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Does New General Motors App Increase Distracted Driving?

Blackwell Law FirmDistracted driving is a huge problem on Alabama highways — much worse than reported. In a prior post, I discussed a study that analyzed distractions due solely to cell phones. That study, limited just to cell phone distraction, revealed distracted driving causes far more crashes than reported by government data. Of course, cell phones are not the only distraction causing crashes on our highways. Drivers face numerous other distractions. We discuss these distractions on our law firm website and in many of our blog posts.

How can we reduce distracted driving injuries? Outside the courtroom, our firm is committed to advocating for highway safety. Safety advocates have largely focused on three areas to combat distracted driving — education, law enforcement and technology.  When it comes to technology, you would expect car manufacturers to lead the charge for safety. Do they? Not always. General Motors (GM) is actually introducing an App called Marketplace that creates more risks of distracted driving crashes. A number of safety advocates share my concern with GM’s actions.

What is GM doing? GM has created a touchscreen App that will be included in new car models and will allow drivers to shop while driving. Here is what USA Today reported about the new touchscreen App:

General Motors is now providing the ability to buy coffee, donuts, make restaurant and hotel reservations from the road using a dashboard touchscreen. The app, called Marketplace, is rolling out this month in all 2017 and 2018 Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac models.

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Drivers can and will use the app while driving, a capability that may draw criticism from safety advocates.

According to USA Today, the new App will initially allow drivers to shop for gas, parking, food, and cars. It will also allow drivers to make restaurant and hotel reservations. For GM, reports indicate some merchants have agreed to share sales revenue from their inclusion. More merchants may be added later.

Does The New App Increase Driver Distraction? The Chicago Tribune also examined GM’s proposed new App. As the Tribune noted, a driver can be tremendously distracted from the roadway while simply dealing with a vehicle’s navigation system. According to the Tribune:

A driver of a car moving at 25 mph could spend 40 seconds, or about the time it takes to drive the length of three football fields, to program the car’s navigation system, according to the research commissioned by the American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The study also found drivers remain distracted up to 27 seconds after sending an email or text.

‘What we found is that you’re not cognitively focused on driving, but the distraction,’ said Beth Mosher, spokeswoman for the American Automobile Association in Chicago.

Driver distractions from electronic activities such as navigation systems, emails and texts, can cause serious danger. During these tasks, a car can travel substantial distances. Now, we are going to introduce additional activities where a driver has to review and consider menu options to actually make purchases while driving? To me, it seems very dangerous.

Many safety advocates agree the new App is dangerous. A recent article titled National Safety Council Slams GM Marketplace discusses these safety concerns. Here is what the National Safety Council concluded about GM’s Marketplace App:

Distracted driving is a major concern these days, and law enforcement is cracking down hard. General Motors’ Marketplace, which will integrate many shopping functions previously reserved for smartphones into your car’s infotainment system, will make this problem worse rather than better, says the National Safety Council.

‘There’s nothing about this that’s safe,’ National Safety Council President Deborah Hersman told Automotive News.

The National Safety Council has also provided an infographic detailing how multitasking while driving is worse than people think. I would urge GM to study its new App in greater detail before releasing it. Certainly, people spend a lot of time in vehicles. People already have access to cell phones that can perform these functions. GM does not need to make distracted driving easier or more tempting. If GM intends to offer the App in new vehicles, perhaps the car maker can include controls that render the device inoperable when a vehicle is moving. Drivers need fewer distractions not more.


At the Blackwell Law Firm, we help injured people in Alabama. Many of our cases involve serious injuries from car accidents. We understand the dangers of distracted driving and impaired driving. We believe in preparing our cases completely to obtain the maximum recovery possible for our clients. Outside the courtroom, we believe personal injury lawyers should truly advocate for highway safety.