Chicago Politicians Say Mobile Phones Should Block Kids From Texting While Driving

from the technological-realities dept

A few years back, there were some reports of tools that would “block” people from texting while driving by simply disabling the feature if the phone was moving over a certain speed. It was targeted at parents to put on their kids’ phones, but we haven’t seen much of an indication that it’s gained any traction. No worries, politicians to the rescue. Gregil10 points us to the news that “an influential group of Chicago aldermen,” are pushing for a law that would require such software be placed on any mobile phone sold in Chicago, which could then be enabled by the parents (or, I guess, by the user themselves).

Of course, the same problems that we discussed a few years back apply (and haven’t been solved). If you think kids won’t figure out how to get around such things, you haven’t seen kids and their mobile phones lately. They understand the devices better than parents. Even if a parent can figure out how to enable the software, you can bet kids will figure out how to disable it.

An even bigger issue is that blocking texting based on the speed of travel is a really broad brush for trying to stop texting while driving. Speed of travel isn’t a very good proxy for whether or not someone is driving. It may be a good indication that someone is travelling in a vehicle, but that hardly means they’re controlling the vehicle. And, it really doesn’t make sense to block texting for passengers. In fact, allowing passengers to communicate in this way often serves as a good way to stop drivers from texting, because they can ask a passenger to handle the texting instead. Or if someone’s on a bus or a train, should they really be stopped from texting? Often, that’s when people use such functionality the most, letting others (such as parents!) know that they got on the bus or train and would be arriving on time/late/early/etc.

I certainly recognize the risks of texting and driving. And it’s no secret that many, many kids do engage in this incredibly risky and stupid behavior. But laws like this don’t solve the real problem. Instead, they just create even more problems.

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Comments on “Chicago Politicians Say Mobile Phones Should Block Kids From Texting While Driving”

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44 Comments
Dark Helmet (profile) says:

“Or if someone’s on a bus or a train, should they really be stopped from texting? Often, that’s when people use such functionality the most”

Bravo. Fits my situation in Chicago perfectly. I don’t text while driving, but I do while on the El.

This smacks of DRM and gun laws, where the target of the measure will be the ones most UNeffected….

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: the heard...

> Not unless it’s you or someone importaint to you
> that they kill, right?

In this instance, we’re talking about people walking into traffic while texting. In that case, “they” aren’t killing anyone. People are killing themselves by doing stupid shit.

So no, I don’t believe I’m at risk of being killed because I’m dumb enough to walk out onto a busy street without looking first.

Chris-Mouse (profile) says:

Something like this would really make my phone almost useless to me.
I don’t text while driving. I don’t even own a vehicle. What I do do is use the phone while sitting on the bus, on the train, or as a passenger in another person’s vehicle.
If I can’t use the phone in those situations, then I’m pretty much reduced to using the phone while sitting at home where I have both a landline and internet service, or else at work, where my employer would prefer that I be doing other things.

MAC says:

Stupid, stupid, stupid little minds....

You cannot legislate something to overcome sheer STUPIDITY!

If some idiot wants to text at over 102 feet per second and a cop sees them then they should be:
– Charged criminally
– Stripped of their license
– Forced to go to classes
– If they do it again ramp up the punishment, ie. jail
– Habitual offender, strip license for life and lots of jail time.

Gee, sounds like the punishment for drunk driving.

I will tell you this though:
I would rather be on the road with a drunk that is watching the road than a teenager that is watching their phone…

Remember drunks, the bright line is the real line…

Oh, the Subject line; trivia, what movie was that saind in?

Wise (profile) says:

This reminds me of a family getting ready to have a child, they ‘child-proof’ everything in the home, the car, etc. all to benefit the possibility of the child meeting with the inevitable curiosity to poke metal objects into those slots in the wall.

Except this is in the case of trying to ‘idiot-proof’ everything we do. All agree that it’s stupid to talk, text or otherwise look away from the road while driving, but people do what they want, trying to make a law requiring something frivolous just to prevent troll lawyers from taking advantage of non-accountability.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re: But your honor ! . . .

Yes, you miss my point. Two of them.

Technical measures to block phones from texting while the phone is in motion are a major fail for two reasons.

1. Blocking texting while in motion (eg, driving a car) does not block other dangerous activities done on the phone. Should we also implement a technical measure to block changing the music selection your phone is playing? What about a non-phone device like mp3 player? Should the web browser be blocked?

2. Blocking texting while in motion penalizes people in motion who are not driving. I can’t say to my daughter, while I’m driving: “hey, text mom and tell her we’re on the way.”.

A non-mouse says:

Required, but optional?

…a law that would require such software be placed on any mobile phone sold in Chicago, which could then be enabled by the parents…

One problem: Hardly any parents will enable said software, else they suffer the wrath of little Johnny who can’t text while sitting on the bus. Or on the train. Or in their backseat.

Not that it matters, this will never pass. Even if it did, the mobile manufacturers are not going to bend over for Chicago. We’re talking about a city here, not a country. It would be much cheaper for them to just stop selling their product within city limits. This is just another example of some really short-sighted thinking.

anymouse (profile) says:

Re: Required, but optional?

Assuming there is more than one phone in the vehicle, the phones should just talk to each other to figure out who is driving…..

Sure I’m serious, if the vehicle is heading north
and there are 2 phones in the vehicle, the westernmost phone is obviously the driver (assuming we are in the US and not England). If there are 3-4 phones in the vehicle, then the western most northern most phone is the ‘driver’… in a bus, same principle applies, if you aren’t in the ‘driver seat’ position of the vehicle, then you aren’t driving and can text away with no problem. If your phone is the only one in the vehicle then obviously you are the driver and can’t text (there isn’t anyone out there who doesn’t have a mobile phone, and might happen to be be driving while you are riding in the passenger seat texting, right?)

Sure there are logic holes (what if the vehicle is going backwards… or a double decker buss…), what if you are in the backseat and have the only phone in the vehicle… and missing technology to allow the phones to ‘talk nicely’.

For any stupid idea, there are stupid and ‘less stupid’ ways to implement things, of course the political choice would probably be the broader more stupid method of limiting all moving phones.

anymouse (profile) says:

Next up... vehicles will be required to have RFID tags in the Drivers seat

The next law will require all vehicles to be ‘retrofitted’ with RFID tags in the drivers seat that the mobile phone will ‘read’ to tell if the driver is the one using the phone and if so it will limit all functions of the phone…..

No I’m not serious, but I am claiming this ideas as my Intellectual Pooperty….(because I know it’s a load of crap). Anyone attempting to implement this idea with paying the proper licensing fee of $500 per vehicle will suffer the wrath of 1000 monkey lawyers flinging their intellectual pooperty… They look like a cross between the flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz and the ape men from Plane of the Apes, just in case anyone is wondering what monkey lawyers flinging Intellectual pooperty might look like…

Anonymous Coward says:

Maybe if two phones are nearby each other the blockage feature can be disabled, but if there is no phone next to another phone and you’re traveling reasonably quickly, you can be assumed to be the driver.

But what if the driver forgot her cell phone or doesn’t have one, should the passenger then be assumed to be the driver?

Maybe if the passenger can prove she doesn’t have a drivers license, the disabling ‘feature’ can be permanently disabled? (assuming those without licenses won’t drive).

But what if the passenger does have her license?

Maybe the car can have something that indicates its location and if the alleged passenger is in the passengers car and the passengers cell phone is the only one in the car then it could reasonably be assumed that the ‘passenger’ is really the driver? Buses and public transportation vehicles can also have ways of indicating their presence to disable this alleged safety feature.

I’m sure that will create problems too, and people can find ways to hack it regardless, but it’s at least a start?

Erik Wood (profile) says:

text and drive and...technology.

I think legislation has value in raising public awareness in forums like this one but it will be difficult to solely legislate our way out of this issue. I just read that 72% of teens text daily – many text more 4000 times a month. New college students no longer have email addresses! They use texting and Facebook – even with their professors. This text and drive issue is in its infancy and its not going away.

I decided to do something about distracted driving after my three year old daughter was nearly run down right in front of me by a texting driver. Instead of a shackle that locks down phones and alienates the user (especially teens) I built a tool called OTTER that is a simple GPS based, texting auto reply app for smartphones. It also silences call ringtones while driving unless you have a bluetooth enabled. I think if we can empower the individual then change will come to our highways now and not just our laws.

Erik Wood, owner
OTTER LLC
OTTER app

Andy (profile) says:

I would like to make it illegal for politicians to speak before engaging their brains.

Seriously, I suppose the tendency to resort to legislation as a cure for all ills is the result of a culture in which politicians (and many times, the public) see their job as “lawmakers”. If your job is to make laws, that is what you will do even though legislation is many times not the appropriate solution.

These cases are already covered by plenty of laws so one more on the books will not help. But education campaigns to help stigmatize these practices (as has been successfully done with drunk driving in many places) would be a better use of resources.

Overcast (profile) says:

Just kids? What about adults? lol

So if the ‘kid’ is riding the bus, they’d get blocked too huh?

What if they were kidnapped, and in the back of a van… get blocked too?

Let the above happen *once* and see what happens.

And yes, that has in fact happened in the past, not sure that she was in a vehicle at the time, but she could very well have been, and certainly this could happen in the future.

http://www.mlnlaw.com/Articles/Georgia-Teen-Thwarts-Sexual-Assault-and-Kidnapping-with-Text-Message.shtml

Do they consider anything when looking at new ‘laws’, outside of what potential votes it may bring them?

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