Austrian City Demands People Switch Phones To Silent Mode On Public Transit

from the good-luck-with-that dept

It looks like politicians worldwide have decided to step in to try to stop rude mobile phone behavior. Just after we pointed to US politicians looking to ban the (already banned) use of mobile phones on airplanes, the mayor of the Austrian city of Graz, has said that commuters must switch their mobile phones to silent mode on public transportation. From the sound of it, this isn’t so much a law, as a voluntary suggestion. The mayor says that police won’t be going after anyone who fails to follow the rule. It’s a little unclear from the AP article whether or not this is only supposed to prevent phones from ringing or if it’s also meant to keep people from talking on the phone as well. Either way, it’s unlikely to work. As the article also notes, Sweden recently did away with special “cell phone free” zones on public transportation because “it didn’t really work.” Meanwhile, New York City had pushed for mobile phone etiquette laws years ago, but it’s not clear if it’s ever enforced.

This does raise some interesting questions. Clearly, plenty of people are quite annoyed by the way others use mobile phones in public. In fact, there was an amusing study a few years back that showed nearly everyone gets annoyed at others for rude phone behavior, but when asked about their own behavior insist that they are never a problem. However, it does seem that even when people recognize the rudeness of others on mobile phones, if they’re told to stop using their own mobile phone, it sets off a bit of mobile rage from people who feel unfairly restricted. I used to think that rude behavior on mobile phones was mostly due to people who were mobile phone “newbies” and didn’t quite realize that there were better ways to use the phone, but that doesn’t seem to be the case either.

So, is there a solution? Do we need laws to stop people from “rude” mobile phone behavior? Would they even work? Would education about mobile phone etiquette work instead? Or, should we all just learn to deal with the fact that sometimes, when we go out, there will be mobile phones ringing and people talking on them? My guess is that that last scenario (i.e., we just get used to the way it is) is most likely.

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Comments on “Austrian City Demands People Switch Phones To Silent Mode On Public Transit”

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27 Comments
wtf mate says:

This doesn’t make sense. There are just as many people who travel with a friend and they talk obnoxiously together, in person. We should probably just ban talking on transit all together. Personally, I’d rather deal with an annoying phone user than an annoying couple or group of people. At least then I only have to listen to one end of the conversation.

Come to think of it, maybe that’s why these people are so upset. I’m going to take a leap and guess that the sorts of people who propose such rules are the sorts of people who like to butt into other people’s affairs. Perhaps the thing that really frustrates them is that they can only hear one end of the conversation and it’s preventing them from getting their fix of eavesdropping.

Melle Gloerich (profile) says:

Quiet compartments in trains

In the Netherlands we have so called ‘silence’ compartments in trains which is for exactly that. No phone ringing, no talking on the phone and no talking between people….In theory. Most of the time there are always a few people who don’t know what ‘silence’ means or think it doesn’t apply to them. And I haven’t even touched the deafening volume of mp3players.

I’m sure it’s possible to reach this now so distant ideal of silence in trains when the traincompanies start to enforce the rule of silence.

At Techdirt the perspective ‘this is reality, don’t try to change it’ is wildly popular, I for one think that we have to try to make it better instead of accepting it as it is.

BTR1701 (profile) says:

Re: Quiet compartments in trains

> Most of the time there are always a few people
> who don’t know what ‘silence’ means or think it
> doesn’t apply to them.

Amtrak has quiet cars on the Acela route from DC to NYC. Not only are phones forbidden but even conversation between passengers is prohibited. And it’s strictly enforced– not by Amtrak, but by the other passengers. The two hours of blessed silence is wonderful.

mark says:

This all just boils down to rudeness, which laws will never impact. I can deal with conversation as long as it is not yelling and screaming, but I can do without the sudden explosion of electronic imitations of what passes for music. I keep my phone on vibrate all the time since I can’t hear the thing ring unless I’m in a quiet place anyway.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: An armed society is a polite society

Rather than pass unenforceable rudeness laws, why not just remove any penalty for vigilante rudeness control.

I agree. Don’t want government control or control of people’s behavior? OK, but it should go both ways then. I think a lot people would suddenly develop a new appreciation for “manners”.

Dan Stevens says:

Re: Ban happy

Actually, I meant to say “banning everything“. The point I’m trying to make is it is better to let things regulate themselves, as things tend to do, rather than ban everything we don’t like. Banning should be used as a reaction to problems that aren’t going to solve themselves. I’m not convinced there really is a problem.

Alexander Graham Bell says:

Public Cellphone Use is a Pestilence

Tremendous!!!! There are far too many loud obnoxious people on cell phones, not just on public transportation but everywhere.

What really ticks me off is that a lot of low brow cell phone users who talk louder than normal and shout into their cellphone. I have, on occaison, taken up the gauntlet for our commuting group and will use and shout into my cellphone “I HAVE TO TALK EXTRA LOUD BECAUSE SOMEONE BESIDE ME IS SHOUTING INTO THEIR CELLPHONE”. Usually the idiot takes the hint and talks lower. I then stop. (I usually keep mine turned off in public places. If you need to reach me, leave a voice mail.)

Usually the only people who object to blocking cell phone use are the obnoxious users, How about it “wtf mate” and “Matt”, are you public transit cell phone users?

Last, way to go Japan, wish we had the same here.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Public Cellphone Use is a Pestilence

I don’t use my cellphone in public but I am against restricting cellphone use, at least at the regulatory level. If a community decides to enforce it themselves, fine. If a company decides to enforce it, then I’m OK with that, too. But I don’t think it’s the governments’ place to get involved — there are more important things for them to spend their energies on.

Petréa Mitchell says:

Another existing example

When I visited Japan last summer, I saw constant reminders on the trains for passengers to keep their cell phones in what the Japanese call “manner mode”. Ironically, one of these train lines also had TVs in every car running a constant stream of commercials, public service announcements, one-minute English lessons, etc.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Can't hear yourself talk

I’ve always thought the problem with loud cellphone talkers was that you can’t hear yourself in the earpiece like you can on landlines. People don’t realize they are talking loud because that’s what they have to do to get the same experience as their home phone.

That is exactly part of the problem. However, due to the physics involved it isn’t easy to fix. That portion of your own voice that you hear on a land line is called “sidetone”. But sidetone can be tricky to manage without also getting feedback (e.g. “squeal”). On land line phones part of the solution involves separating the handset’s microphone and speaker by some physical distance. But most cell phones are too small for such separation so the engineers decided it was easiest to just eliminate the sidetone. Hence, we have people shouting into their cell phones.

By the way, the earliest land line phones didn’t have sidetone either and it caused the same problem seen with cell phones today. That’s why sidetone was developed in the first place.

Jane says:

But talking is talking, whether the person you’re talking to is sitting next to you or at the other end of a phone connection. Why distinguish between the two? There are certain places where it is inappropriate to have a conversation (such as during a concert). There are other places where it is not (such as a train). The technology involved, whether it be a mobile phone or a hearing aid, is simply irrelevant.

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