April 13, 2010
 

American Idiot Drivers: "Wake Me Up, When The Cell-Deaths End"

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In light of the numerous articles and stats detailed on how "Texting Raises Crash Risk 23 Times" in the New York Times recently, we thought we would re-print this oldie but goodie on our take of the subject as we saw it in October of 2005. Back then, publishing it here killed our chances of closing a deal with a mobile ad network. Now we're kind of proud of that fact. - The Editors

Death be not painless. No. It's much worse than that, especially when it's due to stupid carelessness or needless distraction. In the case of war, as depicted most recently by the band, Green Day's award-winning "Wake Me When September Ends", death and/or the fear of death is a much more burdening and constant worry by those left behind, or on patrol, as our American family's Moms, Dads, Sons, Daughters and Lovers leave home for combat duty.

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Though could it be that their well-intentioned desire to shed light on a problem creates a new one? It would be hard for Green Day as much as any MadAve creative director to imagine that the more powerful the work they've created, the more danger it could cause? But then, they never imagined that people might view it on their tiny cell-phone TV screens, behind the wheel, driving 60+ MPH.

We now call it DWI which stands for "Driving While Intoxicated." It's essentially "drinking and driving" - a most serious national problem which began around the era of James Dean and "Rebel Without A Cause," - when liquor and automobiles were available and used heavily, often together. They still are. Hardly a year goes by when the news doesn't report a car-full of teens out on the town celebrating their high school graduation, only to smash into something like a tree or a wall or an on-coming car, killing all involved.

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However, back in the early 1950's, they didn't have a phrase for it, just new alarming/frightening statistics created out of "life in the fast-lane" living, measuring the number of lost lives. It grew into a national epidemic; from mostly teens and young adults who were out on the streets and highway and losing control of the wheel after consuming too much booze. To make matters worse, these accidents were prone to occur at much higher frequency, over holiday periods when "social lubrication" was less about being a grease monkey and more about monkeying around with a bottle.

Over time things only grew worse. This, combined with little government leadership and absolutely no leadership from automotive and/or spirits/beverage distillers/brewers, families of victims took matters into their own hands and created MADD and SADD groups, which used the media to call attention to the problem.

These phrases and grass-roots groups are now engrained into the national consciousness, and have thus translated into action through police action, most often on Friday and Saturday nights pulling over cars so that drivers must take "breathalyzer" tests to see if they are DWI. Results? Accidents due to drunk driving have been reduced dramatically.

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Still, accidents skew to holidays, when people are out partying. Question is, if holidays will not cluster people causing accidents through cell-video viewing, will high-rated programs generate above- average numbers of accidents, such as The Academy Awards or The World Series, or The Olympics? Will we soon begin to fear Nielsen sweep weeks not so much for the bombardment of high rated shows, but due to cell-screen (vs. sun screen) bombardment of cars hitting people or cars hitting cars.

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We've seen activist-based regulation decrease automotive fatalities with seat belts. Most, if not all autos today have a reminder buzz or noise of some type and a dashboard light, to call attention to people if they have not buckled up. In addition, they drill kids in school about this, so most pre-schoolers today actually remind their parents to buckle up. Law enforcement can more easily spot a person who is not buckled in that vs. someone using their cell-phone. Plus, they now often have "click it or ticket" street signs.

Conversely, much has been made of what some see are overblown statistics which show that automobile death rate - due to cell phone use - is not really true.

Who amongst us has not been guilty or seen multiple people driving around with their cell phones, glued to their ears talking as they drive and navigate safely, finding the cell phone no distraction at all?

Local law enforcement organizations have made attempts to ticket people caught on the phone, though they must use their own vision to see people using the cell phone. Most people drop the cell phone to their lap once they see a cop up ahead to avoid detection. Yet, within the last month, according to Wired News, "The National Transportation Safety Board" voted to add to its annual list of "Most Wanted Safety Recommendations to States" a ban on novice drivers using any wireless communication devices."

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One might conclude that this is another example of a governmental legislation for PC-purposes, since other factors; such as having children in the car, eating while driving or fooling around with the radio or CD, also causes accidents. This cannot be disputed.

People talking on their cell phones or listening to the radio, or even listening to their kids scream use their ears. While hearing is important, your ears are not going to make you swerve into another lane, or worse into on-coming traffic. In addition, we don't navigate with our mouths or stomachs. Eating or coffee drinking may distract people momentarily but their mouths are not going to cause them to create accidents.

This is not an unreasonable argument. We would venture to say that audio-based cell-phone use in cars is on the same level as the screaming kid, fast-food or radio station elements which all cause fatal accidents.

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In fact the problem with all of these examples is not our ears or our mouths, it's when we take our eyes off the road. These actions are distracting, not mesmerizing! The eyes are the window to the soul but they are also the primary human sense that can steer one out of a fatal jam. If they don't work properly you must now wear glasses. If they don't work properly after that, you lose you license, accident or no accident.

There is no legislation against foot-use when police fine drivers for speeding. Eyes should not be penalized either. Like feet, it's only when the mis-use of eyes creates a problem. It's the individuals fault and responsibility to control their bodily functions. "Cell phone serial dramas" will be produced for the eyes first and then for ears, mouths throats and hearts.

According to the New York Times article on 10/18/05, "In the past year, media companies have begun experimenting with broadcasting original programming made specifically for mobile phones to increase awareness of their television shows and movies. And interest in such programming may grow further: last week, Apple introduced a video iPod, which, while not a mobile phone, is another test of consumers' interest in portable entertainment."

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Whose Fault? The cell-screen user and the cell-screen user and the cell-screen user!

Programmers, distributors and wireless access companies should not take the blame or be subject to litigation like that person who sued McDonald's because their coffee was hot. However, preventative action should be taken now vs. once this problem grows in size and scope.

The Solution? Perhaps GPS? If GPS technology can measure cell phone use over 5 MPH?, other than Lance Armstrong's cycling and/or Tom Cruise's running (did you ever notice that he has a running scene in each film) a 5 MPH speed or whatever measurable pace would most likely indicate the user is in a automobile of some sort with their cell-screen on. If they could be warned like seat-belt sounds about the possible danger cell-screen programming could cause. In addition, accidents where police recover a cell-phone equipped video programmed into it should penalize drivers with abundantly severe sentences for law breakers. This should make the point perfectly clear.

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The Problem Not Immediately Fixable? If a distracted cell-screened-viewer-pedestrian who unwittingly steps off the curve and into green-lighted traffic, they should be penalized if hit by the car. This will be harder to measure or prove vs. a GPS tracking, though if police do recover their phone with cell-screen in use, the responsibility is more easily established, though will not as clear cut.

Recommendations such as these - if acted upon earlier - will save the cell-screen video industry enormous bad press. In fact it will generate much positive press, so much so they'll be able to "cell-cast?" it to their viewers.

Video "mobi-sodes" are next. Perhaps government and industry reviews will take action after another 100,000 people are killed or hurt due to cell-screen-related accidents.

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If they don't, they surely will have a hard time enrolling a band like Green Day or any other music stars to help them. It's difficult to imagine anyone creating a music video or movie short that will promote self cell-screen viewing restraint. By creating an absolutely mesmerizing work of art, they may in fact perpetuate the problem they are trying to fix.

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