In the past, I’ve written articles regarding personal safety that have sparked debate. “Calling all Cars” led to a small disagreement over jaywalking and a spontaneous interview about child safety nearly led to a physical altercation between two moms. This topic will hopefully encourage discussion that’s insightful yet more peaceful. It’s about technology and its impact on personal safety.
When I was a patrol officer I refused to use GPS technology to find addresses. My concern was that if I relied on GPS products instead of using personal knowledge that I might not meet the obligations of my profession. I wanted to have every nook and cranny of my beat mapped out in my mind just in case the machine failed. Some would say, “they’re very useful, just get one that’s high quality.” I still refused, and was usually able to find addresses easily by becoming familiar with certain areas and utilizing my knowledge of cross streets and the “hundred block” system. I felt then and still do, that a machine can’t determine the best short cuts, or the best ways to intercept a fleeing offender. And no GPS unit will be able to advise me how to slowly creep towards possible crimes in progress avoiding detection, or the best direction to approach making an ambush difficult. I also felt it would distract my eyes from the road.
In “Calling all Cars” I also referred to T.W.D. (texting while driving) addressing the numerous times I’ve seen a cellular phone with an incomplete text in the vehicle of someone found at fault in traffic accidents. Months after that article was published, talk show icon Oprah Winfrey urged everyone to cease this act and provided a line-up of individuals whose T.W.D. had fatal consequences on her program. While operating a motor vehicle, advances in airbag technology, maneuverability, and impact absorbing materials make you safer. Communication leaps and bounds via cellular phone technology however, may place you in more danger. What irony. Despite this, I have mixed feelings on the subject of safety and technology.
Most doctors would adamantly defend technology stating that by preventing health issues it increases personal safety. And they would have a good argument as technological advances in medicine have greatly extended my life. In 2007, doctors became seriously concerned regarding certain tests during my annual physicals urging me to take ultrasounds, computed tomography (CT scan), and ultimately a kidney biopsy. It was then that I found that for my entire life I’ve had “thin basement membrane nephropathy,” a form of kidney disease. I was assigned a dietitian by my Nephrologist (kidney doctor) and she outlined a plan that will allow me to live a relatively unaltered life. Without technological advances that led to such early detection, I would have continued with a lifestyle that would be fine for a normal person but potentially fatal for me. So my health and personal safety has been increased by modern medical practices. On the other hand, addictions to prescription medication may do the opposite for countless others.
I wonder what criminals think of technology. Computer predators and financial criminals may adore it while prowlers and car thieves probably detest it. So does it make us more safe? Or does it increase danger and make things more convenient for modern criminals? What do you think?