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One cold night in the desert an Arab was warm inside his one man tent, asleep. His camel gently poked his nose in and said it was so cold outside, perhaps his owner would let him get just his nose warm. Groggy and not seeing the harm in that, the Arab said okay and went back to sleep. He awoke to find the camel now wanting to put just his head and neck inside and the Arab said that little bit more was okay. This went on throughout the night and in the morning, the camel had taken over the tent and the Arab was outside in the cold. The camel’s nose became became the term that described a situation where the permitting of a small act ends up leading to a larger undesirable act. Other ways of saying this are getting a foot in the door, give them an inch and they’ll take a mile, the thin point of the wedge, and the slippery slope. As the Bedouins say, once the camel’s nose is in your tent, the rest will soon follow. The lesson is that what was once only mild obtrusive will take over when given the opportunity.


Telematics is using telecommunications to transfer information. In the 1990s, I worked with a telematics group that monitored cars and trucks with GPS systems, on-board diagnostics and two way communication. One of the products they developed was General Motors’ OnStar system. Introduced at the Chicago Auto Show in 1996, OnStar first appeared in 1997 Cadillacs. This breakthrough subscription product brought voice and data communication into the car along with location information from earth orbiting satellites. Today, much of the work on telematics is with commercial car and truck fleets, gathering data on where the vehicle is, how the engine is performing, and what the driver is doing.

OnStar’s mission was to keep drivers and passengers safe

Like all missions, this one became bloated. In its earliest days, OnStar was used by drivers to contact emergency services, essentially a 911 hotline built right into the car and monitored live around the clock. Soon after, at the other end of the phone were courteous and well-trained advisors, ready to be your personal concierge by ordering flowers and making restaurant reservations for you while you drive along. As the technology got more sophisticated, services grew to include turn-by-turn navigation, roadside assistance, stolen vehicle tracking and automatic crash detection and response. Even as OnStar says their focus in on “responsible connectivity,” they announce that now drivers can can update their Facebook status and have their text messages read to them. Around the holidays, drivers can even push the blue button to find Santa and his Reindeer.

Recent news reports say Teslas drivers will now be able to play video games while driving 

Tesla says they meet their legal obligations by warning that these games are only for passengers. Cold comfort, that. Even if it is a passenger playing the game, the screen is in the middle of the dashboard, in the driver’s field of vision, and an undeniable distraction.

Distracted driving

Distracted driving is defined as engaging in other activities while driving a car or any other vehicle. More specifically, distracted driving means the driver is conducting activities that require some measurable level of attention. As attention is one of those there’s only 100% to be divvied up things, any distraction means the driver is no longer devoting all of his or her attention to piloting a two ton steel missile through your neighborhood streets. More in-car screens means more distractions, meaning less attention is given to driving.

The CDC says an average of eight people a day die in accidents caused by distracted driving

People die when drivers are for any reason not fully concentrating on driving. Smartphone use, especially texting, caused so many accidents that some states outlawed the use of hand-held internet devices while driving. Smartphones countered by inventing voice operated commands. This frees the drivers’ hands but still subtracts attention from driving safely and attentively. So it becomes hands-free distracted driving, only slightly less dangerous.

Eating and drinking have always distracted drivers

Studies show more than half of people who eat fast food while driving have dropped a french fry down between the seat and console and twisted around in their seats to fish around for it. Smoking, rubbernecking, arguing and turning around to get something out of the back seat or yell at the kids have for many years been reliable contributors to distracted driving statistics. When radios first showed up in cars 100 years ago, drivers now had something new to compete for their attention. Fast forward to the days of in-car entertainment systems with bigger screens and more video distractions, and the distracted driving accident rates go up. And now in-car games are not only audio and video distractions when your front seat passenger plays them, but also allow you play them yourself while driving. What could possibly go wrong? 

Those who regularly walk, run and ride bikes know enough to not trust any drivers

20% of those killed by distracted drivers were standing, walking, jogging or riding a bicycle.

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