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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), May 5th, 2011 @ 11:36am

    "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....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Squirrel Brains (profile), May 5th, 2011 @ 12:20pm

      Re:

      Same here. Or... I could just yack it up really loudly when the El is crowded. Maybe that is what these stupid alderman want. These alderman are incredibly ludditish. Mine does not even have an email contact.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2011 @ 12:42pm

      Re:

      Speaking of gun laws, police firearms should prevent officers from shooting innocent people. Find a way to do that too, Chicago aldermen, mmkay?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2011 @ 8:13pm

      Re:

      Simple solution, just have the car/bus/train driver slam on the brakes if you need to text for a minute. It's perfectly safe, and nobody will be inconvenienced in the least.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    fogbugzd (profile), May 5th, 2011 @ 12:21pm

    Rumor has it that this feature is already built into smartphones, but we can't get the kids to tell us how to turn it on.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Gwiz (profile), May 5th, 2011 @ 12:29pm

    Texting can be dangerous even when your not driving. I have, on more than one occasion, seen people walk right out into traffic becasue they were busy texting.

    And let's not forget the mall fountain lady.

    Just ask Kwame Kilpatrick (ex-mayor of Detroit) how dangerous texting can be. It cost him his job and some jail time.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2011 @ 12:38pm

      Re:

      thinning the herd, not necessarily a bad thing

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        MAC, May 5th, 2011 @ 1:07pm

        Re: Re: the heard...

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

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          icon
          btr1701 (profile), May 6th, 2011 @ 11:11am

          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.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2011 @ 8:15pm

      Re:

      Perhaps disable texting while walking?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    John Doe, May 5th, 2011 @ 12:31pm

    All they have to do is root the phone

    With smartphones exploding and many if not most kids having one, all they will have to do is root the phone to get rid of the app. For every measure, there is a counter measure. Just ask RIAA, MPAA, etc.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Chris-Mouse (profile), May 5th, 2011 @ 12:36pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    HothMonster, May 5th, 2011 @ 12:37pm

    "many kids do engage in this incredibly risky and stupid behavior."

    Kids involved in risky behavior? Now your just making shit up

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    MAC, May 5th, 2011 @ 1:06pm

    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?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2011 @ 3:00pm

      Re: Stupid, stupid, stupid little minds....

      yes, the only way to regulate stupidity is to litigate not legislate

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), May 5th, 2011 @ 1:09pm

    Hey, Chicago!

    Just put your kids up for adoption. The city obviously feels perfectly suited for parenting and your efforts are only getting in the way.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Wise (profile), May 5th, 2011 @ 1:10pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2011 @ 1:16pm

    But your honor ! . . .

    . . . I wasn't texting and driving.

    I was updating my Facebook status.


    - - - -
    Frnds don't let frnds txt n drv.
    A good frnd holds the wheel while the drvr txts.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      MAC, May 5th, 2011 @ 1:23pm

      Re: But your honor ! . . .

      Judge:
      You are hearby sentanced to 50 years for second degree murder in the death of the family that you killed while updating your facebook status...

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        Doug D (profile), May 5th, 2011 @ 2:58pm

        Re: Re: But your honor ! . . .

        You miss his point. Blocking Texting would not stop the kids from using FB. Just as dangerous, just as stupid, still totally possible at 50 MPH.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        DannyB (profile), May 6th, 2011 @ 6:25am

        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.".

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      DannyB (profile), May 5th, 2011 @ 3:10pm

      Re: But your honor ! . . .

      BTW, this post was from me.
      I did not realize I was not logged in.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2011 @ 1:23pm

    wouldnt using the GPS all the time eat up battery power like crazy?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    A non-mouse, May 5th, 2011 @ 1:34pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      anymouse (profile), May 5th, 2011 @ 3:50pm

      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.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Thomas (profile), May 5th, 2011 @ 1:37pm

    and how..

    exactly is a phone supposed to know that the person holding the phone is driving a car as opposed to simply sitting in the back seat?

    Politicians are so incredibly stupid; they think there is a technological solution for every problem.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Thomas (profile), May 5th, 2011 @ 1:41pm

    not to mention ...

    people could just go a mile outside the city of chicago and buy phones there.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Joe P, May 5th, 2011 @ 2:09pm

    Tech community saying

    There's a saying that's popular in the tech community:

    "There are seldom technological solutions for behavioral problems." - Ed Crowley

    I think all the problems in caveats in trying to make software that stops texting while driving is a perfect example of how true the saying is.....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2011 @ 2:18pm

    People are gonna die no matter what

    Let them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    anymouse (profile), May 5th, 2011 @ 4:07pm

    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...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2011 @ 4:36pm

    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?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2011 @ 4:42pm

    Besides, if politicians were really interested in driving safety they would abolish taxi cab monopolies.

    I think the OP is another typical case of

    If it ain't broken then politicians have nothing to grandstand over.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Erik Wood, May 5th, 2011 @ 4:57pm

    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

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    cowardly mouse, May 5th, 2011 @ 8:14pm

    Missing the best option.

    Put the drivers seat in a Faraday cage. Let's see, at cell frequencies that would pretty much be the equivalent of the screen in your microwave oven window...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Andy (profile), May 5th, 2011 @ 9:26pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 6th, 2011 @ 1:28am

    In New Zealand and Australia it is illegal to send text messages/operate a cell phone whilst driving.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    quimoi, May 6th, 2011 @ 2:49am

    the unintended case for a ban

    Kidnappers love a block on mobile phones while their moving.

    Any jurisdiction that finds way of applying this = child abductor's paradise, don't even have to search the kiddies.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    DannyB (profile), May 6th, 2011 @ 6:29am

    Remember the DARPA challenge?

    Instead of the futile and pointless attempt to manipulate the technology of phones to block texting while driving, government money should instead be redirected to the development of self driving cars.

    That is the only real long term solution to all possible driver distractions.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Overcast (profile), May 6th, 2011 @ 7:34am

    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-Mess age.shtml

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

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Gerald Robinson (profile), May 6th, 2011 @ 7:46am

    Texting

    Billboard at a local church:
    "Honk if you love Jesus
    Text while driving if you want to meet him soon!"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Gene Cavanaugh, May 6th, 2011 @ 5:22pm

    Texting while driving

    So, if there are any negatives, nothing can be done? If someone might be harmed by a medicine that is known to be the only cure for a devastating disease, we ban the medicine?

    I don't think so.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This