Ditching the phone while driving for safer roads

Each week a global thinker from the worlds of philosophy, science, psychology or the arts is given a minute to put forward a radical, inspiring or controversial idea – no matter how improbable – that they believe would change the world.

This week biophysicist Elspeth Garman proposes a way to make roads safer.

“I would like to solve the problem of people talking or texting on their hands-non-free mobile phones while driving. In some countries this practice is rife, and it costs lives. For me it is especially alarming when I’m cycling, which is the only way to travel around Oxford where I work and get to my lab. If there is a four-wheel drive vehicle approaching me on a roundabout driven by someone using only one hand, who can’t thus turn the wheel, this is really terrifying.

My solution would be for the car to detect that the phone is on a live call or transmitting a message and for the car to slow down until it stops, or safer, for the hazard lights to start flashing. Even better, which would really solve the problem is if the phone suddenly became too hot to hold, so the person would have to drop it and concentrate on driving.

We have to trust all the road users and we can do that with a lighter heart if all the phones were on the car floor.”

You can listen to Elspeth discuss her idea with British artist Roger Hiorns and American cave scientist Penny Boston in more detail on the BBC World Service programme The Forum, where you can also download more 60-second ideas.

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