Social networkers willing to risk accidents to stay in touch with their friends

Increasing numbers of people on the road are throwing caution to the wind in order to update their statuses, post photos or communicate with their friends via social networking sites.

"The automobile is no longer a communications dead zone that prohibits drivers from staying connected to friends and family via various options such as calling, texting and even tweeting and Facebooking," said Anna Buettner, analyst and regional manager for EMEA automotive research at iSuppli in an October 15 report.

"With the expanding array of communications options, many drivers are willing to take the risk of an accident simply because they want to read or reply to a text message or check and update their preferred social media site."

As people rely even more heavily on social networks to stay in touch with their friends and loved ones, driving and social networking seems to be a phenomenon that is unfortunately set to stay.

In August Frank Ryan, plastic surgeon to the stars, is said to have died after driving off a cliff while using his smartphone to post a tweet on microblogging site Twitter.

A recent study by Pew Internet showed that one in four adults in America (27 percent) have sent a text message while driving.

Automakers are working quickly to find solutions to the problem. Car manufactures have already started implementing technology that will keep drivers' eyes fixed on road ahead instead of on the screens of their smartphones in new cars.

Ford is leading the way with its Ford Sync voice activated in-vehicle communication systems. Manufacturers such as General Motors are following the trend too.

In September General Motors announced it would redevelop its in-car communications service OnStar to provide users with services such as an audio-enabled Facebook app and voice-to-text translation for sending text messages.

Application and device makers are also trying to solve the problem with smartphone features that enable hands-free typing.

"Automotive OEMs, suppliers and app developers are realizing that calling, texting and even social networking are part - or will be part-of everyday driving for an increasing number of motorists," said Buettner.

"With the proliferation of smart phones, the trend seems irreversible. As with the take-off of Bluetooth for hands-free calling and mobile device integration, there are ways to curb such distractions and voice-recognition control may be the key for automotive applications. Finding and implementing a way to safely integrate social networking and other apps in the car is more feasible than fighting the trend, as is confirmed by Sync and OnStar's latest moves.

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