The first edition of Interpersonal Divide was among the first books to warn about distracted driving caused by cell phone use. Researchers at the time (2001) were in the process of documenting how dangerous distracted driving was becoming, with some reports stating that cell phone use was as dangerous as being drunk behind the wheel. One study, conducted by researchers at the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and at the University of Michigan, was among the first to support the banning of cell phone use by car drivers.
However, in the early part of the century, technology companies and advocates were claiming that cell phones saved lives–a marketing gimmick that continues to this day whenever new gadgets or apps are introduced.
The first edition of Interpersonal Divide cited media hype of buying cell phones for safety reasons, publishing stories of car drivers surviving natural and man-made ordeals because of the phones in their pockets. Of course, as more and more drivers purchased cell phones for safety reasons, that also increased the numbers of drivers who became distracted using them.
Here is a quote from the first edition in reference to the hype. But it still qualifies today as one of the most powerful marketing gimmicks to hawk new technologies:
“We bought mobile phones for safety reasons and then use them for trivial reasons, putting lives at risk. That is why this device in particular illustrates how we are manipulated by the optimal level of fear–the marketing message that prompts us to purchase an item. Once we do, marketing touts convenience over utility. Convenience, however, often trespasses on common sense.”
The question now, more than 15 years later, is how convenience not only trespassed on common sense concerning cell phone use; it trampled it, along with hundreds of thousands of lives lost because of texting, phoning or gaming while driving.
The National Safety Council estimates a 6 percent rise in traffic fatalities. More than 40,200 people lost their lives in U.S. car crashes last year. That’s a 14 percent rise in two years.
The Council notes a dramatic rise in distracted driving due to use of apps such as Google Maps, Facebook and Snapchat.