How Many People Still Drive While Chatting On A Phone?

from the not-as-many-as-you-might-think dept

There are plenty of stories about driving while talking on a mobile phone and it how it impacts your driving ability, and there are just as many laws making it illegal without a handsfree kit (though, some studies suggest that the distraction is the same even with such a kit). However, most people claim that they still see tons of people on the roads talking away on their phones. A new study, however, suggests that not that many people really are yakking while driving. The study found just 1.5% of drivers were using phones. There are obvious questions that can be raised about this study. It was all observational, and the observers may not be perfect at spotting yakkers. At the same time the study was just in one place, so might not be representative (also may depend on when the spotting was done). Still, it makes you wonder if people really are putting down their phones and driving.

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Comments on “How Many People Still Drive While Chatting On A Phone?”

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dorpus says:

Simpson's Paradox

Simpson’s Paradox says that a conditional odds ratio can differ from a marginal odds ratio. For example, a given university, on a departmental basis, may preferentially admit women; however, if women tend to apply to highly selective programs like psychology or med school, then women (counting all applicants to the university) may appear to have a higher rejection rate than men.

The same principle can give contradictory results, which say that black defendants are more likely to receive the death sentence when we consider victims by race, but whites may still be more likely overall to receive the death penalty, when we consider all victims.

This study makes a point measurement, which says about 1.5% of drivers is using a cell at a given point in time. Of course, it’s possible that 90% or more of drivers do use the cell phone at some point during their drive, but still have only a 1.5% chance of using it at any given time during their drive.

What is the likelihood that a yakking driver runs over a yakking pedestrian, but is ignored by a yakking cop?

On the Road Again?! says:

I think our perceptions are interfearing with real

Somebody cuts you off, you get mad, you give them the stare, maybe a little signlanguage, and you see the phone. You think that silly person is dangerous because they are talking on the phone!

But there is a problem with that kind of thought: People make stupid driving mistakes all the time. Most of these driving mistakes come when one divides attention between driving and other tasks (listening to music, watching TV, talking to friends in the car, reading books, reading news papers). The only difference is, when a cell phone is in play – you (the driver who was offended) can pinpoint the distraction, therefore, we think that people who talk on cell phones make bad drivers. So instead of thinking “what the F*** is that person’s problem” you are now able to think “that person is talking on a cell phone, how stupid are they!” Thus, cell phones get demonized.

The thing is, as long as I have been driving, there have been bad drivers. Nothing has changed. I get lane changed into and cut off all the time, and always have, and I have been driving before cell phones.

I think we just need to suck it up, and stop blaming cell phones as the cause, and realize that some people are just incompetent drivers. They don’t know that they are bad, they think they know what they are doing, and taking the cell phone out of their hands isn’t going to make them any safer as they will just find some other way to take their mind off of driving.

I think that the most prudent thing to do would be to enforce the current laws that we have that punish people who cause accidents. Focusing all this time and money on cell phones isn’t going to fix the problem because we will only be going after those who offend with cell phones, and not the real problem: bad drivers.

Rob says:

That's LOW?

How many drivers do you see during an average car trip? Even a short trip will probably involve visual contact with 100 or more other drivers.

How often do you think someone needs to see a driver using a handset before saying they see it all the time? Three times a week? Five? Once per day? Twice?

Now, consider that even someone who talks while driving a lot probably only does it about 20% of the time, what percentage of the population will happily pick up a phone while driving? I’m guessing about 10-15%. 1.5% overall is not surprisingly low, it’s disturbingly high.

Mr Snarty says:

Re: That's LOW?

But what about people tinkering with the radio, or people talking on CB radio’s, or people watching their kids in the back seat? What does any of this have to do with cell phones? It is more about the competence of the driver and their ability to manage their environment than the actual act of talking on the phone

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: That's LOW?

I *really* don’t get the “other distractions are WAY worse than cellphones” people.

The thing with tinkering with the radio is this:

How often do people do this? Granted I have only anecdotal evidence here, and I agree that leaning way over and fixing all sorts of settings is bad…but seriously.

I reach over and hit a button…eyes on the road, there IS a distraction but its a hell of a lot less than yakking on a cellphone (which not only distracts but also requires that I have at least one hand off the steering wheel AND if I *made* the call, requires MORE time NOT looking at the road to dial the numbers).

Someone talking to you IN the car requires a lot less attention than someone on the phone (handfree as well) because someone IN the car with you is aware of your situation and compensates (either by pausing the conversation when additional focus is required or by pointing out a potential problem).

Watching your kids, depends on how you do it I guess…but I rarely see a mother or father completely turned around and chewing out kids while driving on the highway.

As for just listening to music…anyone who says that’s a distraction on par with cellphones is just plain lunatic.

No matter how competent the driver, having a cellphone in your hand and chatting makes you bad, and not much affects your driving in a more negative way.

Although the argument could be made that ANY driver yakking on his cellphone without a handsfree isn’t competent on any level

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: That's LOW?

For the last ten years I have not owned a car. I was a 24/7 motorcycle rider. For four years I commuted over a very dangerous four lane mountain highway(CA HWY 17). It was a daily occurance that someone on a cell phone would violate my lane in some way. Two things really get me about cell phone drivers. The first is with a cell held against they’re head they never turn they’re head when changing lanes. The second is even though they almost killed me by not paying attention they are unware suh an event has happened. I mean it’s one thing to mess up and relize it. It’s something altogether different to run someone off the road and be completly oblivious to the event.

randdickson says:

Connecticut Law

CT just passed a law banning cell phones in the phone unless on a hands free set. The law also stipulates that ‘any distraction’ such as applying make up, tending children, etc is illegal ($100 fine). I like the idea of covering all distractions but at the same time my paranoia climbs as police can now pull you over for virtuely anything (tuning you radio, lighting a cigarette, eating, drinking, etc). Not saying they would but the law is ripe for abuse by a bad cop.

Neosin says:


this is “tech” news? cell phone using morons?

geez cellphone use in cars? As if we care. lol I drive a 2500HD duramax diesel, i’ll just run you over using the cell phone because i’m to busy looking at hot women on the road… but shuuush don’t tell my wife.

They will make a law soon saying you can’t look good in a car because it distracts people… whats this world coming to…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: hah

“lol I drive a 2500HD duramax diesel, i’ll just run you over using the cell phone because i’m to busy looking at hot women on the road”

Go ahead, run me over in your ridiculous, unnecessarily over-sized vehicle. I could use the money from the settlement.

People who comment on running someone else over because they have larger vehicle is one of the most ignorant statements a human being can make.


Aj (user link) says:


Just yesterday I saw a cop in my town in Colorado on his cell phone. On I-25 i am repeatedly cut off and often stuck behind people who are going slower than the speed limit and holding phones to their heads.
I don’t see the problem with hands free sets though. I can put the earpiece into my ear and answer the phone with my voice and after that it is merely a conversation. If you can’t pay attention to the road while talking on a hands free set, how can you pay attention to the road conversing with the person in the passenger seat?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Yakking

That’s the exact point. You CAN’T. Unless you are completely ignoring EVERYTHING AROUND YOU that can be distracting, your driving ability will be lowered. People refuse to accept this idea.


No matter how small. Blaming cell phone for being “more of a distraction” is retarded.

How is it any different holding a phone up to your ear leaving only having 1 hand free than it would be driving a stick shift leaving only having 1 hand free?

And what if you happen to be Italian and are having a conversation with a passenger? Chances are you won’t have any hands on the wheel because you can’t speak a sentence without making gestures with your hands…

Rick Smith says:

Driving and talking on cell phones

This survey is badly skewed off in the wrong direction. No laws in South Dakota about talking and driving, which is obvious at 5 PM on the interstate, when I am going home. I see over 50% of the drivers on their phones (the higher percentage are females). They are a definate hazard, especially the ones that talk with their hands. –rick–

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