New Study Questions The Link Between Driving While Yakking And Car Crashes

from the no-link? dept

Well, this ought to be a bit on the controversial side. Despite previous studies that have claimed that driving while talking on the phone increases the likelihood of an accident a new study has come out saying that there's no evidence of a link between driving while on the phone and accidents. Of course, there's a lot that can be questioned in the study. First of all, it focuses on aggregate data about the increase in mobile phone usage compared to aggregate crash data. You can hide an awful lot of significant information when you only look at the aggregate data. Furthermore, part of the study only looks at fatality crashes, where there could be plenty of other explanations for a decrease in crashes causing fatalities (safer cars, anyone?). The study does also look at overall crash data in seven states, as well as data for accidents at times when people are most likely to be on the phone -- and still couldn't find a link. However, as the authors of the report note, at the very least, it should lead to further study to see whether or not driving-while-yakking is really as big a threat as we've been told over the past few years.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Pulse, Aug 20th, 2007 @ 10:53pm

    It's still a hazard....for some

    Though they may not find a link between them, the fact that it not only causes accidents but traffic problems as well still remains. There are some people who DON'T need to have a cell phone in their hand while driving. I'm sure most of you have witnessed a car swerving back into a lane after a brief left or right, only to see them screwing with their cell phone trying to dial a number. Those are the people that either need Bluetooth or some type of hands-free kit for their phone. I'm still all for the ban of having a cell phone up to your ear while driving. It's just safer that way.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 10:48am

      Re: It's still a hazard....for some

      How about just enforcing other traffic laws. If a person is driving erratically for ANY reason, they get a ticket. Those that can drive safely with a phone can. Let's focus on the real problem and not just a small portion. The radio, people, kids, or a cup of coffee could be the problem that causes erratic driving, but not for everyone in every situation.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2007 @ 11:04pm

    Methodology

    I bet the same methodology could also be used to show no link between drinking and driving.

     

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      Mike (profile), Aug 21st, 2007 @ 12:24am

      Re: Methodology

      I bet the same methodology could also be used to show no link between drinking and driving.

      While I do have plenty of questions about the methodology of the study in question, I find it unlikely that the same methodology would show no link between drinking and driving. The key difference being that there's been a clear and massive increase in the number of people driving-while-yakking. The same cannot be said for driving and drinking.

       

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        Anthony, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 1:32pm

        Re: Re: Methodology

        However, most people that drive drunk are not in accidents. I will be reading the full 58 page article in the near future, however, as others have mentioned here and elsewhere, the "bad driving" behaviors (where an accident is avoided by another driver) are related to the withdrawal of attention from the driving task. This withdrawal of attention has been demonstrated unequivocally by the work of David Strayer and others who used EXPERIMENTAL methodology. I doubt there was any manipulation or control (other than statistical) used in a study that "failed to find a difference." Unfortunately, a failure to find a difference is often uninformative as most statistical tests are geared to set a very high bar for making the claim of "difference."

         

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    Nick, Aug 20th, 2007 @ 11:48pm

    Almost everyone has a cellphone, do they expect everyone to be involved in car acidents. To many people die from car acidents already.

     

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    Jesse McNelis, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 12:31am

    Studies that are based on statistics are useless to prove anything because they usually involve a lot of extraneous variables. They are useful for identifying possible problem areas that require further proper studies. But on their own should only be seen as a guide for further study.

     

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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 12:31am

    Hearing what you want to hear

    Can you say "confirmation bias"? Did you publish a single item about all the pieces of research showing that driving while talking on a cellphone does increase the incidence of crashes? Yet here is one item showing the opposite, and suddenly you think it's newsworthy. Do I get the feeling you'd rather hear one message than the other?

     

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      Mike (profile), Aug 21st, 2007 @ 1:07am

      Re: Hearing what you want to hear

      Can you say "confirmation bias"? Did you publish a single item about all the pieces of research showing that driving while talking on a cellphone does increase the incidence of crashes? Yet here is one item showing the opposite, and suddenly you think it's newsworthy. Do I get the feeling you'd rather hear one message than the other?

      Lawrence, actually, if you follow the links, we've pointed to many studies that have shown that talking on mobile phones increases the likelihood of an accident.

      However, even if we had not, your point doesn't make much sense. "Dog bites man" isn't a story, because it's common and well known. "Man bites dog" is a story.

      This is a "man bites dog" story, because it seems to go against what people think -- and that's what makes it newsworthy.

      As for your bizarre claim that we'd "rather" hear about one thing than the other, you will note that we were quite skeptical of the methodology of the study and even pointed to the reasons why it might not be accurate. So I'm having a hard time understanding any of your complaints about this post.

      We have posted other stories on other studies, contrary to your claim.

      This is newsworthy because it goes against conventional wisdom. And that's what makes it newsworthy, contrary to your claim.

      Finally, we didn't believe the study and expressed our skepticism, contrary to your claim.

      So, what exactly is the problem with the post again?

       

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    timmo, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 1:27am

    Re:re: hearing what you want to hear

    Hahahaha. yeah, BAM, lawrence! nice call mike.

     

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    Dalane, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 3:46am

    We need a real Study

    When are we going to see the staudy that proves "bad drivers" cause accidents, not talking, eating, listening to the radio, or smoking. These are all excuses for bad drivers to blame anything other than themselves. As a sociaty we nee to say enough is enough. Take responsiblity for your actions. I live in virginia and we have just passed the "Bad Driver" law that fines bad driving with extremely high fines, in the thousands of dollars, and people are complaining that this is not fair. The answer is simple OBAY THE LAW!!!

     

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      The infamous Joe, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 4:58am

      Re: We need a real Study

      When are we going to see the staudy that proves "bad drivers" cause accidents

      I can get behind that statement, as long as it's understood that a "bad driver" can be the slow guy in the fast lane.

      The problem with the law you mentioned is probably (though I can't be sure) that cops wouldn't make a distinction between aggressive driving and bad driving. If I have my turn signal on for longer than 30 seconds waiting for someone to let me go, I'm going to be an ass. It's that, or sit there for god knows how long.

      DISCLAIMER: I live near Boston, maybe drivers in Virginia don't drive like massholes. :)

       

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        PhysicsGuy, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 7:13am

        Re: Re: We need a real Study

        A law like he states is incredibly unfair, and you mention one very good reason it's not: improper use of lanes. i can't stand people who coast along in the passing lane, never passing anyone, and seem shocked when you have to fly past them in the regular lane flipping them off (i'm live in mass too). sometimes i wish i could pull them over and force them to learn the driving laws.

         

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    Witty Nickname, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 6:50am

    Cell Phones

    I think this study is bunk, and that some people can not handle cell phones while driving. Me being one of them, I can't drive while using my phone - so I don't.

    That being said I don't think it should be a law, we have plenty of laws. If I am swerving or speeding, or driving dangerously I should be pulled over whether there is a phone in my hand or not.

     

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    PhysicsGuy, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 7:19am

    wow

    DCWD : Digitally Communicating While Driving.

    there's now an acronym for everything.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 9:33am

      Re: wow

      DCWD : Digitally Communicating While Driving.
      I guess that would leave out analog phones. What's the effective difference?

       

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        Anthony, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 1:35pm

        Re: Re: wow

        Perhaps the digit refers to 1) using numbers or 2) using fingers.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 3:02pm

          Re: Re: Re: wow

          Perhaps the digit refers to 1) using numbers or 2) using fingers.
          Oh, THAT kind of digital communication. Like in giving another driver the finger?

           

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    Overcast, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 7:50am

    It's really simple....

    Anything that distracts you while driving will increase the risk of you having an accident. Just like talking on the phone, chatting or whatever while using a knife to cut foods.

    It's a tool, that can be - deadly at times, so an intelligent person realizes what his or her limitations are and abides by them.

    Someone can simply be daydreaming and not paying attention.

    The people who really make me wonder are those who actually do 'studies' on common sense issues like this. I mean, seriously - they didn't know this already?? Do they have a driver's license? I was told all that in Driver's Ed.

    Regardless of the study, it's simply common sense.

     

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    Well Trained Driver, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 8:18am

    Here's what I want to know:

    Are the authors of the study habitual yakkers while THEY drive?

    If so, I call bias :)

     

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    matt m, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 9:10am

    makes sense...

    I agree that there is strong behavioral evidence that holding something in your hand while driving makes you less able to respond effectively than no holding something in your hand. Still, the overall effect of cell phones use on driving is probably not statistically significant, when you add in all of the other things people do while driving- drinking liquids hot enough to give second degree burns, eating, smoking, reading, looking at the map, yelling at the kids in the backseat, arguing with the backseat drivers. Not to mention being drunk, having poor reflexes, poor vision, driving at a different speed than most other cars, or being completely stressed out by traffic and ready to have a heart attack.

    The difference is that the behavior is relatively new, so people worry about it. I stick to cars that have bluetooth.

    I actually get more angry about people smoking while driving. How is it safer to hold a burning stick in your mouth and hand while driving a giant gas tank? And why do these idiots continue to throw lit ends of cigarettes out the window? Has no one seen Planes, Trains, and Automobiles? I love to see a little burning stick go flying under my car. Let's ban that first.

     

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      The infamous Joe, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 9:25am

      Ban babies, for the children.

      The difference is that the behavior is relatively new, so people worry about it. I stick to cars that have bluetooth.

      Ah, but there are also studies that say that hands free != safer. I found one story on it from a few years back here. (Link to NY times) and I have to agree, I find that if I'm paying attention to the person on the phone, I'm not really "seeing" the cars around me-- I've always thought of it as "autopilot". I still drive, and react (though, I'll wager much slower than if I weren't talking), but if you asked me what exit I was on, or what color the car was I just passed, I've have no clue. That's with or without hands free. Ever look at someone *pretending* to talk on a phone, you can tell they're pretending because their eyes lack the "far away" look people get when they're talking on the phone.

      The simple fact is that there are features built into cars that distract a driver (radios anyone?) and then a near limitless number of distractions than can be brought in by the driver. Cell phones are no safer or worse, really, as far as I can tell. (Hell, I'd rank a crying baby at the very top of the distraction list-- should we ban babies?!)

      Off topic: I could be wrong, but I imagine if you dropped a burning ember into your gas tank, it would simply go out due to a lack of oxygen in your gas tank. That's just a theory, I've never tried.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 9:37am

      Re: makes sense...

      Has no one seen Planes, Trains, and Automobiles?
      Yeah, but so what? I hate to break this to you, but real life is rarely like the movies.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 8:29am

    You people are full of shit,driving while talking on your cell phone does cause accidents you stupid idiots and you all should be shot.

     

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    Coaster, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 7:37pm

    narrowminded?

    I don't see how talking on the cell phone is any more of a distraction that the guy smoking and drinking coffee, or the woman putting on her makeup, or the guy with the map spread across the steering wheel while flying down the freeway. Or the parent trying to swat the brats in the backseat while driving. Or the dog sitting on the drivers lap. or the guy fiddling with the radio station. Or the people who try to eat their drive-through meal on their way to work. Or the woman trying to dig through her purse for something. The list goes on.

    So why the focus on cell phones? They aren't any more or less dangerous.

     

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    gabrie, Sep 23rd, 2007 @ 3:15pm

    no way

    if so many people are getting hert and dieing becase of talking or texting while driving why don't all the states jest ban it. I understand if you have bluetooth and have a earpeace thats no big deal but right up to your ear is big time.

     

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