For years now people have been discussing the dangers of drivers talking on cell phones. Some state and local governments now require drivers to use hand-free headsets. More recently the perils of text messaging while driving have been placed in the spotlight. The deaths of five teenagers in New York this summer in a crash caused by the teenage driver text messaging made national news. More recently, the tragic train crash north of Los Angeles, again thrust the dangers of texting back into the nation’s consciousness. Last month California banned texting while driving, joining Alaska, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey and Washington.
Cell phones, however, are not the only electronic devices being used by drivers. What about the dangers of drivers who use iPods or other handheld music players while operating their vehicles? Researchers at the Human Performance Lab at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst have studied the effects of using an iPod while driving. They conducted a study of people driving in a simulator while using iPods. The drivers tested looked away from the road for an average of two seconds when interacting with their iPod. Two seconds may not seem like very long, but it is long enough to triple a driver’s crash risk.
Despite the danger, a brief Google search reveals a host of iPod car chargers and FM transmitters, which allow drivers to listen to their iPods over their car radios, are being marketed to consumers. Apple has given its blessing to these devices by selling them directly through its website. It is surprising that there has not been a public outcry against Apple and iPod accessory makers for their role in facilitating the dangerous use of iPods by drivers. Donald L. Fisher the author of the University of Massachusetts Amherst study has gone on the record stating, “It just seems unacceptable to me, yet they’re selling these holders for the iPod …. Nobody’s talking about this. People are at least talking about texting while driving.”
It is a good thing that this issue is finally getting some attention. New York is currently considering legislation banning iPods and other electronic devices for drivers under 18. Hopefully such legislation and further research will bring this issue to the forefront of the public’s attention.