A video about texting and driving has been making its rounds on the interwebs lately. The video, produced by AT&T, consists of interviews with people whose lives were impacted by texting and driving: the friends and family of people who were killed, a young man who was permanently and severely disabled, and another who killed a bicyclist.
If you haven’t seen it, it is definitely worth a watch, but have some Kleenex handy.
As the above video states, you’re 23 times more likely to be in an accident while texting versus when you’re actually paying attention. It’s dangerous and outright stupid.
That’s why I’m bewildered by an iPhone app recently unveiled by the City of Los Angeles.
The app, called Parker, gives drivers up-to-the-minute information about open parking spaces in Hollywood.
Street parking is in high demand in that area, with people sometimes driving around for 12 minutes looking for a parking space, according to research published in the Los Angeles Times. Thanks to the Parker app, people can more easily find open spaces, plus get information about time limits and whether the parking meters take credit cards.
Now, my family and I plan to do a lot of travel by car in the coming years, and I have downloaded several travel apps for my iPod Touch. I have apps to find campgrounds, apps that tell me what amenities are available at Interstate off-ramps, even an app to help me locate the World’s Largest Concrete Gnome (Ames, Iowa). So I’m not opposed to apps that make it easier to find or get to a destination.
To safely use these apps, we look up information before we leave, or I look up information while my husband is driving.
The Parker app, on the other hand, practically begs to be used while driving. There’s no point using it in advance given the constant turnover in parking spaces. Also, people in Southern California aren’t really big on having passengers in their cars. That’s why a few vehicles whiz by in the carpool lanes of the freeway while everyone else sits bumper-to-bumper. Yes, the tourists driving around Hollywood might have an extra set of eyes in the car, but most commuters do not.
Obviously people might choose to use any app while driving, especially one related to finding destinations. I don’t blame the companies that develop those apps; I blame people who choose to use them while driving.
In the case of Parker, though, I do blame the app’s makers and the City of Los Angeles for commissioning it. I blame them because, by its very nature, the app needs to be used in real-time. I blame them because their targeted demographic is notorious for driving solo. I blame them because they are a government agency that should be more concerned with public safety than turning a buck. The same people charged with making the city a safer place have just given people tacit permission to play on their iPhones while driving.
To the city’s credit, in a post on the city’s blog, Council President Eric Garcetti reminds people to pull over before using the app. But when people are jockeying for the few open spots they’re not likely to take time to pull over, even if the crowded LA streets allowed for it.
Los Angeles politicos can pretend that people won’t use Parker while driving, but if they really believe that they’re delusional.
Sure the app will likely provide the benefits the city touts. Drivers will be less frustrated! Businesses will flourish! Congestion will be eased! I guess they don’t care that people might die.
Personally, I’d rather spend 12 minutes hunting for a parking space than spend a lifetime regretting having accidentally killed someone because I was looking down to see if the parking spot around the corner takes Visa. I hope all Southern Californians will be so considerate, but we are, as a whole, a self-absorbed bunch.
The first time someone is killed or injured as a result of a driver using this app Los Angeles can likely expect a big lawsuit. They’ll need to sell a lot of $1.99 apps to pay for that settlement.