I think that we can universally agree that fiddling with a smartphone while driving is a bad idea, but is fiddling with a phone attached to your steering wheel any safer? The makers of the Steer Safe universal hands-free kit would like you to think so, but I'm not sure that I agree.
The video and description that accompany the Steer Safe's KickStarter page say that the smartphone mounts to the user's steering wheel, putting the phone close by for easy hands-free calling, navigation, and whatever else you want to do while behind the wheel. It all seems good, but I think there's a problem.
You see, I don't think that moving the phone closer to the user will help reduce driving distraction. I think it'll actually increase it. A dashboard or windshield mount allows users to easily see the phone's display for functions like navigation, but the distance from the driver has the effect of discouraging complex interactions, such as responding to e-mails. The Steer Safe closes that distance, making the phone easier to interact with, but in doing so it also increases the temptation to read that incoming text message, tap out that quick e-mail response, or view that short YouTube clip or photo by literally putting these functions at your fingertips. The phone's right there and you can still see the road, so there's no harm, right? Wrong.
While I'm nitpicking, the developer refers to the vehicle's "odometer" in both the video and the text of the description when I'm about 90 percent sure that he means "speedometer." However, the whole reason that either of the 'meters is mentioned is that the designer claims that the Steer Safe allows for proper viewing of the gauges, yet I can see neither in the project's own photo above.
To be fair, we don't have a Steer Safe in hand to test, so I may be wrong (but I doubt it). Those who totally disagree with me are free to pledge their $25 to the Steer Safe's KickStarter page to get one of the first batch of units. But if you do, be sure to let me know what roads you commonly drive, so I can avoid you.