Kohl’s, University of Michigan Team Up to Combat Distracted Driving

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 Distracted Driving

Retailer Kohl’s is teaming with the University of Michigan in an effort to reduce distracted driving among teens.

As part of this, Kohl’s is helping to fund a unique program at U of M’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital that aims to develop an evidence-based program designed to reduce distracted teen driving.

The grant, for $299,497, was raised in part through the Kohl’s Cares cause merchandise program.

Kohl’s has also launched a new Kohl’s Drive Smart initiative this summer, which includes online tools such as a contract signed by teens before driving.

It includes such vows as, “I will find sunglasses before driving,” “I will wait until stopped to search for music” and “I will rely on passengers to make calls or text for me.”

This is a great effort, but it raises two immediate questions:

  1. Does it have any hope of changing teen behavior?
  2. What about starting a similar program for distracted adult drivers?

These programs seem to be about raising awareness about the dangers of distracted driving, and its common causes. But are teens (and adult drivers, for that matter) really not aware that texting or playing with the car audio system while driving is distracting and dangerous?

Fine, but what about distracted adult driving?

Like adults, teens probably know that these things are distracting but do them anyway. After all, teens need only look around at drivers in other cars to see that this behavior is normal.

Education is a good thing, but changing behavior has historically required legal remedies. After all, people only started wearing seatbelts once state laws began requiring it. And the whole concept of a “designated driver” came about it the 80s once states got serious about enforcing drunk driving laws.

So, while the Kohl’s/U of M efforts are laudable, we can’t help thinking that more effort is needed.

Technology that keeps you from being distracted by…technology

Perhaps the answer lies in the very high technology that today’s drivers are so easily distracted by. For instance, vehicles could be equipped with devices that sense whether the driver has his/her eyes on the road, and both hands on the wheel.

An alarm could sound if the sensors detect activity that is inconsistent with safe driving.

Of course, states could pass more strenuous laws against the types of distracted behaviors that lead to accidents.

But for now let’s go back to questions #1 and #2, and the whole notion of awareness — and let’s admit that you can’t change teen behavior so long as adults are routinely doing the very things that they are telling kids not to do.

“Don’t do as I do…”

By the time a kid is old enough to get a learner’s permit, he or she has spent years observing adult drivers barely controlling their cars as they fumble around with stereos, text, fiddle with nav systems and otherwise allow themselves to be distracted from the act of driving.

Until adult behavior changes it will be a hard to convince kids that they should “keep to their vows” and keep the distractions to a minimum.

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