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I might have to re-think something...

Every now and then, there's yet another push to make it illegal to use your cell phone while driving, and I've never been fully in favor of it. I can understand the restrictions some people are suggesting -- using a headset or some other hands-free adaptation -- but I really wonder if a law is the right way to do it.

And then some moron comes along gabbing on her phone, and plows into a car parked in the breakdown lane...


Comments (27)

I've never been convinced t... (Below threshold)
Retread:

I've never been convinced that speaker phones or some other variation of hands-free cell phones is the answer since the problem seems to be inattention to the road rather than a lack of two hands on the wheel. Else why aren't they talking about banning drinking coffee or soda while driving?

Why was she driving in the ... (Below threshold)
Sean:

Why was she driving in the break-down lane?

As for banning cell phone use while driving, I'm against it. There are already laws against inattentive driving. Radios were considered too much of a distraction when they first came out for cars, and for new drivers they are too much of a distraction.

She should be charged with inattentive driving. And her insurance should refuse to cover her damages because she was distracted.

Also, I've never understood why talking on a phone was more distracting to a driver than talking to a passenger.

Ironically, for years Germa... (Below threshold)
Palmateer:

Ironically, for years German car makers have provided for the use of cell phones but resisted the pressure from US drivers to include cupholders.

Solution might not be banni... (Below threshold)

Solution might not be banning cell phones from the road so much as it is banning stupid people from driving.

And procreating. And voting.

But people get mad whenever i suggest things like mandatory sterilization and literacy tests.

I understand the "knee jerk... (Below threshold)
Gizmo:

I understand the "knee jerk", but studies have also shown that talking to a real live passenger in your car causes approximately the same level of distraction. This notion is also born out in some of the recent studies in some of the states that mandate "hands free" cell phone usage in cars. The studies have so far noted that "hands free" use doesn't reduce accident rates.

Yeesh. My husband was rear... (Below threshold)

Yeesh. My husband was rearended by a woman on her cell phone last year. Strangely enough, she said she was talking to her girlfriend in the next lane.

Also, I've never underst... (Below threshold)

Also, I've never understood why talking on a phone was more distracting to a driver than talking to a passenger.

Excellent point! I've seen too many drivers gesticulating and looking away from the road during conversations with passengers, or turned around lecturing a kid in the backseat.

Fact is, the only cellphone-using drievrs who consistently annoy me are the ones who are obviously on the job, driving between worksites, and trying to discuss details and look at paperwork or maybe a map while driving.

If I owned a business where that kind of thing were likely to go on, you can bet any employee who got into an accident while doing that would be fired before the tow truck arrived.

Sad thing is, I don't think these guys are employees -- I think they're the ones who own the damn businesses.

"I understand the "knee jer... (Below threshold)
Tim in PA:

"I understand the "knee jerk", but studies have also shown that talking to a real live passenger in your car causes approximately the same level of distraction."

Bingo! Whenever someone almost kills me by driving like an idiot, does 25mph in a 55mph zone, or is weaving all over the road, they're usually blathering to the assclown sitting next to them.

It could be worse, though. I used to live and go to school in an area that had a couple thousand deaf students -- and as with any group of people, a certain percentage will be assholes. This particular percentage liked to talk while driving. Think about the mechanics of that.

I would submit the biggest ... (Below threshold)
Henry:

I would submit the biggest difference between talking to a passenger versus someone on the phone is that conversations within the boundaries of the car tend to have unnatural pauses and breaks that correspond to activity/traffic on the road (ie the conversation is secondary to driving); whereas, a conversation on the phone does not lend itself well to interruptions, resulting in the driving becoming secondary to the conversation.

Just a thought...

As long as vehicles require... (Below threshold)
Old Soldier:

As long as vehicles require humans to pilot them, there will be distractions of some sort competing for the driver's attantion. It may be a cell phone, or conversation with passengers, or a squawling infant in the back seat, or a dropped lighted cigarette, or spilled drink, or, or ,or... How can anyone support legislating away cell phone use when all the other distractions are still just as dangerous?

The "cause" of the accident was not the use of the cell phone - the cause of the accident was the driver losing situational awareness - not concentrating on driving. The cell phone was a distraction that the driver failed to correctly address.

As an Army helicopter pilot I listened to two navigational radios and talked on three different communications radios while flying the machine. I was trained to do those things. The first priority was always to fly the aircraft. In other words, listening, talking, navigating, etc., all became secondary to first flying the aircraft.

If the driver's first priority is to drive the vehicle, then distractions are responded to appropriately. That being the case - legislation is not necessary. Let law enforcement site the proper "at fault" responsibilities and then the insurance companies will respond appropriately as well.

Nothing galls me more than laws that are for my own safety - like mandatory seat belt and helmet laws. Of course I wear my seat belt and would use a helmet if my wife would let me buy that Harley. But those who would chose not to and should perish because of it only serve to purify the gene pool. Lord knows, there are enough really stupid people in the world. It's time to thin the herd.

Some people can't walk and ... (Below threshold)
Mark:

Some people can't walk and chew gum; some can.

Every day, I see idiots running red lights or blowing stop signs because they're on the phone. But it's the idiot, not the phone, that causes the problem.

Don't ban cell phones. Instead, put Darwin in charge of those who can't handle the responsibility.

Jihad Jimmy summed up my sentiments above.

Hehe, in the same article i... (Below threshold)
Faith+1:

Hehe, in the same article it goes on to say how someone else wrecked 20 minutes later because they were distracted by rubber-necking...

Dumbasses will wreck regardless of what they happen to be doing. Talking on the cell phone just happened to be the thing she was doing at the moment. how much you wanna bet she's also the type to apply makeup while driving, or fiddle with her CD player.

Hell, I passed a guy this morning READING THE EFFING NEWSPAPER while driving down the road.

Instead of banning cell pho... (Below threshold)
odrady:

Instead of banning cell phone use during driving, make an outrageous penalty for causing an accident while using one then people can decide for themselves if it's worth it...

I have two observations:</p... (Below threshold)
Dave:

I have two observations:

First, drivers who are talking on a cell phone, whether hands on or hands off, seem to simultaneously engage in speeding, tailgating and changing lanes suddenly and without signalling. I don't have stats, but base my opinion on years of observation. These behaviors are not exclusive to cell phone drivers, but it seems to me that group contains a much higher percentage of cell phone drivers than non cell phone drivers. I don't think the combination of speed, tailgating, unpredictable movement and distraction is very safe at all.

Second, in terms of "thinning the herd" and letting Darwin work, there is only one problem. The people most likely to be "thinned" are not the ones who should be. Why should the innocent victim pay the price? A much more efficient way of thinning the herd would be to post a bounty on cell phone drivers. ;-)

Why was she driving in t... (Below threshold)

Why was she driving in the break-down lane?

Because in their infinite wisdom, MA and NH open the breakdown lanes along that stretch of I-93 to traffic during rush hour, meaning that to exit or enter you have to negotiate a fourth de facto lane of traffic zipping along on the very outer fringe of the pavement. And if you *do* break down, you have to hang out on the edge of the woods, you know, inches from the traffic in the breakdown lane.

Which is stupid.

It is illegal to use a cell... (Below threshold)

It is illegal to use a cell phone while driving in the UK. The law was bought in last year, and is specifically about holding the phone - it's ok to use any of the hands free variations available.

Why not make it illegal to drink soda while driving? It is - it comes under the heading of "driving without due care and attention", and people have been stopped for eating, drinking, writing, reading & texting. Apparently the UK government felt that cell phones needed to be included seperately as accidents were rising exponentially.

There was a big hoo ha about it when they first bought it in (with a massive TV campaign), but most people are OK with it now. It was probably one of the quickest driving conversions I've seen - lots better than the attempts to get us all to wear seat-belts, stop drink-driving, kill our speed etc

<a href="http://www.cartalk... (Below threshold)

Car Talk on Cell Phones

Check the link for extensive discussion and resources - including links to empirical study results, and some explanation of how talking on the phone is different from talking to a passenger.

It does seem pretty clear that 'hands-free' is not much safer than 'hands-on', if at all.

My conclusion, from looking into this, is that I will not talk on the phone while driving, neither will I willingly drive with someone else who does.

And I have asked my loved ones not to do this either, and explained why.

That does leave the problem of other drivers - none of whom should feel free to plow into me or mine while chatting...

The accident apparently ... (Below threshold)
kbiel:

The accident apparently caught the eyes of drivers in the neighboring northbound lane, Harbour said. At 6:36 a.m., Mark Silk, 34, of Nashua, rammed his Mercury Marquis into a Buick LeSabre driven by Wayne Turner, 62, of Wakefield, Mass.

I see more accidents caused by rubber-neckers here in the Dallas area than I do by people talking on their cell phone. What it comes down to is that inattentive driving is what causes most accidents. Whether the inattentiveness is caused by talking to a passenger, talking on the cell phone, staring at an accident, eating a hamburger, or any of another hundred activities, is immaterial. Germany outlaws eating and drinking in the car on their roads as do some states. It doesn't seem to change the accident rate much though.

What I think it will take is for highway patrol officers to start ticketing inattentive and negligent drivers, regardless of whether they were speeding or not. Alas, that's not going to happen while speeding tickets are so much more profitable and easier to prove due to the way most state laws are written.

Oklahoma has a law against ... (Below threshold)

Oklahoma has a law against "distracted driving". Anytime some legislator suggests "cell phone" or "eating" as being illegal, the highway patrol points to "distracted". It covers all kinds of things, from cell phones to DVDs to air guitars to working a George Foreman grill. If you weren't paying attention, BLAM you got a ticket

I took a System Safety cour... (Below threshold)
SMSgtMac:

I took a System Safety course in grad school a couple of years ago, and we received an excellent presentation from a Human Factors expert on this subject. Seems hands-free operation makes no difference. Without boring you on the details, she first pointed out there are two ways to measure vision, physical and cognitive, and talking on a cell phone (or any instrument) to someone not physically present impairs our cognitive ability to recognize our eyes are actually 'seeing' something. She equated talking on the phone while driving normally during the day with driving at night as if you could see beyond your headlights. So I guess the worst thing you could do would be to drive at night and talk on the phone at the same time.

Two weeks ago I was getting... (Below threshold)
DavidB:

Two weeks ago I was getting on the freeway and witnessed a clueless loser, driving an SUV, drifting onto the paved shoulder of the freeway. The only problem was he was drifting towards a parked Highway Patrol Car that the officer was walking back to and just missed hitting the car and officer, and I mean just missed!

Well, after he picked himself up off of the ground from diving to avoid getting wacked, the officer was in the car and off after the SUV Moron. He had the SUV Moron pulled over shortly and I wish I could have been a fly in that car.

Every once in a while someone gets what they deserve, it just doesn't happen nearly enough.

Driving while eating is the... (Below threshold)

Driving while eating is the most dangerous thing people do. So we'd have to ban drive-through restaurants first...

I looked at the links that ... (Below threshold)
Gizmo:

I looked at the links that Tom and Ray provide on the CarTalk site, but they concentrate on studies that almost exclusively look at cell phone distraction. AAA did a study in 2001 that looked at actual accidents (instead of general "distraction" while driving) and found that cell phones usage ranked 8th out of 10 identifiable causes of accident related crashes. Finishing ahead of cell phones were:
Objects/events outside of car
Adjusting radio/CD player
Other passenger
Moving object in car
Other object or device
Adjusting car climate controls
Eating/Drinking

http://www.aaafoundation.org/projects/index.cfm?button=distraction

"causes of accident related... (Below threshold)
Gizmo:

"causes of accident related crashes" errr, make that "distraction related crashes".

Driving while eating, smoki... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

Driving while eating, smoking, listening to the radio, or with another passenger(s) in the car are as equally distracting as talking on a cell phone, if not more so in some cases.

However, I'm definitely not in agreement with people who believe it "infringes on my rights" or people who say studies "show that there's very little difference between those distracted by cell phones and drivers distracted by other passengers..." (duh) or that talking hands-free it's "...not much safer than.." talking with your hand glued to the side of your flippin' head. And I also agree that "dumbasses will get into wrecks no matter what they do".

But for me, it breaks down like this. Just look at all of the examples people have given here about some cell-talking assclown who's nearly run them off the road. Everybody and their grandmother has a story. That's why I believe this is a case where anecdotal/empirical evidence trumps the "scientific" evidence/studies hands down. Purely and simply, this is about common sense.

I personally drive a stick shift (not many of us left these days) with an earpiece because I have to. It is terribly difficult and unsafe (belieive me, I've tried) to hold a cell, phone, shift and steer at the same time. And you know what? It ain't much different in a automatic. Granted, I definitely still have to pay attention when I have an earpiece in and, yes, I am distracted at times, but I can still turn my head from side to side, I can see cars in both blind spots, and have both hands are on the wheel in some way shape and form.

So if you can reduce accidents even it's "not that much safer" (but it is still safer!) than why not do it? Could insurance companies give discounts to those who prove their use of an ear/headpiece? Sure, why not. (Tough to prove, I know. But if you get into an accident because you weren't using your headpiece then the ins. company would likely be within its rights not to cover your sorry behind.) And I really don't understand why cell phone companies are against something like this. I mean, they would be making money off of selling ear/headpieces? Duh.

And "earpieces infringe on your rights"? Pfft. Sorry, when you endanger my actual constitutional right to life with your piss-poor driving, then your driving priviledges take a distant second.

(Oh, and here's what I saw recently. A clueless woman driving in front of me on I-5�doing 63 in the fast lane, mind you�who was not only smoking but also talking on the phone. If she hadn't pissed me off with her obliviousness, I might have admired her dexterity.)

Do I have a pet peeve with this, or what? lol ;-)

Gizmo - I don't th... (Below threshold)

Gizmo -

I don't think you went deep enough into the AAA study, esp. if you got there from the CarTalk link I provided above.

This links to where the CarTalk boys provide some background on the AAA study, and their criticism of it: CarTalk and AAA Study

Johno, you're half-right. M... (Below threshold)

Johno, you're half-right. Massachusetts lets people drive in the breakdown lane during rush hours, but NH doesn't. This crash took place a few miles short of the state line.

J.




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