I was reading about a car crash this morning where the driver was convinced they’d gone through a green light, but the car behind them (and the car they plowed into) both saw it as red. Having also had someone almost walk right into me as the train doors opened heading into work, because they were so busy talking and didn’t see me standing right in front of them on my crutches, behind the glass doors, I got to thinking.
Attention is definitely getting scarcer. People are distracted more easily, juggle more things, and pay less attention to the things they are doing. Driving being one of the things most people feel they can do on ‘automatic’ this has big implications. I’d suggest that over the next 5-10 years we’re going to see car smashes on the rise as our road hazards expand from just plain bad drivers to include distracted ones, multitasking ones and, with the increasing pace of life and work expectations, overtired ones.
So what’s the solution?
More training isn’t. It’s training that gets people to that ‘automatic’ stage where they no longer focus on their driving. I don’t think we’re going to be able to turn back the clock and get people’s lives back to where they could look at doing only one thing at a time, with total concentration on only that one thing until it’s done. That time’s been and gone. No, I think the solution is going to have to be another one of those developments that sci-fi predicted years ago – automated traffic control. Drivers are only going to get worse at this, so now is definitely the time to look at innovating – there will no doubt be a world market once it’s ready.
A colleague once told me the technology already existed to control cars via satellite, the car-makers just weren’t interested in implementing it. I think Australia would be a perfect testing ground for innovation on it – how many regional areas would welcome researchers who wanted to test out small scale systems which could attract attention on a world scale if they worked? How many researchers would love the chance to work in an environment like Australia, where the system they develop could be almost guaranteed to be robust enough for any other place in the world (ice continents excepted), especially if they received government encouragement and assistance?