I have a teenage son who is counting down the days until he can get his driver's licence. So it was with a mixture of dread and hope that I watched a recent 60 Minutes segment called 'Curfew' which outlined growing support for Australian proposals to impose late night curfews and passenger restrictions on new teenage drivers.
The most incredulous part of the whole sad feature came from an interview with Paul Gibson, Chairman of Stay Safe NSW. While not backing these moves which conservative estimates project could bring about a 30 per cent reduction in crash and fatality rates for young drivers, Gibson instead enthused about a technology solution he called 'intelligence speed adaptation' (ISA).
All it involves is linking every street in every city in the whole country to a satellite that has a database of speed limits. The satellite navigation system then interacts with a device (which would need to be installed in every car, of course) that can identify the street and the speed limit, and then choke the car's supply of petrol if the limit is exceeded.
Sounds simple, right?
Apparently Gibson and a team of experts trialed ISA in the UK last year and will go to the US for another trial later this year. But even so, he does not expect ISA will be a reality for at least ten years, when he anticipates its introduction in Europe.
I don't know about you, but I know I'm glad that someone on a NSW parliamentary committee is out there looking after European six year olds. And hey, Paul, let's ignore the obvious Big Brother/privacy objections and just microchip the kids themselves. We could perhaps send an electric shock right to their foot as they press down on the accelerator too heavily.
I'm not trying to be cynical about technology advancements that have genuinely made our cars and roads safer. I do know that GPS systems are on the scene that have many beneficial applications in transport and agriculture, as well as other industries. (Some navigation systems are pretty nifty at providing a 'talking UBD' alternative too.)
But also in the news this week are reports of two lawsuits arising from fatal car crashes involving drivers sending text messages on their mobile phones. And on a personal note, I took a test run with our recently reviewed Sony MV-65ST DVD Station. It's a neat portable DVD player designed to run off your car battery and aforementioned son loved it. But played without the headphones in, the DVD distracted my driving, and when he used the headphones, I was all but incapable of communicating with him in the back seat.
So as much as this web site devotes energy to covering technology 'on the move', it's silly to not recognise when that technology may be impractical or worse, dangerous. If setting short term curfews and regulating the number of passengers can save 100+ young lives and prevent thousands of injuries each year, let's not wait for a technological solution; let's put the regulations in place now.