|How can one drive while looking at this screen?|
For those who are unfamiliar with Waze, it is a navigation app that acts as a traffic monitor. Users of the program enter the condition of the traffic they are currently driving in which allows others to see how bad the road congestion is, thereby allowing them to bypass to a less congested path. This information is critical in densely trafficked cities like Los Angeles. Since users can also input various road hazards like police speed traps, it also allows scofflaws to avoid run ins with the law.
It is this active participation of its users that makes Waze dangerous to drivers. Users, myself included, are constantly looking at the phone to look for traffic congestion up ahead and away from the immediate surroundings. But to report the traffic conditions to Waze, the user must also enter the information, thus taking their eyes off the road. No matter how quickly they can press the simple icons in Waze to input the data, it is still taking their minds away from driving.
Waze compounds this problem by enticing its users to become even more diverted. Drivers get points for putting in road information. It becomes a game to see who can add more points to their total. Waze even offers little virtual candy points for consistent users. The more data they enter, the more points they get, and the more distracted driving is involved.
Since it is now a social media world, Waze also allows one to chat with other Waze users on the road. Now how can somebody drive properly if they are constantly seeking chat buddies nearby?
I know Waze tries to mitigate this problem by allowing the use of voice commands. But it has been shown that the imprecise nature of voice commands in noisy cars cause drivers to take their eyes off the road due to frustration with the system.
Many cities and states have banned the practice of texting and driving because it can be even more dangerous than drunken driving. With the increasing use of safety features like antilock brakes and airbags, automobile fatality rates have been trending down for years. Driving apps like Waze may cause an unfortunate reversal in this pattern. I personally vow to minimize the amount of time I spend on Waze, just as soon as I get my 25 candy points up ahead.