Shocker — Cell Phone Driving Bans Don't Really Make Roads Safer

from the pointless-laws dept

In all the hubbub about laws that place various bans on talking on cell phones while driving, we’ve always noted that singling out one distraction and “cracking down” on it doesn’t really do anything to make the roads safer, since plenty of distractions remain perfectly legal. So it’s little surprise to see the results from a study in the UK, one of the first places to enact a widespread restriction on mobile phone use in cars, indicating that not only do people ignore the ban, but they also have plenty of other distractions to keep them occupied while driving. The underlying problem isn’t people talking on their phones, eating, changing clothes, or any of the other distractions this latest article cites — it’s unsafe driving. Banning distractions one by one isn’t a solution, it’s a political activity that creates the illusion that the government’s actually doing something about unsafe driving, while also causing unintended consequences. Authorities should target unsafe driving in general, not just unsafe driving caused by particular distractions deemed bad enough to demand their own law.

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Comments on “Shocker — Cell Phone Driving Bans Don't Really Make Roads Safer”

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rbry (profile) says:

Re: Re:

No doubt we should ban all technology. Lets first get rid of cel phones, then PCs need to go because no one writes any more. Then we need to get rid of cars because polution is bad. After that lets get rid of horses because the horse crap is stinking up the place. Might as well get rid of shoes because we need to kill cows to get the leather. At this point since we will be back to clubs and feet might as well go back outside and club a few good women so we can PARTY

Anonymous Coward says:

The cell phone wielding gerbil behind the wheel of the SUX1000 doesn’t bother me so much. What annoys the living hell out of me are the 4&$*tards that refuse to use turnsignals and camp in the left lane.

If you aren’t passing someone (Going at least 5-7 mph faster than the “phone wielding gerbil behind the wheel of the SUX1000”), then GET OUT OF THE LEFT LANE!!!

The left lane is for OVERTAKING not cruising. In fact, if you aren’t doing at least 15mph above the posted speed limit, you probably shouldn’t even entertain the idea of entering into the leftmost lane.

Retest elderly people (for Driver’s License) every 3-5 yrs.

NOTE TO POLICE–> If you see a car that is OBVIOUSLY not going to pass a hypothetical emissions test in the next 24hours. Pull them over and issue some sort of Roadworthiness/Pollution citation.

Anonymous Coward says:

FWIW, in many places the ban is on hand-held phones, i.e. driving with only one hand free, not talking on a cell.

Whether driving while yakking is more distracting than other things people do while driving is arguable. Heck, I saw a guy on the Turnpike watching a mini DVD player propped on the steering column in front of the speedometer. Scary.

Futureman 2020 says:

Transition Period

Let’s think about this logically. We don’t need cell phones any more than we need disposable diapers and aluminum foil. But they’re here to stay. Realistically, we cannot eliminate distractions. Everything is a distraction, including passengers. We could do with more stringent requirements for a license, such as mandatory perfect scores or whatever, but I believe that this problem will eventually be eliminated by computer-driven cars. Unless they develop technology that reduces the spin of the Earth to give us more hours in the day first.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: speeding is selfish?

Well, maybe speeding can be seen as selfish if you consider safety, but you must agree that someone slowing eveyone else down is certainly selfish as well. Take into account the 10 seconds you lose and then approach a yellow light, losing minutes…and so on. It adds up. Give other cars a chance to go around if they want!

Eddie says:

Re: Re: speeding is selfish?

I’m not exactly sure what you mean by speeding is selfish. I assume you mean to say that speeding is dangerous. I believe this is a major error in judgement. Technology has come a long way in vehicles. Sports cars can stop and maneuvure much quicker than a 6 Ton SUV. Now an all wheel drive 3 ton sports car with ABS is safer at 80mph than the 6 Ton SUV at 65mph.

I agree that there are a lot of people on the roads that shouldn’t be. Ticket people for laws that already exist. If somebody causes an accident they should be ticketed heavily. Now if I’m doing 90mph at 1am on an open highway without any cars in sight, why should I be ticketed?

I’ve been driving for just over 10 years now. I’ve always had fast cars and regularly drive over the speed limit. I have not yet caused an accident. I have been rearended by somebody not paying attention / following too closely. And been backed into in a parking lot. Both of these accidents I had very little if any control over. These idiots should have been ticketed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: speeding is selfish?

I agree with #30 completely.

Speed limits are set for the lowest common denominator. In my area, the speed limit is 65 on the freeway. On some of the turns, if you were in a heavy SUV with a high center of gravity, 65 mph is probably the highest speed you can safely take the turn. Now in my Subaru Legacy GT with a lower center of gravity, Z-rated tires, AWD, etc. I can easily take the same turn at 100 mph. When there is a lot of traffic, I have no problem going 65, but when there is an open highway, why can’t I drive at the speed that is safe for my car?

I have also been backed into in a parking lot by a guy not paying attention and he got off scot free.

Anonymous Coward says:

I agree… there are worse things than cell phones going on in cars. Eating, putting makeup on… hell, even cigarette smoking can be just as distracting. I too have seen many drivers watching their little DVD players on the highway, and, coincidentally, these are the jerks who have no perception of other cars around them and cruise in the wrong lanes. At least cell phoners can keep their eyes on the road more than someone reading/watching tv. If you dont have the attention span to drive for a few hours without a book or mini TV, then you dont deserve to drive. Period.

pepe says:

I don’t know about any of you, but I find it much, much more distracting talking to a passenger than someone on the phone while driving. A phone is just a little voice in my ear, while a passenger is a living, breathing person who is communicating not just by words and tones of voice, but by body language as well, and is looking not only for verbal responses, but body language responses from me also.

So, in short, unless they are going to ban PASSENGERS, I don’t think banning cell phone use would improve driving safety in the least.

Elyn says:

If it only takes 9 posts to a web forum to come up with the correct and logical solution of enforcing existing reckless driving laws then I can only assume that this law exists because of political pandering.

I guess we are expecting to much for our governments to make sense and enforce existing laws that cover a situation instead of making new ones.

I’m sure glad we have the second amendment over here is the US. Someday we might need to use it just to eliminate the avalanche of nonsensical laws that cover the same problem.

MissingFrame (user link) says:

It's the attitude problem

It’s not the cell phones, per se, but the attitude that it’s ok to do something besides driving. Cell phones tend to bring that out of people, the same people that would scoff at drinking and driving, or even speeding, seem to think cell phones are OK.

And how are they going to outlaw “bad driving” when 99% of the time you can drive OK while reading a newspaper and brushing your teeth, it’s the 1% of the time that causes the problem.

As much as I am for freedom to doing what you want, sometimes the government has to treat us like children until we act like adults.

Anonymous Coward says:

flawed logic

The ban is ineffective in that people ignore the ban and continue to talk on their cell phone while driving. This isn’t the same as saying if everybody stopped using the cell while driving it wouldn’t improve safety. The ban is ineffective because it is not enforced.

IMHO, if people stopped talking on their cell while driving it would improve safety. I can’t even tell you how many times somebody cuts me off or does something else very unpredictable like slamming on their brakes for no apparent reason and 95% of the time when I pass them I see they are on their phone.

The simple fact is some people multitask well and can drive just fine with their phone and some can’t. The ones that can’t ruin the driving experience for everyone else on the road, so I say ban them and enforce it.

randdickson says:

enFORCE the law

I’m in CT where Cell phones in the car are suppose to result in a $100 dollar fine when used while driving. Chump change. Make the fine 5000.00 and enforce it once or twice and alot of those phones won’t come out while driving. Anybody want to explain to their husband or wife why taking/making that call was worth 5 grand ?

I remember when the law was enacted this last year and the day after there was a small story inside the paper about 2 people being fined. Haven’t seen anything since. Waste of time, waste of money. Law without enforcement is impudent.

haywood says:

Lowest common denominator

The only reason (besides revenue generation) speed limits are as low as they are is to give the least capable drivers time to react. I’m pretty sure Michael Schumacher or Jeff Gordon could drive the interstate at 90+ and not be involved in an accident or even cause one. However, they would have to drive at a speed Britney Spears might find difficult in order to be legal.

Roger says:

Banning the use of cell phones while driving is still a good first step, although hardly a panacea, to dealing with inattentive drivers. At the least it legally identifies this behavior has being unacceptable and puts the liability on the driver doing so. Sadly, many people think that idiotic behavior is perfectly acceptable unless there is a law against it. The use of cell phones while driving is far more widespread and more potentially distracting than any other behavior while driving and so it deserves a specific law of its own. While it would be nice if the authorities cracked down on inattentive drivers, this is very costly and the public would balk at both the cost and police action.

Mandy says:

Cell Phone Ban

The fundamental problem with a ban on cell phone use while driving is that it is difficult to enforce and therefore its effectiveness is limited. Instituting a ban against the use of cell phones while driving is active acknowledgement by legislators that they recognize the magnitude of this public safety problem.

When specific behaviors are identified to be dangerous, they need to be highlighted and addressed independently. We have laws that specifically ban drivers from drinking and driving, from speeding, and from running red lights. These actions could fall under the category of “reckless driving” yet they are specifically called out so that it is perfectly clear to drivers and law enforcement that they are particularly hazardous. And, drivers will be penalized in a way that reflects their dangerous behavior.

In the case of cell phone use and driving — studies have shown that talking and driving is even more distracting than driving while legally intoxicated! According to the National Transportation Safety Board, 10 percent (about 974,000) of all drivers at any given time of the day are talking and driving and this is number is increasing each year. The latest research shows that talking and driving is the number one driver distraction. While there are many distractions that contribute to unsafe driving, I think we should look at the evidence and not discount it. Can you imagine a 17 year old playing interactive mobile games in the next 3 years while driving? The challenge we have is to find ways to help discourage the use of cell phones while driving and support and enforce legislation that actively seek to address a valid public safety concern. Only then will a ban against cell phone use and driving make roads safer.

Shaggy says:

my proof-of-study

Last year, MYTHBUSTERS, did an episode on this subject They took 2 of their people onto a closed track, and did some tests. TYhe road test was one that had stopping on a diome, driving through cones, and parrallell parking.

The pair passed easily enough on the road test. The next part was that they wwsere to drive while talking on the cell phone. They were asked things to do on the phone, like what are you going to do at work, name 5 thigns in the corner store, stuff like that. They failed the driver test miserably.

Thee next part was with a breath-test,police and some beer. They both drank ebnough to be legally over the limit.

Again they were asked to to the road test, they failed in much the same way.

Even thought this test is only a small number, it does give the evidence that you would nered to figure out whether that is a good way to see if driving on the phoe is the same as being impaired.

Anonymous Coward says:

Not so common courtesy

The underlying theme of most of these posts is that people just need to pull their head out of which ever orifice in which they have it lodged and pay attention to the road. What most drivers seem to have forgotten is that when you are behind the wheel of a car, you are solely responsible for the actions of roughly a ton of metal and plastic. Taking the priviledge of driving for granted by doing anything other than paying attention to the road in front of you, your speed and position in your chosen lane and the other vehicles on the road behind you should result in the loss of this priviledge. Again, I stress the word priviledge, as driving is not a right for anyone.

reaperman0 says:

bad driving - cell phone ban

I think banning cell phones is stupid. They were created, in part, so that you could have a phone where there normally wouldn’t be one – like 100 miles out in the middle of nowhere. In NM, there is tons of empty space between cities and towns, so I’d sure hate to be broken down in between them without a phone.

As for using them while you drive – thats why they have speaker phones and headsets – your hands are free to drive and your eyes are free to pay attention. Some people have a hard time with this concept though. Every new phone has both of these features, but no one seems to use them – same with voice dialing. C’mon people, its not that complicated.

I think that the old/standing/original laws just need to be enforced. I never see cops pulling anyone over for anything except for speeding. I can’t drive anywhere where I live without seeing several traffic violations. People don’t stop turning left when the don’t have the green arrow anymore (like, usually 3 more cars go through the intersection), everybody cruises the lefthand lane (really annoying people), people don’t stop at stop signs. The biggest thing that aggravates me is that people areound here drive, on average, 10 MPH BELOW the speed limit. What the hell is that?! Just ’cause you’re not in a hurry doesn’t mean that I’m not. If there are two lanes, knock yourself out going slow, but when there is only one and no one can pass you, for the love of god, drive the damn speed limit. PLEASE!

CoJeff says:

Re: bad driving - cell phone ban

I totally agree! Even though I’m against more tickets I think its needed. I routinely get flicked off by people driving around 10 mph below the limit. As #36- says if you want to drive slow fine by me, but if only one lane then move over. I always see about 1-3 cars totally go through the left turn light and not one person will get a ticket. I also routinely see people also talking on the cell, driving stick shift & smoking a cig. If my count is correct the person would need 3 arms to do those things not including driving but the last time I checked I only had 2 arms. Banning cell phones won’t increase driving safety but educating the bad drivers will.

I, for one says:

twisted logic

Driving is the psychology of selfishness in a nutshell. Before drink driving was proven unsafe and banned people would claim they drove better after a few drinks. People are likewise utterly self absorbed and antisocial when it comes to their phone calls. The gist of the comment is correct, there seems no need for specific laws since we actually have an offence of driving without due care and attention. But to say banning cellphone use doesn’t increase safety because the stats say there are still as many accidents is moronic and defeatist. Perhaps we should stop building hospitals because, you know.. people just keep getting sick. Yapping on your phone while driving puts peoples lives in danger and you should go to jail for it.

Tom says:

Distracted Driver law

NH has a distracted driver law. Applies to cell phone, reading the paper, adjusting the tunes, putting on makeup, eating, etc while driving.

I wish more legislatures would write laws that focus on the root cause rather then one of the symptom.

Of course the law in NH used to allow drinking while driving as long as your BAC was below the legal limit and you didn’t get in an accident. At least as recently as 1984 when I took Driver’s Ed.

BigRef says:


Cell phone usage restrictions are written for and by morons. Let’s ban pretty girls from sidewalks unless in a Burka, children from anyplace other than school, school buses and home, food in cars. How about banning cars that actually move? Everybody must use mass transit! That’s it. No wait, people die on that all the time too. I have it, let’s outlaw legislators and institute electronic town halls. Imagine. No lobbyists. Morons only get 1 vote. Hmmm.

Anonymous Coward says:

Pedestrians fight back

I walk to work each morning and follow all the applicable laws (waiting at the cross walk for the light to change, etc…) however at least once a week I am nearly hit by a distracted driver.

If they are going to come after me with their weapon I should be able to shoot them to protect myself.

slick says:

Distractions aren't the problem...

The problem is that many people aren’t “driving” their cars. They get into them and then arrive at their destination as if by magic. They only sit in the drivers seat because thy have to to start the car and it is too difficult to get out. Let’s face it, driving isn’t that hard, and those of us that have been doing it for long enough have expierienced “sleep-driving” where you cant seem to remeber the driving the last few mile of a route that you’ve drivin hundreds of times before. The bad thing though is that today most people are “asleep” BEFORE they get in the car.

Ferdinand says:


Likewise, when the bars close and traffic gets exciting, the underlying problem isn’t people driving under the influence — it’s unsafe driving. Banning DUI isn’t a solution, it’s a political activity. Authorities should target unsafe driving in general, not just unsafe driving caused by DUI.

What a crock. The statistics are in. Talking (not dialing) a cell phone causes the same increase in accidents as DUI.

Claire Rand says:

'Driving without due care'

the wonderful phrase “driving without due care and attention” is a nice catch all, i wonder exactly *why* all these laws are needed, well except:

– rasing funds (minimally)

– ‘nanny knows best’ from gov

– politicos being seen ‘doing something’

– same politicos not wanting to seem careless when presented with an acident apparently caused by this sort of thing.

its almost like speed limits, theres no real ‘need’ for them, *if* anyone driving at an ‘innapropriate’ speed can be brought before a court (no on the spot fines/tickets) and have to explain why they thought doing 90 in driving rain was ok.

the flip side is just cus the limit says 40, if the conditions are poor you need to slow down.

common sense. except its hard to write laws for it. it boils down to making people responsible for their own actions.

if you drive down a residential street when there are kids about, you better be able to stop/avoid them, on a quiet street at midnight. who cares?

Anonymous Coward says:

I wrote #10

I’d like to say that I was in no way condoning speeding. My statement:

“The left lane is for OVERTAKING not cruising. In fact, if you aren’t doing at least 15mph above the posted speed limit, you probably shouldn’t even entertain the idea of entering into the leftmost lane.”

was trying to illustrate the fact that if you aren’t actively passing someone then you don’t need to be in the left lane. I define actively passing someone as the act of overtaking someone taking less than a minute at HWY speeds.

BTW… 15mph above the speed limit is the de facto ‘minimum speed’ in and around Metro Atlanta. Ever hear of the ‘GA 400′? Nascar has nuthin’ on this stretch of roadway!


Yes, I drive quickly, but safely. I travel in a well maintained vehicle AWD vehicle (Rain-ex on the windshields, proper tire inflation, etc, etc,). I’m an experienced ‘extreme’ driver. Have raced motorcycles as well as operated all types of Military vehicles in all types of conditions… In short, I’d say I’ve got better than average skills when it comes to safely operating equipment, but skillz don’t amount to squat if you aren’t paying attention! This is the golden rule of operating any type of equipment, in this case, automobiles. I try to remember this everytime I get behind the wheel. I embrace it.

If I feel that I’m about to get into situations where I’m too distracted to drive, I pull over or avoid the potential distraction.

You are a distracted or incapable driver if you are impeding the flow of traffic, plain and simple. Your equipment could also be impeding the flow of traffic (I.e. ‘smoke machine on wheels’).

I do not ‘fly’ through residential neighborhoods or known pedestrian areas. I do, however, travel at a good clip on the highways in my A4.

As to the comment about ‘Arrogant’ speeders: That is between the police and the speeder. Don’t assume that you know why that person is speeding, and don’t be the retard to pull out in front of the speeder in some imbecilic attempt to slow them down. In most cases you are causing more of a hazard (To yourself and everyone around you). Report them to the police if you have too, but don’t take matters into your own hands. That person could be on the way to a hospital, could be an undercover gov’t agent, etc… Just stay in your slow lane.

Some people actually have places to be. Does that justify leaving late and traveling wrecklessly at Warp speeds? No, it doesn’t. However, the public roadways aren’t for loitering. If you don’t know where you are going, or are out for a Sunday drive in Monday rush hour traffic in the left lane (Impedeing the flow of traffic), you are wrong.

So, if any of your actions or inactions are resulting in the impedement of traffic flow, you don’t need to be operating the vehicle. Drive like you have a purpose – that purpose being to efficiently and safely arrive at some pre-planned destination.

17yr old driver says:

don't think we all drive bad.

I hope that was a compliment #52. Im 17, don’t have a license, drive with the cell on speakerphone (1 handed), with music blaring (with a system) and still drive better than 1/2 the people on the road. I just focus more attention to the road than my conversation.

Im no where close to the #51 driver. But do not try to call all teenagers bad drivers, some are bad. well, most kids at my high school are bad… blame the DMV test.

BTW, i drive with 1 hand for way, way faster turning and reaction speed.

Drew ST Pete Fl says:

Cell phone & Driving

Technology is not a blight on society as much as our inability to mature as a people. We have become so involved our own comforts that we have forgotton the golden rule, Treat others as you would be treated. This means show a little courtesy and lets all get to where we are going before we indulge in this country’s overwhelming fetish of technology.

ME says:


I say they should make everyone take the test while drunk and talking on the cell phone, with a passenger and a dvd player, kids screaming in the back seat as your eating chicken tacos, if you pass you can have your license.
One more thing.. yes we need cars, yes we need disposable diapers, yes we need cell phones.
And the only thing slow drivers are good for is to keep me from getting another speeding ticket!

College Student says:

This is world is crazy, we are so caught up technology. Why is it so hard for people now days to just drive, you do not need to talk on the phone. I have been cut off so many times in the last month and most of them are on cell phone. What is so damn important that people are risking your life and other over a stupid phone call? If you must call someone pull over and stop then talk. Stupid people and this is coming from college students!!

yvette says:

cell phones are not the cause of so many car accid

the underlying problem is not the people who talk on the phone, eat, or any other distraction that you can have in the car—– IT IS UNSAFE DRIVING!!!!
banning distractions one by one is not the solution. authorities need to target the unsafe drivers in general. i have seen several near misses that had nothing to do with normal everyday distraction we all face in the car. i really think the DMV needs to re-evaluate the driving test and get some of these idiots off our roads that clearly do not deserve to be there. its not only the young, but the elderly as well.

Salty says:

Cell Phones

You are right that there are plenty of distractions. But if you are a safe driver, you should prevent doing something that prevents from using both hands. It really irks me when I see someone driving that is trying to talk on thier cell phone and drinking their Starbucks latte at the same time. The quickest way to get people to stop is to make the fine hurt and hurt hard.

Bobwilliams says:

Bann the cell phones

Using cell phone while driving car makes people cannot able concentrate to drive. People just talking on the phone do not notice about traffic changes. Moreover, using cell phone during driving is equal people drive when they are drunk. So, people using cell phone during driving car cause the accidents. Therefore, for prevent these kinds of accidents using cell phone while driving car should be banned.



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