In the age of the “smart phone,” texting and driving have replaced water and oil as the preeminent combination of things that just don’t mix. Studies have shown that using a cell phone while driving, whether it’s handheld or hands-free, has the equivalent effect of driving while intoxicated. It is no surprise then that a texting driver 23 times more likely to cause an accident than a non-texting driver.
With the dangers of distracted driving well-documented, people around the country are making efforts to curb the temptation to text while behind the wheel. Perform a Google search for “distracted driving,” and the movement toward safer driving is quickly apparent. It takes Google less than half a second to return over 10 million results, most of which are websites warning users of the dangers of using a cell phone while driving. Despite the overwhelming number of people and organizations urging drivers to pay attention to the road, the source of these results seems to be encouraging the opposite.
This past June, Google acquired “Waze,” a mobile start-up company, for $1 billion. “Waze” is a community-based application that allows users to warn one-another of traffic jams, road closures, speed traps, and more. Though it had previously operated as an independent entity, Google is now integrating “Waze” into its popular mobile GPS application, Google Maps. Soon, users will be able to provide other drivers with real-time updates of road and traffic conditions while they drive.
While navigation devices of any type are inherently dangerous, an application that encourages its users to input information while driving is simply reckless. When road conditions warrant a driver’s heightened attention, Google is encouraging users to divert theirs to a smart phone. Real-time updates from actual drivers may be useful, but not at the price of putting those drivers in harm’s way. What’s the value in avoiding a traffic jam if doing so puts you at a heightened risk of causing one?
By exerting significant dominance over the smart phone market, Google has afforded itself the unique opportunity to truly make a difference in the fight against distracted driving. Unfortunately, Google’s great power has not inspired the media giant to appreciate its great responsibility. While Waze may seem like a great new tool in the fight against the daily commute, Google’s newest addition may ultimately prove to be more trouble than it’s worth.