Forget Texting, Let's Talk About Taking Pictures While Driving

Everyone talks about texting while driving, but what about something I think may be even more distracting: “snapping while driving,” as in taking photographs? In the last few weeks, I’ve twice been behind cars (a truck in one case) whose drivers have whipped out smartphones and taken pictures while at a light or stop sign. Austin is a picturesque city, but I was still surprised to look over on my way to an event on Wednesday evening and see the driver to my right aiming a camera phone at her right, while in moving traffic.

The photographic proof is all over the web, with my colleague Kevin sending me evidence of his own guilt on this matter (see photo). From pictures of rainbows taken while driving to photos of famous landmarks, I have to ask why people take such a risk. The act of taking a picture with many touchscreen smartphones requires one to unlock the screen, (maybe one has to enter a pin or a specific swipe pattern), find the camera app, open it, frame the picture and then click the shutter.

Aside from not paying attention to the road while doing all of these things, during the act of framing the picture, the driver is looking at what he or she wants to capture, and people tend to drive in the direction they are looking. That might be fine if you’re snapping something from your front window, but it’s a mite scary when you’re trying to snag the image of the scenery whizzing by at 45 miles per hour.

The dangers of texting while driving have been well articulated and researched, although one in four admit to doing it. And I know that people put makeup on in traffic, eat food (guilty), and I’ve even seen folks playing with iPads. I’m pretty worried about the prevalence of our electronic gadget obsession while on the road. Our need to document, share and consume information while also piloting a fast-moving vehicle is risky for the driver as well as anyone else on the road. I’m concerned that things like attractive mobile ads or augmented reality might make it even worse. Readers, what’s your take?

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