
10:30 AM
David Wagner
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Radar Gun Targets Texting & Driving

Commsonics' new "texting gun" aims to stop one of the most dangerous practices on the road.

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The next time you drive down the highway, the police may be aiming a new gun at you -- one that can tell if you are texting while driving. Commsonics hopes that its device, which is similar to a radar gun, can help police stop people from texting and driving.

The gun distinguishes the unique signal from sending and receiving texts from other background signals. This would allow police to meet their ticket quota... er... keep the roads safe with a simple device. Presumably, it could even be combined with a traditional radar gun to put the bite on you twice... er... save you from your own poor choices.

Next, the company will develop a gun that checks to make sure you are wearing your seat belt -- or that you're not getting too much of a groove on to your favorite jam, daydreaming about winning the lottery and quitting your job, or looking for the french fry you dropped behind the seat.

[Apple patent takes on dangerous distractions. Read Apple Transparent Texting: Faceplant Prevention?]

Let's face it, banning this gun would be the only gun control even the NRA would support. Everyone will hate this. Texting and driving is one of those things that everyone knows is stupid and does anyway... like watching NCIS or going to casinos... or voting for president. According to a recent poll, 94% of Americans say sending a text while driving is dangerous, and 91% say reading texts is dangerous. Yet 45% admit to reading texts, and the other 55 percent lie. We all do it, just as no one drives the speed limit unless they are behind a truck going up a hill.

The good news is that Commsonics still needs to test the guns with law enforcement to see how much money the things will make the state... er... to make sure they work reliably. It raises some questions for me:

  • My phone pulls texts whether I'm reading them or not. How will they account for incoming texts I'm not reading?
  • Given how quick the signal for a text is, how often will these guns actually find people texting and driving? Won't you have to be driving by and texting in just the split second the gun is pointed at you? That seems unlikely. People speed for miles and miles. They text for seconds intermittently.
  • If this works, wouldn't it be easier for all of us to just write a check directly to Commsonics and the state?

It's easy to make light of this, but texting and driving is a very real problem. The National Safety Council believes 1.3 million crashes are caused by texting and driving each year. If that's not convincing enough for you, maybe this video will help:

What do you think? Are you scared of the texting gun? Do you text and drive? (Be honest!) Should states use them? Tell us in the comments.

If the world weren't changing, we might continue to view IT purely as a service organization, and ITSM might be the most important focus for IT leaders. But it's not, it isn't, and it won't be -- at least not in its present form. Get the Research: Beyond IT Service Management report today. (Free registration required.)

David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio
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David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
9/23/2014 | 3:39:21 PM
Re: We Don't All Do It
@tonyA- Not sure I agree. Our government could easily make us 100% safe from harm. It could lock each one of us in a cell covered in bubble wrap. It could feed us only the most perfect food while forcing us to exercise at gun point. They could isolate us from germs and keep us alive for a very long time. 

We choose not to live that way. We choose to live in a society which is mixed with a certain amount of safety and a certain amount of danger. We've known the problem of drunk driving for decades but we don't have to take a breath or a blood test before we get behind the wheel, because as a society we choose a little extra danger and a little extra personal responsibility over being forced to take such a test. I, for one, don't want to live in a society that forces us to live a single way.

i believe in the ability of adults to come to responsible decisions when discussed over time. 

That said, I don't have a problem with an optional technolgical solution being developed. I just don't believe that we as a society will choose it. And I'm sort of happy about that. 
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
9/23/2014 | 2:47:50 PM
Re: We Don't All Do It
@TonyA- Well, self-reported stats are notoriously low.  that is what I'm getitng at. That said, if I'm wrong, all the better. But nearly half of America doing something as dangerous as texting and driving is alarming and shocking. We have to admit our failing as a society. We have to accept that something that that many people do means we are all not doing a good enough job of talking about it. 

I know this-- text shaming doesn't work. It is like fat shaming. I could have tsk tsked about it from the beginning and people would have simply turned off. 

Instead, let's be honest. People sneak a look at their phone when they shouldn't. Let's all admit we're in the same boat and we're not perfect. If you bring everyone into an imperfect group, accept our failings together, we can have an honest discussion about it. 

Saying, "I don't do it, and the people who do are horrible" isn't really the best way to get people on board with what you are arguing. 

David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
9/23/2014 | 2:47:50 PM
Re: We Don't All Do It
@TonyA- Well, self-reported stats are notoriously low.  that is what I'm getitng at. That said, if I'm wrong, all the better. But nearly half of America doing something as dangerous as texting and driving is alarming and shocking. We have to admit our failing as a society. We have to accept that something that that many people do means we are all not doing a good enough job of talking about it. 

I know this-- text shaming doesn't work. It is like fat shaming. I could have tsk tsked about it from the beginning and people would have simply turned off. 

Instead, let's be honest. People sneak a look at their phone when they shouldn't. Let's all admit we're in the same boat and we're not perfect. If you bring everyone into an imperfect group, accept our failings together, we can have an honest discussion about it. 

Saying, "I don't do it, and the people who do are horrible" isn't really the best way to get people on board with what you are arguing. 

David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
9/23/2014 | 1:52:45 PM
Re: We Don't All Do It
@TonyA- shocking or no, the numbers back it up. And the tone was meant to be shocking. The best way to get people to assess their behavior is to shock them into thinking "is he talking about me?" Here's the problem I see-- I know no one who says they text and drive, yet I know plenty of people who would say they don't and I've seen it with my own eyes. Everyone forgets the exceptions and the "just for a second" moments. Not enough people are being honest with themselves. It is just like the number of people who think they are OK to get behind the wheel of a car when they're drunk. Hopefully they'll start.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
9/23/2014 | 1:25:29 PM
Re: there is a simple fix
@LeeB120- I think the problem with that is that passengers can't text. Personally, I don't think that's a problem, but people will. 

It all goes back to what I've been saying about safety features-- Anything that limits what you are allowed to do will not be perceived by consumers as a feature. It will be considered a reason to go to the device that doesn't limit you.
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
9/22/2014 | 2:28:27 PM
Re: Fix is needed for rampant problem
@Doug I agree about more hands-free text-to-speech apps, though it's sad that there's such a demand for something like it. As you said, just pull over or wait until later.
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
9/22/2014 | 1:29:49 PM
Re: Fix is needed for rampant problem
I agree: And seat belts, too. I remember riding around in the front seat, as a kid, without a seat belt and opening up the door. Almost fell out. Thankfully my dad caught me -- and then locked the door. Don't think I got to ride upfront again!
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
9/22/2014 | 12:51:23 PM
Re: Hands Free Texting?
This is something manufacturers (phone and car) can choose to collaborate on and get it done.  As soon as someone creates proven tech and ONE car manufacturer and ONE phone manufacturer offers it, the others will follow.  They'll follow because they will probably fear lawsuits for not adding it because a case can probably be made that they are at least partially responsible?  NOT EVERYTHING REQUIRES REGULATION.


@Rradina- Well, let me put it this way. I don't text and drive often ir at all. But if I was looking at two smartphones and one told the cops when I was texting and one didn't, I'd buy the one that didn't.

And even if it didn't tell anyone, but just shut itself off, I'd buy the one that didn't. Especially if i couldn't turn it off.

People don't like options on products they can't turn off, especially options that lower the use of the product. I'll ALWAYS buy the phone that lets me do what I want before accepting that the phone knows how to run my life better than I do. And I'm not alone.

Just ask Apple how many people were annoyed at having to have a U2 album on their phone whether they asked for it or not.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
9/22/2014 | 12:46:43 PM
Re: Fix is needed for rampant problem
@D. Henschen- I agree that it is getting out of hand, but it may just be a matter of adjusting to new technology. I remember when smart phones first came out, I couldn't get a human with one to talk to me at a table. Slowly but surely, conversation is returning. 

Drunk driving used to be so rampant and common it wasn't even considered abnormal (if you don't believe me watch reruns of 70's comedies). 

We've gotten the message out. We probably will with this as well. 
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
9/22/2014 | 12:43:25 PM
Re: The Problem Is Proof
How do they know someone isn't looking through their wallet, looking at a map, looking for a dropped a cigarrette, looking for their reading glasses (possibly so they can text but they arent texting!), spilled their drink or an almost limitless quantity of other reasons they'd not be focused on driving.


@rradina- None of that matters really. The police simply want to stop your erratic driving. If you do any of those things and it causes you to drive poorly and the police see, they will pull you over with probably cause. At that point, they're going to talk to you and probably figure out what happened. If you say you spilled a drink while you were actually texting they'll know. And even if they can't figure it out, they cane still write you a ticket.

At any rate, perhaps instead of a texting detector, maybe we just need a more sensors on the road that detect long term bad driving. I'd say in the car (which is easier) except again, i don't believe we'd get opt-in from people. 
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