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Phones are the least of our problems on the road

Vehicles have touchscreen technology built into them now. Phones, KIRO Radio's Dave Ross argues, are the least of our problems. (File, Associated Press)

New distracted driving laws are now in effect and holding your phone while you drive can get you pulled over.

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But pretty soon, phones will be the least of our problems because they’re built into new vehicles. It’s the dashboard design itself that’s the problem.

Everything is moving toward touchscreens.

And this term “touchscreen” is a misnomer. It implies you can operate a touch screen by touching. But you cannot operate a touch screen by touching. If you could, that would be great.

There’s only one way to operate a touchscreen, and that’s by looking at it. These are not touch screens, they are look-at-me screens, and they are taking over. Just about every adjustable thing on the car is on a touchscreen now.

In fact, the new Tesla Model-3 eliminates the dashboard instrument cluster entirely. It’s all on a screen: speed, battery level, navigation, climate, error messages, and most important, the radio.

Even the host of who loves Teslas, got frustrated about having to look at the thing.

“I find that’s the one downside … is that I can’t see over here very well. I wish … I just have this desire to grab this thing and turn it toward me.”

This is what’s causing the problem. Old school cars had gizmos you could operate by touch. You could adjust the heat without looking. It was always in the same place. Side mirror? Roll down the window and grab it!

None of this touchscreen stuff.

I admit it’s very cool. You feel like you’re commanding a rocket ship. But rocket ships don’t typically have to be worried about wrapping themselves around a tree because they’re trying to figure out which button on the touchscreen gets them back to the radio display.

If there’s one thing you should never have to look at, it’s a radio.

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