Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Value Sensitive Design

Daria Robbins

COMM 6480

Value Sensitive Design

Overview of the socio-technical problem space:

The dangerous conditions created by drivers who use a cellular phone while driving is the problem space for the purposes of this paper. The syndrome is called “distracted driving” and is attributed to, according to the Harvard Center of Risk Analysis, 636,000 crashes 330,000 injuries, 12,000 serious injuries and 2,600 deaths each year (Harvard Center of Risk Analysis). This distracted state of mind includes both using the cellular phone to talk and/or text while driving.

Nearly 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds before the event.  Primary causes of driver inattention are distracting activities, such as cell phone use, and drowsiness (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).

Though the connection between cellular phone use while driving and an accident may not be directly related, using a cell phone can degrade driver performance, attention and reaction time because of a cognitive distraction. This documented risky behavior has the potential to result in serious consequences, not only to the driver, but to those within the vicinity of the driver and his/her vehicle.

The Stakeholders:

  • The driving using the cellular phone
  • Other drivers
  • Pedestrians
  • Passengers in the cell phone user’s vehicle are potential victims as are passengers in other vehicles
  • Families of the resulting victims
  • Law enforcement officers and other first responders who respond to the resulting accidents
  • Insurance companies that pay out for personal injury and property damage from resulting accidents

The value of import in this problem space is that of personal and public safety. As citizens, we have a responsibility to one another to “not do harm.” This position goes beyond simply physical harm or property damage, but also encompasses the collateral harm done to individuals, families and communities when distracted driving results in physical harm and damage. Furthermore, the human interaction with technology should not result in harm to the user or others.

It is not clear from current research if hands-free use of a cell phone is “safer” than hand-held use, but some research suggests that there is similar cognitive distraction. Additionally, the driver may miss audio or visual cues necessary to avoid having an accident because they are attending to a conversation rather than the task at hand – the operation of a motor vehicle.

The conflict between the stakeholders is a matter of personal freedom. However, it is clear that the personal freedom of the reckless driver using the cell phone while driving infringes upon the rights of all other stakeholders to be safe.

A solution? There really isn’t one.

We have crossed that bridge and there is no turning back. Ultimately, the technology will have to advance to a kind of “smart” hands-free system that can adjust the volume based on the traffic conditions.

There is currently legislation in many states that address the use of hand-held cell phone use (talking and/or texting) that has made the practice illegal. However, enforcing the new law puts an added burden on law-enforcement and is difficult to prove.






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