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Archive for August, 2009

ZoomSafer ?

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

Tao Oliveto, Carrboro

It had to happen, I suppose. While the debate continues over the risks of driving and phoning, a few states have made cell phone use while driving illegal. Where there is yin, there is yang, so a campaign has popped up right alongside this issue that claims we can techno-lize ourselves into safe driving without giving up our joy of “staying connected”. It’s not a headset – that’s old news and has proven not to minimize the risks.

This is different. Well, sort of. It’s call ZoomSafer, with a tag line of, “we don’t let friends drive distracted”. It’s “mobile software that helps you drive safely, have fun, and stay connected”. You can download it for free since the inventors explain that their goal is to prevent distracted driving for everyone. This is how it works:

  • Activates automatically when driving
  • Reminds you to be safe
  • Applies preferences to manage communications
  • Suppresses unwanted alerts
  • Optionally inform friends, family, co-workers, and social networks when you’re driving
  • Enables voice-based text and email messaging

I’m not sure what to think. Can automated reminders and these other features really make me pay attention to the road? First, they are admitting that talking on your phone while driving is not safe – in fact, that’s it’s one of the top safety issues in America (see video). Then they tell you you can not only talk, but you can transcribe texts, emails and tweets safely while on the road if you use this software. I’m more than confused, but if I hadn’t had my recent ephiphany, I’d probably believe it. That’s what really scares me.

It also makes me worried that our automated age has taken us into an irreversible downslide into addiction to distraction. The habits that keep us constantly occupied and entertained are the same habits that make us less healthy, less happy, and less aware. Add car accidents which can kill us and this adds up to a pretty sharp double-edged sword.

Blue Flag Beaches – nature’s lifeguard

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

Tao Oliveto, Carrboro

Mid-Summer. Although I’m more of a forest person than a beach person, around this time each year, I feel the pull to move towards the coast, to gaze at something that reminds me that I’m not the center of the universe and that their is a force stronger and more important that my emotions and desires. Something to put things back in perspective.

Our beaches can be not only a place for R & R, but a place to learn and be inspired. Part of that is up to each of us – can we be open to the lessons that nature puts in front of us? Yet, there’s a practical side, too and municipalities are finally catching on. The Blue Flag Beach Program began as a French concept under the FEEE (Foundation for Environmental Education Europe) in 1987, and works towards the sustainable development at beaches. With the goals of coastal protection, planning and waste management, criteria was established, enlisting the cooperation of approximately 450 beaches and marinas participating and becoming certified.

In 2009, the criteria has expanded and the program gone global – now named FEE (Foundation for Environmental Education) – with 3300 beaches and marinas in congruence. Beaches can become places for environmental education and information, all promoted and encouraged by the individual communities. “The Programme has also recently started a voluntary scheme for private boat owners called the Individual Blue Flag, which boaters can fly if they have signed and agreed to follow an environmental code of conduct.”

It sounds like the U.S. needs to jump on board and help us get more than a sun tan on our next w/e at the beach. Do you live or visit a beach community? If you are interested in Blue Flag and you are from a country without a FEE member organisation, please consult the Membership page and please contact the FEE Secretariat for further information.

Be Cell-Phone Wise and Not Foolish

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

I’ve made a pact with myself. No more cell phone use while driving. I’m surprised at how difficult it’s been to keep that promise, so I took a good hard look at the facts.

We love our cell-phones – as of last year, there are over 270 million of us. 81 percent of these people admit to using cell phones while driving. Research from 7 years ago showed that cell-phone use played a role in over 270,000 crashes, though that number could easily be considered conservative since it relies on driver’s confessions.

None of this is too shocking. But this part of the story is. A 20-yo man with an otherwise perfect driving record was on his cell phone when he ran through a red light, hitting a car and killing the driver. After pleading guilty to negligent homicide, he is driving again and says he rarely talks when he drives now. Wait an minute – “rarely”?

And, he has experimented with a hands-free headset. Unfortunately, it’s not hard to guess, research shows that headsets can be as dangerous as holding a phone – it’s the distraction that puts everyone at risk, not driving with one hand.

Also surprising, he states that he is now often a passenger in friend’s cars who still use their phones and, though uncomfortable, doesn’t want to badger drivers about the risk.

It’s hard to believe that even after the worst has happened, someone could still be reluctant to give up the luxury of phoning while driving. Or, allow friends to face the same fate. I’m just as guilty. I used my cell phone while driving at least two more times even after reading this NY Times article. I’ve talked to my sister on the phone while she was driving and didn’t tell her to hang up. But I’m done now, even if it takes putting the phone in the back seat or telling my loved ones to call back once they’ve reached their destination.

Any of us could have been in this situation, so count your blessings. But I hope that we don’t need to have our own disaster – or even a close call – in order to change our ways. Do it today. Tell your friends. Save someone’s life, save your future.

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