Super Bowl Ad Encourages Distracted Driving

Feb. 8, 2011
The following Super Bowl ad features a first date, a car and some fancy -- but potentially dangerous -- technology. Take a look: "When the good news just can't wait?" I would argue that yes, it can wait if the "good news" entails a distracted driver ...
The following Super Bowl ad features a first date, a car and some fancy -- but potentially dangerous -- technology. Take a look:

"When the good news just can't wait?" I would argue that yes, it can wait if the "good news" entails a distracted driver getting into an accident because he was accessing his Facebook feed.

Drivers are already distracted by cell phones and texting and who knows what else – having access to Facebook at the touch of your rearview mirror is not going to keep our roads safe.

What's worse is that this type of in-car feature masquerades as being a safer option. Rather than taking your eyes off the road to check your Facebook status on your phone (can you hear me screaming right now?) you can “safely” continue driving as your car happily reads Facebook updates to you.

When I wrote the feature article Why We Need to Hang Up On Our Distracted Driving Addiction, I read various studies and spoke to one of the leaders in distracted driving research, Dr. David Strayer at the University of Utah. I learned that our brains operate differently when we are engaged in a phone call (and it doesn’t matter one bit whether your hand is at your ear or on the wheel). That undoubtedly has to go for listening to Facebook status updates, too. How can you fully keep your attention on the road when part of your mind is occupied by listening to what your friends think of your vacation photos or what snarky comment your ex-spouse left on your wall?

In the past, I held cell phone conversations while driving – until I was honest with myself and realized that it detracted from my focus on the road. Unfortunately, too many people are convinced that they can handle it just fine, or they might think that because they never got into an accident while using a cell phone, then they're in the clear.

But as Strayer said during our interview, “You don't instantly crash on the road while talking on the cell phone. And you don't instantly crash when you're drunk, either ... In the long run, if you do it enough, you're going to put yourself at risk.”

I’ve addressed distracted driving on this blog before and I likely will again. It’s a serious issue that affects all of us – and it will only get worse with new technological “advances” like the ones featured in the ad.

What People Are Saying

I gave the commercial's YouTube comments a quick read to see what the average Super Bowl ad viewer thought of this type of technology. This is by no means a comprehensive review – a person can only take so many YouTube comments – but here’s a taste. (Note: I cleaned up some of the punctuation.)

The Safety Failure award goes to the person who wrote, “Or you could just go to Facebook on your phone like a normal person.” Is there any sense in hoping this person was being sarcastic about reading Facebook feeds while driving? Thankfully, another commenter responded, “You could also get in a life-ending car accident while looking at your phone.”

Others didn’t take safety into consideration but thought that such a feature was annoying, silly or senseless: “Facebook’s annoying enough as it is. I don't need to know about it when I'm not even at my computer.”

Finally, some people were on board with my concerns. Their comments ranged from “seems dangerously distracting” to “horrid” to “So now road rage meets news feed malaise. This will result in death.”

Another person stressed that “We don’t need more safety features, we need less entertainment features.”

I hope everyone made it home safe and sound from Super Bowl celebrations. Remember, when you’re behind the wheel, put down the phone. And for goodness' sake, don’t let your car talk you into an accident.

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