Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Communicating on the Go

People love instant gratification.

Fast food. Instant messaging. Real-time updates. The fast lane. All-in-one phones. The world at our fingertips. That's how we live and we expect nothing less.

With a tech-savvy society that lives to communicate, why then, as a 2006 survey by Response Insurance suggests, do 57 percent of American drivers not signal when changing lanes? If that number doesn't jump off the page, try this one: 23,000 fatalities occur every year on U.S. roads because of unintended lane changes, e.g. people that don't use turn signals. Turn signals.

We're talking about one of the oldest (invented in 1929, although not standard until the 60's) and most widely available communication technologies that exists today. Not to mention one of the easiest and most practical to use technologies. You know, the little lights on either side of your automobile that let people know when you plan to turn?

It befuddles me how few people use turn signals!

My wife and I discuss this on a daily basis. How, in a society ruled by the "now" and the instant transfer of information (much of which is frivolous - "Sale at Coldstone on Wendover Ave!" - actual Twitter message I recently received), can we somehow fail to let each other know when we may collide and cause serious bodily damage at 65+ miles-per-hour?

The Chicago Sun-Times reports more findings from the Response Insurance survey:

  • "Men are less likely to signal than women, and drivers under 25 are less likely to signal than older drivers.
  • 42 percent said they didn't have time,
  • 23 percent said they were lazy,
  • 17 percent said they don't because they forget to turn it off,
  • 12 percent said they changed lanes too frequently to bother,
  • 11 percent said it was not important,
  • 8 percent said they don't because other drivers don't. And, most disturbing of all,
  • 7 percent skipped the signal to "add excitement" to their trip." Seriously?
I have an idea. Ford and Microsoft developed Sync technology (and did no small amount of promotion - Sync YouTube contest), which allows you to voice-activate music playlists, cell phones/Bluetooth, internet searches, GPS systems and the like. Now we can listen to music, talk to friends, text, order pizza and get directions simultaneously while driving - upon arrival we even have cars that park themselves!

So how about a voice-activated turn signal? A high-tech auto-option that actually contributes to driver safety etiquette. "Turn right." (Click, click, click, click...) Whoa.

I'm hoping to see auto-related communications, or better yet, common communications sense head that direction, but I've yet to see a turn signal.

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