Featured MALS Capstone Projects

Mobile Technology: History, Usability and Law

Excerpts from Mobile Technology: History, Usability and Law

Sean Simmons, Featured MALS Capstone Project

Shawn Simmons is a native of Charlotte, NC. Shawn completed the MALS program at UNC Charlotte in May 2015 and received his B.I.S. in Mass Communications from Winston-Salem State University in May 2012. Currently, he serves as Assistant Director in the Office of Multicultural Academic Services at UNC Charlotte.

With a technology background in communications studies, Shawn became interested in looking at the development and usability of commonly used technologies. His capstone project explores cell phone use and distracted driving. In the future, he plans to do additional research on distracted driving and navigation system use, as well as the link between distracted driving and call/text anticipation.


“The New Drunk Driving”

According to the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA), driving a car while texting is six times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated (Wilms). The NHTSA also reports that texting while driving is the same as driving after having four beers. Texting while driving has replaced drinking and driving as the leading cause of accidents and deaths of teenage drivers (NoTXTnDrive). The percentages of alcohol-related traffic accident deaths has dropped 52% since 1982 and are now at historic lows, while traffic accident deaths that are not alcohol related has jumped 78% over the same time (NHTSA).

The NHTSA reported in 2010, driver distraction was the cause of 18% of all fatal crashes – with 3,092 people killed – and crashes resulting in an injury – with 416,000 people wounded (Olson et al.).


Anyone can become an advocate for safe driving. Share a video, post a fact on social media, make your own PSA or forward and/or post one that’s already been created. There are a number of organizations such as Stop the Texts, Stop the Wrecks and End Distracted Driving that are organized to educate and increase awareness of safe driving.

For parents and guardians that wish to monitor or control cell phone use of young people, there are apps available such as Cell Control, that once downloaded onto a phone will tell when a car is in motion, even at 1mph. Parents can decide how a phone is used whether it is a no calls option, only calls through hands-free and/or disabling texting messaging. Also, devices such as DriveCam can monitor a driver’s activity in real-time video.

Law makers are being pushed to legislate against phoning and driving, particularly in light of the growing evidence that talking, texting and other function use while using a cell phone leads to an increase in accidents or accident-related deaths. Unfortunately it’s challenging to police and the urge for drivers to multi-task because of work pressures and other responsibilities supersede worry for their own safety or concern that their actions are breaking the law ("Death by Txt – Numbers Show SMS and Driving Don’t Mix").

Some solutions put forward have included:

• Blocking cell phone signals inside of cars

• Harsher punishments

• Forcing the use of hands-free car kits or forcing cellphone makers to include them as 
standard equipment

• Increasing awareness of the dangers through advertising campaigns

While no simple solution exists outside of abstinence from using mobile technology, the answer clearly lies in developing better technology to combat the problem for two important reasons. First, it could be argued that technology created the problem in the first place so thus should be responsible for fixing it. Also, human behavior is much harder to change than technology ("Death by Txt – Numbers Show SMS and Driving Don’t Mix").