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

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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 (s aapl). 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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10 Responses to “Forget Texting, Let's Talk About Taking Pictures While Driving”

  1. I took that rainbow picture. In my defense, I unlocked my phone and launched the camera app while I was at a red light. I then took many pictures in the direction of the rainbow without looking at my phone. I only posted the best one out of that series. I would agree that distracted driving is very unsafe and that no one should do it.

  2. someone recorded me driving on the M6 today with some form of recording device. Whilst he was driving, aiming it at me through all 4 sides of his car, at 70MPH!!!! Is this illegal?? PLEASE HELP. regards Tim.

  3. In my city, texting-while-driving fines have extended to cover any use of a “handheld device” while driving, so snapping a picture can get you a $250 fine (if you’re lucky enough to avoid causing an accident).

    If you’re snapping a picture while you’re driving, it means you’ve already been seriously distracted while driving and that you’re no longer paying attention to the road. It’s as dangerous, if not more so, than texting.

  4. While I wouldn’t do it everyday , once in a while it is ok

    How else would I have taken the picture of the person wearing rollskates while riding his motorcycle on 101 Northbound in Redwood City.

  5. Stephen Cerruti

    Are you daft or do you have the wrong phone?

    When I’m driving my phone is typically on aand unlocked in its car dock watching traffic for me. Taking a picture is as easy as picking it up, pointing it and pushing a button.

    You can start complaining when I open up PicSay Pro to edit the picture before I post it on Facebook.

  6. Spot on.

    What I project: QR Tag Billboards are going to cause accidents. Plain and simple.

    The laws re: cell phone use are not actually specific to texting, they are general and deal with the Driver even holding a cell phone. But, we only talk about texting as the problem.

    At some point, any Billboard or signage (bus stop) that is visible from the Street may be restricted from QR Tags (much to the chagrin of printers and QR Tag co’s).

    It will probably take a couple of tragic accidents before anyone acts on this though? It would be nice if someone like Scanlife came out against this kind of placement early on.

    OK, I’ve only picked on one niche prospect that encourages picture taking while driving. But, it needs to be nipped in it’s proverbial bud.

  7. Not that I condone distracted driving but taking a picture is as easy as one swipe to unlock, holding the dedicated camera button which pulls up the camera app and then aim and shoot. I’ve done all without actually looking at my phone.

      • It’s still far far FAR fewer keystrokes/taps than banging out a text message. Open camera app, point camera at subject, click, done.

        Framing? Really? Very few people bother to frame. It’s a quick click and that’s it. If you’re taking time to frame out a photo you’re snapping with your cell phone while driving, THAT could be a problem, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen someone bother to frame anything more complex than “Yup, it’s in the viewfinder.”