Yakking Drivers More Likely To Crash -- But Results Likely To Be Misinterpreted

from the not-too-surprising dept

This will probably surprise very few people, but a new study done in Australia adds some more evidence to the idea that people who drive while talking on the phone are more likely to be in an accident -- though, it is worth noting that all of the data studied occurred in on city, which may not be an accurate sample of the world population. Still, it only makes sense that having some sort of distraction increases your likelihood of being in an accident. Of course, this will just renew political calls to ban driving while talking -- which is the wrong lesson. It's banning just one thing rather than taking on the issue of distracted driving in a serious way. Even an original supporter of banning using phones in cars has since changed his mind on the problem, noting that it has had unintended consequences, leading to other distractions, rather than actually make the roads any safer.


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  1.  
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    dorpus, Jul 12th, 2005 @ 4:47am

    Funny

    This sounds exactly like the Drunk Driving debates of the 1980s, when "conservatives" used to argue that "real men", the ones who never eat quiche, should be able to drink and drive. Judges used to treat drunk driving in the same light as speeding tickets. A few high-profile incidents of drunk drivers killing children changed that.

    The USA is still behind the learning curve on cell phone accidents. Asia has already had high-profile incidents of yakking drivers killing groups of schoolkids, so public opinion has soured against their use.

     

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  2.  
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    Tim, Jul 12th, 2005 @ 7:27am

    No Subject Given

    So what about banning other forms of distraction behind the wheel? Such as passengers and hifis? :P

    And more to the point, when the heck are they going to be even slightly fair and start applying the same restrictions to the utterly idiotic pedestrians who yak on the blower on the street and walk out in *front* of cars?

     

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  3.  
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    blankmeyer, Jul 12th, 2005 @ 8:32am

    No Subject Given

    The problem is you cannot outlaw stupidity. No matter what laws you pass and how safe you try to make things, the world will always be a dangerous place. Some (ok, maybe a majority) people are just plain stupid and no amount of legislation is going to stop that.

    This is akin to the recent news of the NYC MTA blocking the cell phone signals in the Tunnels. The action isn't actually making us any safer, its just a public showing.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous of Course, Jul 12th, 2005 @ 10:45am

    Re: Funny

    Mothers against drunk driving seem like a rather conservative group to me. I guess it's the image of conservatives throwing beer cans out of the windows of their pick-up truck as they drive by that has tainted your view.
    -
    http://www.hfes.org/web/DetailNews.aspx?ID=72

     

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  5.  
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    hooded civilian, Jul 12th, 2005 @ 12:47pm

    death penalty to cellphone drivers

    anyone who says outlawing cellphone use while driving wont solve anything and may actually make matters worse is showing their bias. Yes, you are driving yackers, so of course you rationalize that outlawing it will not help.

    If cellphoning while driving leads to 4 times more accidents, then OF COURSE you should ban the practice. Any four year old can see that is the right choice. But adults like their toys and will go to any length to convince themselves that they can and should be able to keep them regardless of the cost to everyone else.

    I know you all have been behind people on their cells that just sit there or stop in the middle of a green light intersection to clear up an important point. But of course the conversation is more important than navigating a silly car, so stop everything while you negotiate your contract. Or is it that you didnt notice these people because you were these people?

     

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  6.  
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    Mike (profile), Jul 12th, 2005 @ 1:12pm

    Re: death penalty to cellphone drivers

    I actually don't use a cellphone when driving because I think it's dangerous. However, when the actual *stats* show that the ban hasn't helped matters, doesn't that mean that something is wrong with just banning it? We're not saying not to ban it because we want to talk -- but saying that the solution isn't in banning it, because that's clear (from the stats) not helping.

    Wouldn't you rather actually solve a problem then just say you've solved it when the facts show you haven't?

     

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  7.  
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    dorpus, Jul 12th, 2005 @ 1:16pm

    Re: Funny

    MADD has become a part of the conservative establishment by appealing to Christian values. However, at the time, it was viewed as a nefarious feminist organization whose "real" purpose was to usurp American Manhood.

     

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  8.  
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    Tim, Jul 12th, 2005 @ 2:24pm

    Re: death penalty to cellphone drivers

    > But of course the conversation is more important than navigating a silly car, so stop everything while you negotiate your contract.

    Methinks thou doest assume too much.

    For the vast majority of drivers, driving only occupies ~30-40% cognitive ability. By the sound of things, you need this law.

     

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  9.  
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    Ivan Sick, Jul 12th, 2005 @ 2:38pm

    Re: death penalty to cellphone drivers

    Ah, so you like laws. You think that more laws are the answer to the world's problems, is that it? There are already laws against using a cell phone while driving. Just because they don't specifically say "Don't talk and drive!" (instead, they say "Don't drive recklessly" and "Pay attention to the road"), do you think that a law that does get that specific will make people stop? There are too many too specific laws already. Why not make separate laws for changing the radio, applying makeup, eating, drinking soda, smoking, looking at directions, and having an open glove compartment while driving? Because that's insane. We need to have intelligent police who can notice when someone is not being attentive, and expect and depend on them to do so. All of the above distractions have been around for years. Freakouts over new technology like this don't solve anything. Have you seen a new car stereo lately? They have all these animations and pictures and digital graphic equalizers and crap. Pretty distracting, right? If you make a law to make cell phone use in cars illegal, the manufacture and installation of such radios should also be illegal. We could also make a law that new cars must have a device in them that, when it detects cellular single, warns the the driver, then shuts the car off after ten or twenty seconds. It's a feasible technology. And it would definitely put a stop to driving and talking. (Until the driver gets a buddy to override it, of course) But it would be insane. This country needs to leave the damn books alone, and enforce the laws we have already.
    [edit: New laws, I'll agree, need to be written concerning certain areas, such as the internet. (Not spyware, though) Where completely new issues have arisen, some new laws might actually be useful. But the idea that new technology, such as cell phones, changes peoples' behavior (which is implied in the need for a ban) is false.]

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2005 @ 4:11pm

    Re: death penalty to cellphone drivers

    duh! if there is a law against cellphone use while driving and you get a ticket for 90-290 dollars for each infraction, yes, it will cut down on cellphone use while driving. And if you lose your license, it will cut down on the problem even more quickly. Yes some people will still do it, just like some people still drink and drive, but the majority, which is now the case, will not. Just like the majority do not drive drunk. Some do, most dont. Now, most people yak and drive, so the roads are much less safe than 2 years ago.

    You are making a ridiculous argument. Enforce arbitrary and ambiguous laws that are totally subject to interpretation over concrete laws. Drive safely or get a ticket vs. drive without a cellphone or get a ticket. In the first case, anyone could be pulled over and the second case only the offenders can be pulled over. You would rather have police pull you over based on their mood?

    re: mikes claim that the laws dont solve the problem. You are being dishonest here mike. The laws are for hands free. That isnt addressing the problem of not yaking that is addressing the problem of driving one handed.

    re: the super brain that says he only uses 40% to drive. Unfortunately, your brain doesnt work that way. You dont have a dedicated line to the car. You swap out completely when your focus changes. That is why everyone sucks at driving when they talk on the phone. And because they arent paying attention to their driving they also dont know when they are driving like shit. So they can proclaim that their driving doesnt suffer, because they werent paying attention when they ran over those children.

     

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  11.  
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    Richard Jones, Jul 12th, 2005 @ 4:28pm

    About the

    it is worth noting that all of the data studied occurred in on city, which may not be an accurate sample of the world population
    As usual, I get the feeling you're just implying that the study is rubbish or fundamentally flawed. I'll counter by saying that most people on the globe live in cities*. The "country" areas where everyone else lives are unlikely to have coverage so people can make calls (this is certainly the case in Australia, and was the case in Western Europe when I was there a couple of years ago). So it would seem to me that the study is perfectly justified on focusing on city driving.


    *: some trivial googling got me this page which says: "More developed nations are about 76 percent urban, while 40 percent of residents of less developed countries live in urban areas." Which pretty much backs up my argument.

     

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  12.  
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    notacop, Jul 12th, 2005 @ 5:07pm

    My town

    I am not sure about all of you but in my town the biggest offender of talk&drive is the local police.

    I would guess that more than 70% of the time I see a local cop on patrol they are on their cell phone while driving their marked cars. I believe this sets a bad precedent for the general population if you are trying to preach that it is dangerous.

     

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  13.  
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    Ivan Sick, Jul 12th, 2005 @ 7:58pm

    Re: death penalty to cellphone drivers

    While I see your point, I disagree that this law is helpful. Again, if cell phone use while driving is banned, lots of other specific activites should also be banned while driving. Also, this is starting to cross into dangerous territory. If you're driving around looking for something in a busy, unfamiliar landscape, you may not be keeping your eyes on the road as much as you should. Should that be illegal? Of course not. But if you're doing that and you hit somebody, that's a crime of negligence or reckless driving or something. Why not outlaw everything that takes your attention away from the road? It's not feasible. Why not make billboards with more than three words illegal too, while we're at it?
    I only need one hand to drive. I only need one hand to use a phone. So talking on the phone doesn't detract from my driving. I know, the problem is not motor skills, but inattentiveness. I am perfectly capable of paying attention to everything around me and talking on the phone at the same time. I know you don't believe me [since my attention is "not" on my driving, I don't realize how poorly I'm driving], but it's true. If someone is not capable of that, then they're just stupid.
    And cops pull people over for arbitrary reasons all the time. Once I got pulled over for driving with my fisher window (that little triangle one) open on a rainy day. I've also been stopped for being white in a black neighborhood.
    and Re: My town: You are absolutely correct. I haven't seen the cops around here on their phones much, but cops LO-O-O-OVE to drive around at night with their lights off. They run a ton of run lights too; they could say they were called somewhere, but there's no excuse for no lights at night.

     

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  14.  
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    dahdahdah, Jul 12th, 2005 @ 9:00pm

    Re: death penalty to cellphone drivers

    so what you are saying is that people can drive and talk on the phone without any degradation of driving skills. That contradicts every study. And it contradicts common sense. And it is incorrect.

    As a passenger if I shout boo at the driver, the driver will swerve most of the time. But you will claim that is not the case either I suppose.

    Creating laws that ban a specific thing is not "crossing into dangerous territory" any more than creating a law that says you cant stab someone when there is already something on the books that says you cant murder someone. There are lots of overlapping and redundant laws. That doesnt make them bad, it makes them clear and more correct.

    Just because cops pull people over for arbitrary reasons now doesnt in any way make it justifiable to give them more reason to do so. What were you thinking? Vague laws are better because cops are already arbitrary in their enforcement?

    Concrete laws work well because they are easy to enforce and easy to defend against false claims. Vague laws are crap that just mess up the system.

     

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  15.  
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    Sick of it, Jul 13th, 2005 @ 7:02am

    Re: death penalty to cellphone drivers

    OK. You make a lot of sense, and I could agree with you sometimes.
    So I'm going to write a letter to my congressman, asking him to draft a bill making it illegal to shout boo in a moving vehicle.
    That's a joke. I do see your point, but can you see mine?

     

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  16.  
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    bshock, Jul 13th, 2005 @ 8:49am

    No Subject Given

    The problem with legislation about driving while yakking is that it constitutes a series of half measures.

    If legislation called for the summary execution of anyone using any sort of telephone in a moving vehicle, things would clear up rather quickly.

     

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  17.  
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    Ivan Sick, Jul 13th, 2005 @ 9:30am

    Re: No Subject Given

    Now THAT's something I can get behind. What method of execution will be used?

     

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  18.  
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    Ivan Sick, Jul 13th, 2005 @ 3:30pm

    dahdahdah

    So, you advocate more reasons for cops to pull people over? Just because you have a specific law, that doesn't negate the vague law that was in place before...Now you'll have people getting pulled over for cell use IN ADDITION to the other present infractions. I understand your concern for safety, but your argument that "Vague laws are crap that just mess up the system" is irrelevant. Those "vague" laws aren't going away. And I really need to know, do you support another ban for eating while driving? Becuae I imagine that causes accidents too, in an equal proportional amount.

     

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