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US Agency Blocked Cellphone / Driving Safety Study

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the no-one-wants-to-know dept.

Cellphones 464

By now you've probably seen the NY Times's long piece on distracted driving — about how most drivers and most legislators willfully ignore the evidence of the dangers of talking on a cellphone, texting, and other electronic distractions while behind the wheel. According to this article, cellphone use while driving causes over 1,000 fatalities a year in the US. Another shoe has now dropped: it seems that the US National Highway Safety Administration blocked a proposed definitive study of the risks. The NHSA now cites concerns about angering Congress. Two consumer safety groups had filed a FOIA request for documents about the aborted study, and the Times has now made the documents public — including the research behind the request for a study of 10,000 drivers.

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464 comments

News report (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28764659)

Here [youtube.com] 's a CNN news report about the dangers of cellphones while driving.

First Po (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28764671)

*SCREEEECH* *KABOOM*

scary thing (5, Insightful)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 4 years ago | (#28764675)

The highway safety researchers estimated that cellphone use by drivers caused around 955 fatalities and 240,000 accidents over all in 2002.

The scary thing about this is that those numbers were from 2002. Think about how many more cellphones there are out there today than there were in 2002.

Re:scary thing (5, Insightful)

ImNotAtWork (1375933) | more than 4 years ago | (#28764709)

now think about how many touch screen phones that are out now. You can easily fumble your way through a phone number on a pad... but a flat touch screen requires a bit more focus.. that should be on the road anyways.

Re:scary thing (4, Insightful)

AndrewNeo (979708) | more than 4 years ago | (#28764821)

I've noticed that with my new touchscreen phone, even with text prediction it's a lot harder to do it because I have to look at the screen to make sure I'm hitting the right buttons, or at all. With my previous phone, I could just feel the buttons, and I knew what the text prediction would come up with, so I could write entire texts without looking at the phnoe until it was done. Not that it's still entirely safe, but if you're going to do it anyway..

Re:scary thing (1, Flamebait)

Polo (30659) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765167)

Don't dial the number! Just press and hold the menu button and say "Call Mom".

(voicedial works great with the iPhone 3gs)

Re:scary thing (1)

Jared555 (874152) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765345)

how is this flamebait? he didn't have to add the specific phone model but many phones have at least decent voice dial capability

Re:scary thing (4, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#28764851)

And the interesting part is that having a bluetooth headset provides no significant improvement.

Its not holding the phone to your ear that causes accidents, its the cognitive distraction of being on the phone with someone who can not see the dangers in front of the vehicle.

Passengers in the vehicle (at least those over 12) STFU where the driver is busy or when a situation develops, and their silence or their warnings actually calls attention to some dangers.

But this verifies other studies that state that bluetooth or earbuds add nothing to safety.

One can only hope that over time people learn to deal with and shut out the distraction, because I don't see cell phones getting restricted for drivers anytime soon.

Re:scary thing (5, Interesting)

acrobg (1175095) | more than 4 years ago | (#28764991)

Out here in California, there is a law about not talking on the phone while driving without a handsfree device. The problem is that now people all the time are just using their phone as before, but spending three times the effort hiding their phone so the cop on the side of the road doesn't pull them over. So now, rather than them just talking on the phone, they're talking, trying to hide it, and driving with whatever level of brain power they have left.

Re:scary thing (5, Insightful)

davester666 (731373) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765131)

I don't know why handfree is considered significantly better than holding the cell phone up to your ear, any more than holding a coffee/pop/hamburger.

Unless you are having a totally trivial, meaningless conversation, it's the attention your brain has to give to listening to what the person is saying and how you will respond that screws up driving.

I've personally noticed that for non-trivial calls that last more than maybe a minute, I'll have gone miles without knowing exactly how (basically, driven on autopilot).

Re:scary thing (4, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765279)

It's not any better, I think subsequent research demonstrated that it's a questionable assertion. Really at this point, the prudent thing is to turn off all audio devices and anything that isn't really necessary so that one can more easily concentrate.

These sorts of laws aren't terribly useful until they ban it for all drivers and make it a primary offense.

And so it was... (5, Funny)

msimm (580077) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765047)

in the year 2009 the majority of earths then human population began the struggle to implement true multithreading.

Re:scary thing (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28765107)

Has anyone done a study on how sound quality affects distraction? I would be inclined to believe that your reasons are a larger factor, but I know I've done stupid things while walking/cooking/etc on a cell phone because I'm having to concentrate so hard to just hear and understand the other person.

Re:scary thing (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28765361)

Hands-free goes a long way with standard transmission. Doubly so if your alignment is off.

Not that I drive and talk much, or condone it, but it's also not hard to say "hang on a second" while navigating a tricky situation.

Re:scary thing (2, Interesting)

thrawn_aj (1073100) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765391)

Passengers in the vehicle (at least those over 12) STFU where the driver is busy or when a situation develops, and their silence or their warnings actually calls attention to some dangers.

You know, I'm totally on board (and have been since I learned to drive) with the 'no cellphones while driving', to the extent that I don't even answer the phone unless I can safely pull over (usually at a street parking spot). But please, PUHLEEEEZ spare me the bromide about the distinction between cell phone conversations vs. those with passengers. That is simply a disingenuous argument - you're relying on the sensibility of people on the passenger side of the argument (to mind the road hazards) while casually dismissing the sensibility of the cellphone using driver (who clearly cannot be trusted and must be protected from himself). As you said yourself, if you wish to be consistent with the policy of no distractions, you would HAVE to ban all kids, especially infants from cars unless there is someone besides the driver to take care of them. This would inconvenience 99% of the members of say, a rabid organization like MADD now wouldn't it? :P

My point here simple - cellphones are no more or less dangerous than ANY kind of distraction encountered by the driver - be it hot coffee, chatty passengers or crying infants in the back seat. The reason cellphones are banned is ONLY (I repeat, ONLY) because it is the only thing you CAN ban without causing mass riots. I actually sympathize with that but again, please don't try to justify this inconsistency - it can't be justified in any logical way.

Not trying to flamebait here but the whole cellphone-hate from so-called sophisticated people is getting increasingly inconsistent. To give another example of this inconsistency - I've read opinions by Bill Bryson, the renowned travel author, someone I admire greatly (obviously not for this) where he repeatedly (and entirely without humor) rags on people who talk on cellphones in public. Now, as much as that practice bothers me too (and which I again, personally refrain from doing), it is the PUREST form of horseshit to distinguish cellphone conversations from those with fellow passengers. But I've seen several "sophisticates" having heated discussions with no regard for the people around them. Personally, I couldn't give a shit either way (the inventor of earphones deserves a Nobel IMHO :P). But someone please tell me exactly how (for all practical purposes, not because someone APPROVES of one kind of conversation over the other for anachronistic/reactionary reasons) cellphones are any less annoying than ... well ... most people in public :P.

/end rant (well, just one more thing - next time I see a bunch of high school kids play crap on their designer phone/music player/vibrator/whatever on the bus WITHOUT earphones, I'm gonna shove it up their whatsits :P)
//27 and already senile
///get off my lawn *sigh*

Natural Selection not Legislative Selection (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28764685)

meh whatever...

What about... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28764695)

the number of near-misses, or is it near-hits, that go unreported each year? Where a driver almost causes an accident, but doesn't?

I don't get it. Why do some people think it's okay to multitask while driving? Maybe some people can handle it. Maybe they can't. But, if it's a social call, it's going to be a distraction. I can understand legit uses of a cell while driving, like if someone calls another person to pick them up at such and such location. That kind of call is going to last, what, 20 seconds, not the same as a 5-10 minute in-depth conversation. Just my thoughts.

Re:What about... (2, Funny)

Falconhell (1289630) | more than 4 years ago | (#28764871)

Heh, I can drink an iced coffee, roll a cigarette,
and smoke pot at the same time whilst driving. Would that count as multi tasking?

Re:What about... (2, Funny)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 4 years ago | (#28764915)

"I can drink an iced coffee, roll a cigarette, and smoke pot at the same time whilst driving."

Tobacco is bad for you.

Re:What about... (4, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765385)

"Maybe some people can handle it. Maybe they can't."

It isn't terribly different from drinking and driving - both affect judgement. Drinking is outlawed for drivers, so cellphones should be too. Saying that "I can handle it" is one of the macho things men said 40 years ago, before they ran a kid over on the way home from the bar.

Anyone who claims that the cell phone doesn't impair their driving is being dishonest with himself, not to mention being dishonest with the rest of us.

Stop being such pussies. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28764701)

How can we expect to remain the most powerful country in the world if we turn into a bunch of big pussies, trying to stop anyone from taking any type of risk? I am much more productive if I can talk on my cellphone and respond to e-mails during my commute. Sometimes there is an accident; such is life. Eggs must be broken to make omelets. What happened to the can-do, damn-the-torpedoes attitude that got us to the moon?

Re:Stop being such pussies. (2, Interesting)

soundguy (415780) | more than 4 years ago | (#28764743)

What happened to the can-do, damn-the-torpedoes attitude that got us to the moon?

Lawsuits and juries of idiots happened

Re:Stop being such pussies. (3, Insightful)

Hunter0000 (1600071) | more than 4 years ago | (#28764815)

Eggs must be broken to make omelets. What happened to the can-do, damn-the-torpedoes attitude that got us to the moon?

Everyone in the space program that got us to the moon knew the risks and accepted them. By your logic drunk driving should be legal because its a known risk on the roadway. I'm sure that logic will be comforting if one day you "break an egg" (or are broken yourself) because you were distracted responding to an email. This isn't about your right to do whatever the hell you want, its about the right for some degree of safety on a public transit network.

Re:Stop being such pussies. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28764867)

All these people that immediately go to the drunk driving well anytime cell phone usage is discussed crack me up. Drunk driving does not increase productivity or have any benefit whatsoever, other than getting the alky home from the bar. Trying to equate cell phone use to drunk driving is apples and oranges. There is no difference between having a cell phone conversation while driving and having a conversation with the guy/gal in the seat next to you, unless you somehow drop the handset...

Re:Stop being such pussies. (4, Informative)

Hunter0000 (1600071) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765045)

There is no difference between having a cell phone conversation while driving and having a conversation with the guy/gal in the seat next to you, unless you somehow drop the handset...

Bullshit. Since you obviously lack the common sense to figure this out from experience, here is was 30 seconds with Google will tell you. http://www.apa.org/journals/releases/xap144-drews.pdf [apa.org] http://www.ergoweb.com/news/detail.cfm?id=2293 [ergoweb.com] http://www.psych.utah.edu/AppliedCognitionLab/HFES2004-000597-1.pdf [utah.edu]

Re:Stop being such pussies. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28765067)

Breaking eggs is called natural selection... well, sure, you got to believe in evolution.

Re:Stop being such pussies. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28764975)

How can we expect to remain the most powerful country in the world if we turn into a bunch of big pussies, trying to stop anyone from taking any type of risk? I am much more productive if I can talk on my cellphone and respond to e-mails during my commute. Sometimes there is an accident; such is life. Eggs must be broken to make omelets.

What happened to the can-do, damn-the-torpedoes attitude that got us to the moon?

Wouldn't it just be simpler to ban soccer moms from driving entirely? It'd save lives and make driving a more pleasant experience.

Re:Stop being such pussies. (5, Funny)

Clockwork Apple (64497) | more than 4 years ago | (#28764987)

"What happened to the can-do, damn-the-torpedoes attitude that got us to the moon?"

It got outsourced to China?
C.

Re:Stop being such pussies. (4, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765403)

I have no problem with you taking risks that effect just you. But as far as I'm concerned, if you make my next drive unsafe, then you're behavior must be modified, either willingly or be force.

how does it compare to lightening? (4, Insightful)

SethJohnson (112166) | more than 4 years ago | (#28764713)



Meanwhile, every public pool has a policy of emptying everyone if thunder is heard. "Oh, you might get struck by lightening!" Yeah, well, you know what the chances of that are? A hell of a lot less than the risk that one of these brats is going to run out into the street and get run over by a car (perhaps while the driver is calling to see if the pool is open).

It's like people take all these precautions against the least likely dangers, while the more likely risks are ignored.

Seth

Re:how does it compare to lightening? (3, Insightful)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#28764811)

I think the main problem is that while it's unlikely you'll be struck by, much less killed by lightning, if you're in the pool and lightning strikes within 200 ft or so (ballpark figure), well, you've got a bunch of people in the pool. Stick a fork in the toaster to get the bagel out, you're in for a shock, drop the toaster into the bathtub and you're done. The current for the lightning comes from the ground and goes to the sky, so if the pool is in the vicinity, there's a good chance of shocking/electrocuting a lot of people, particularly children, which is bad PR. The shock might be enough to trigger an epileptic seizure, or knock out someone's pacemaker, or give an elderly fatty a heart attack, any of those causing the person to drown. The kids who get run over in the street leaving the pool, well that's probably for the best, they won't pass on the bad parenting skills they learned from their parents. The rest of us survive to adulthood playing in the street, keeping an eye out for traffic with zero problems.

Re:how does it compare to lightening? (1)

aldousd666 (640240) | more than 4 years ago | (#28764869)

Well I guess that's YOUR theory. heh. Just because it seems complicated, and we don't know the reason, doesn't imply that "someone else out there does know it, or they wouldn't have done it that way." :D

Re:how does it compare to lightening? (4, Funny)

dhaines (323241) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765401)

In my lifeguardin' days, the policy for when and how to clear the pool in anticipation of lightning wasn't based on concern for anyone being shocked, it was based on preventing a panicked stampede.

Electrocuting the cattle was a very minor consideration, but herding them was a huge one.

Re:how does it compare to lightening? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28764965)

Learn to spell, fucktard. It's "lightning".

Re:how does it compare to lightening? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28765123)

The difference is that if a bunch of kids get killed by lightning in a pool there will be an uproar and whoever runs the pool facility will likely get sued to hell by parents screaming "why didn't you think of the children!?" which is why they have that policy. If a kid runs into the street it's only him and his parents to blame.

Re:how does it compare to lightening? (1)

dintlu (1171159) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765165)

From an economic standpoint, 1000 deaths a year is a small price to pay for the productivity gains had by communicating while in transit.

People, individuals, are irrational. The decisions made by a your public pool, the NTSB and other government agencies generally aren't.

Re:how does it compare to lightening? (4, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765259)

From an economic standpoint, 1000 deaths a year is a small price to pay for the productivity gains had by communicating while in transit.

You are making the assumption that most cell phone conversations in cars are 'productive' in some sense of the word. From what I have seen, I seriously doubt that is true. Most of conversations are just mindless babble that could just as well never happen.

Re:how does it compare to lightening? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765299)

And when you can put forward a suggestion as to how the deaths can be restricted to those that are making the calls in transit, then we can talk about repealing the laws.

It never ceases to amaze me how this sort of analysis conveniently neglects the part where other, presumably, prudent people are killed by iditiotic jackasses. It also neglects to point out that perhaps we should also factor in for the additional stress, and missed days from people being injured doing something they weren't supposed to be doing.

Personally, I choose to be prudent and it's completely unacceptable to me to have to put up with the risk because somebody else doesn't feel like behaving in a responsible fashion. If they want to risk their life or limb in a way that doesn't cost me fine, but until it doesn't effect me, they should be compelled to act in a responsible fashion.

Re:how does it compare to lightening? (1)

dln385 (1451209) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765297)

Meanwhile, every public pool has a policy of emptying everyone if thunder is heard. ... It's like people take all these precautions against the least likely dangers, while the more likely risks are ignored.

Being in or on the water in a thunder storm increases your chance of being injured or killed by lightning. When it strikes water, the current spreads out in all directions and dissipates within about 20 feet. And as the highest object on the water, you increase your risk. 13 percent of all lightning fatalities nationwide involve boats and water.

Still, the chance of injury or death is tiny. So why do people take all these precautions? The answer lies in just who these people are. If someone does get injured by lightning while swimming and the people who own or protect the beach or pool hadn't taken any precautions, they could be sued. So these people aren't taking precautions for your safety, they're taking precautions for their own good.

Sources: http://www.lightningsafety.com/nlsi_pls/indoor_pools.html [lightningsafety.com] http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/sd/annsum2005.pdf [noaa.gov]

Angering Congress? (2, Interesting)

carp3_noct3m (1185697) | more than 4 years ago | (#28764715)

Two words for most of congress. "FUCK YOU"
Just cause that's what they do to America everyday.
Who cares if we "anger congress" , we should have more things that anger congress. A government should be afraid of it's people and not the other way around. Fuck why can't I live like a normal free person in antarctica.... less booze for me...out

Re:Angering Congress? (1)

ImNotAtWork (1375933) | more than 4 years ago | (#28764745)

There's the fact that Congress holds the purse strings. Piss off the President you get fired. Piss off Congress and your whole department goes on the budgetary chopping block.

stunned (4, Interesting)

bloodhawk (813939) | more than 4 years ago | (#28764741)

I am honestly completely stunned by this article. I had thought the majority of countries had passed laws about the use of cell phones while driving, I did not know the US was so far behind. Many studies in other countries have shown use of cell phone (even hands free) is the equivalent to driving with a mid range blood alcohol level or worse and has been banned in most western countries with hefty fines for using your cell phone while driving.

Re:stunned (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28764787)

Guess what. If there's a chance that the US could be behind in something, we'll likely do our damnedest to make sure we're behind. It reminds me of this guy I work with. Whenever something like this (or poor health care, or poor education) comes up, he always responds with "But we're America. It shouldn't be like that here." And then he turns around and consistently votes against the people that try to improve public safety, education, health care. Go figure.

Re:stunned (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28765203)

America was settled by malcontents, criminals, and debtors. Things haven't changed much in 400 years.

Re:stunned (1)

mdarksbane (587589) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765369)

It's because being "behind" in these things always means more regulation, more laws, more taxes, more control ceded to a federal authority. There are trade-offs, trade-offs that are unfortunately skewed by the fact that the self-interest of those designing government programs in no way coincides with the interests of those whom the laws effect.

We're behind in health-care in efficiency and global availability, but we lead the world by a wide margin in the quality of the best care and research into new and better treatments.

Education here is fucked up - but not as bad as people think it is, and not when you take into account the fact that most countries track people into vocational fields much earlier. And none of the people I think you mean are voting in the only likely way to improve it, which is to give some real competition in the form of vouchers. No Child Left Behind, the most destructive piece of education policy in recent history, was a strongly bi-partisan affair.

We also lead the world in gun freedom, are fairly far up there in protection of freedom of speech, and pay a lower percentage of our income in taxes than most of Europe. I'm no hugely patriotic guy - but I get a little sick of the 'why are we so far behind Europe' crap. If the dangers of talking on a cell phone are not bad enough to convince people not to do it, what makes you think that the off chance that a cop sees you through your window (assuming there is a cop - and we have to either hire more traffic cops or take people off of real crime) and gives you a ticket is going to convince people to stop? If this ever gets passed, it'll be just one more source of income for the local police department.

Re:stunned (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765381)

The same freedoms that are meant to protect us are just as easily abused by people out for profits or their own political agendas.

The only way to ensure that we keep our rights is to continually remain vigilant and fight for them whenever they are challenged. I'm embarassed, frustrated, and outraged that so many of my other fellow Americans are so goddamned lazy about this.

Re:stunned (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28765055)

wille here in Portugal fines are 120â, and your driving licence being canceled from 1month to 1 year, every day everywere i see alot of ppl driving and talking on cellphone without hands free device. and its a serious problem because ppl don't give a damn. and then ops, take a ticket (or worse, of course, accidents)! why blame if you provoque and know its serious problem talking on cell wille driving without a headset of some kind!

but, here this problem of putting in ppls mind that its bad and you could get serious fines, is on the air almost 5 years! i like to be very aware of whats arround me wile driving and hope that one day, every one will be that conscious!

the problem of politics is everywere! here in portugal theres always on the power two large parties PSD and PS. the others are kind off to fill the void that could exist if they do not existed! little is the influence they have in the ppl. and noticeably here, the ppl that votes, sometimes passes a little over 60% of the total of the portuguese population in age to vote! theres a big abstinense of voters, and this is the biggest problem, everywere! because abstinece on the vote its not the same as a nuling vote! if i vote blanc or danify the votting paper its null and its statistical as to not agree with the current political parties (all)! simple! imagine if 40% of the population, instead of choose to not go votting, if they vote null, what could happen?? serious thought for serious times! if all is democratic, off course!

Re:stunned (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28765237)

Many countries have passed laws. They don't necessarily make any difference though: I ride to work every day (in Australia) and I can guarantee that I will see *at least* 5 or more people talking on mobiles (or, worse still, txting) between my home and work *every* *single* *day*. And to those who don't think that talking on a mobile while driving makes you less aware of your surroundings: try riding, and compare the behaviour of your average driver to the downright dangerous swerve-driving, not-seeing-anything-till-the-last-minute, often-not-even-realising-that-the-other-driver's-evasive-action-has-just-saved-your-arse driver.

Re:stunned (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28765241)

Sigh

Typical Euro-trash America bashing bullshit. Listen, fucktard, there are 50 states in the US. Some have laws against driving while talking on a cellphone and some don't. That's the beauty of living in a free country with political diversity. If you don't like the laws in your state, you move. Fucking piece of shit bigot. Fuck off and die. God, I hate fucking Europeans.

Re:stunned (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28765409)

Theres more to the world then americunts and eurotrash.

Dangers of blocking (4, Interesting)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#28764755)

Lets say you block cell phone usage. Does your technology exclude calls to emergency services? If not that's going to lead to deaths. Does your technology differentiate between the driver and a passenger? (I don't know how you'd even try to do that).

For starters we could enforce the existing laws. Caught talking on your cellphone twice, hand over your license.

Better would be to teach drivers to better cope with distractions including cell phone usage. If a pilot be required to be communicating on a radio while they land and take off - in a fast moving vehicle that falls out of the sky if not kept within parameters, at the edge of those parameters - I think drivers can be taught to drive safely on a cell phone. Not just left to their own devices to work out how, but taught. Where are the studies on how effective it is to teach drivers to drive while distracted by cell phones and other modern devices?

Re:Dangers of blocking (5, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 4 years ago | (#28764889)

For starters we could enforce the existing laws. Caught talking on your cellphone twice, hand over your license.

All the existing laws are "feel good" laws for sanctimonious pricks. All the studies that have been published show that it isn't the act of holding a phone up to your ear that causes a driver to be distracted, it is simply talking on the phone that matters. But all of the laws give free passes to anyone with a handsfree phone. That's arguably worse than holding the phone to your ear - if you do that, at least the other drivers have a chance of noticing that you are on the phone and giving you a wide berth, handsfree makes you look like all the other drivers even though you are not as engaged with the road as they are.

If a pilot be required to be communicating on a radio while they land and take off - in a fast moving vehicle that falls out of the sky if not kept within parameters, at the edge of those parameters - I think drivers can be taught to drive safely on a cell phone.

One difference is that he is talking on the radio ABOUT what he is doing. His brain isn't focused on flirting with the ATC.
Another difference is that the ATC knows when to shut the hell up and let the pilot do his job if something goes wrong, just like someone in the passenger seat would. But someone on the other end of the phone may not even know he is talking to a driver.

Re:Dangers of blocking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28764977)

His brain isn't focused on flirting with the ATC.

Giggity?

Re:Dangers of blocking (2, Insightful)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765171)

But all of the laws give free passes to anyone with a handsfree phone. That's arguably worse than holding the phone to your ear - if you do that, at least the other drivers have a chance of noticing that you are on the phone and giving you a wide berth

why can't *this* kind of thinking (ie, actual thinking) be present in those who are making our laws?

you have a really good point. at least when you're holding the phone, others can take that into account and 'work around you'. give you more room or just stay out of your way and assume you need more 'buffer' space around you. just in case.

Re:Dangers of blocking (1)

Ioldanach (88584) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765349)

Another difference is that the ATC knows when to shut the hell up and let the pilot do his job if something goes wrong, just like someone in the passenger seat would. But someone on the other end of the phone may not even know he is talking to a driver.

It is the job of the driver to make the other end of the line aware that he's driving, and may need to completely divert his attention unexpectedly for indeterminate periods of time. When I'm driving and have a reason to talk on the phone (usually to get directions, or to make a quick call to check if we need something at the grocery store on my way home) I inform the other person that I'm driving, and if something comes up I just say 'hold on' and ignore them completely until the relevant danger has passed. I've never had anyone even annoyed at this, and don't really understand why anyone has any difficulty with this. Part of learning to drive is learning that the road and the conditions around you, including other drivers, are your number one focus. Anything else, radio, passengers, phone, be damned. If conditions on the road require more attention than usual, the rest can all wait.

Re:Dangers of blocking (3, Insightful)

bigdavex (155746) | more than 4 years ago | (#28764959)

If a pilot be required to be communicating on a radio while they land and take off - in a fast moving vehicle that falls out of the sky if not kept within parameters, at the edge of those parameters - I think drivers can be taught to drive safely on a cell phone.

I think a key difference here is that the people on the radio are communicating with the pilot about flying the plane, not, say, where to eat or how to fix the toilet.

Re:Dangers of blocking (2, Insightful)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765053)

For commercial passenger aircraft, there's also a copilot. Both of them have substantially more training requirements than a person who wants to drive a car, and they're ostensibly focusing on the task. (Certainly they're communicating on the radio about the task.) They also have substantial electronic assistance in doing their jobs.

Re:Dangers of blocking (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765323)

Not to mention that anybody that has to work with radios for a living knows to leave it silent as much as possible. You never know when a legitimate life or death emergency might demand the airwaves.

Ignorance of the subject matter being communicated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28764997)

You're quite wrong in comparing what a pilot is doing with what a car is doing.

Is the pilot constantly surrounded by other planes? No. There's almost no risk of a "bumper" collision.

You cannot concentrate on more than one thing at once unless you have more than 1 brain. How can you concentrate on your phone call (or dialing) and concentrate on driving? One or the other is going to suffer.

Also, consider that a pilot's conversation with a tower is about what the pilot is doing, it's not about the date he's got waiting for him when he lands or what he's going to have for dinner.

Please think about what it is a pilot talks about when using the radio and then consider if it would be likely that a driver would be talking about the same. A closer but still distant comparison would be truckies using CB radios (they need to update each other on where the police are hiding, traffic jams, etc) Maybe a more accurate comparison would be the conversation held between pit crews and racing drivers. Conversation is strictly limited to what's going on around the driver. There's no idle chatter going on about girlfriends, etc. Where professional people are communicating with others whilst driving/flying, they're talking about matters that relate to what they're doing and what they're focused on and concentrating on. Nothing that requires them to be distracted from the task at hand.

Re:Dangers of blocking (1)

tnok85 (1434319) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765017)

Although it might just be me, I find that I'm more attentive if I'm on a hands free set as opposed to holding the phone.

Reasons:

1) Having a hands free conversation (I feel) is no different than having a conversation with whoever is in your car. Should that be illegal? Talking in cars banned?

2) I listen to audio books (having a lengthy commute to work), which I get more deeply involved in than the average cell phone conversation. Should audio books be banned?

3) When not listening to audio books, I listen to talk radio/news radio. Again, this generally requires more attention than simply talking. Maybe we should ban radios from cars.

Holding the phone is a problem for me, comparatively. It's not about the conversation - which, unless you're unable to talk to somebody in your car and drive at the same time, in which case I would advise you to avoid chewing gum if you plan on walking - it's about holding the phone uncomfortably. I generally drive with one hand anyway, but my other hand is resting somewhere that can grab the wheel quickly. Not so with the phone.

Hand-held cellphones, sure, ban it. You should have both hands available for driving. That means no shaving, no doing your hair, no doing your makeup, or for a scenario that the average Slashdotter is likely to encounter, no having a wank when you drive by that Victoria's Secret billboard.

Re:Dangers of blocking (1)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765085)

Having a hands free conversation (I feel) is no different than having a conversation with whoever is in your car.

Emphasis mine. You may feel that way, but you are wrong. Because of the extremely decreased audio quality with respect to in person, it takes a lot more concentration to talk to somebody over the phone.

Re:Dangers of blocking (1)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765071)

Does your technology exclude calls to emergency services?

What, you are unable to pull over and shut the car off before calling 911?!

Re:Dangers of blocking (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765197)

What if you're being carjacked? Or your stalker is driving behind you? Or some asshole just cut you off then started shooting cars to the left and right and you're trying to get away from the scene? Or something simply, like an accident has just happened but there's no safe place for you to stop?

Obviously those are all extremely unlikely scenarios for most people (none of them have ever happened to me except the last one), but any law that doesn't take them or things like them into account is a bad law.

Re:Dangers of blocking (1)

Aqualung812 (959532) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765329)

Fine. Give me a ticket for calling 911 and arrest this jackhole that is about to kill me. Thanks, bye.

Re:Dangers of blocking (1)

Ioldanach (88584) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765377)

an accident has just happened but there's no safe place for you to stop?

I've had that one on several occasions, typically where I observe an accident on the highway in the other direction and there's no realistic way for me to even get to the accident in a safe manner, nor would I be of any use or assistance if there were. In particular this happens with snowstorms, where someone runs off the road in a non-life-threatening way and it is very unsafe for a civilian vehicle to pull off the road to attempt to render aid.

Re:Dangers of blocking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28765081)

Yeah, I always thought training would be good. Cops go through training so they can use the radio, phone, and computer while driving.

I know when I first started doing CB/ham radio (this was before cellphones) it took me a lot of practice before I could do it without say, driving through a red light or something. Still, I try to never use my phone while driving because unlike the radio people tend to blather on about BS while on the phone and that's distracting. I don't like talking to people on their cellphone when they are driving either. I think an outright ban on phone usage by the driver would be a good idea.

Re:Dangers of blocking (1)

immel (699491) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765091)

IANAP (I am not a pilot), but I know a few people going for their licenses right now, and I get the impression that pilot to tower communications are all business. Each side knows what the other is going to say when he says it, kind of like a script, and it's all both relevant and necessary to the task at hand (flying the plane). It's a bit different than the highly improvisational, distant-focused conversational style employed by multitasking commuters.

FAA regulations prohibit talking about non-flying related things between crew members during takeoff and landing approaches, and a violation of this reg was blamed for causing a crash near Buffalo earlier this year [go.com] .

I agree that we'd be better off if people adopted the no-nonsense conversation style of pilots while talking on the road, but I doubt many would go through a certification as rigorous as pilot training to gain the privilege. That said, a study probably wouldn't hurt. Even if it fails, it might quiet those who insist "Well I can talk on the phone while driving quite safely enough, thank you very much! I need to call you back, there's a telephone pole in my engine compartment."

Re:Dangers of blocking (1)

Pinckney (1098477) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765109)

Better would be to teach drivers to better cope with distractions including cell phone usage. If a pilot be required to be communicating on a radio while they land and take off - in a fast moving vehicle that falls out of the sky if not kept within parameters, at the edge of those parameters

I don't think your analogy is sound. Airplanes are unmanuverable when taking off and landing, and often have a hard time spotting one another. The distances and closing speeds are all greater, and the chaotic patchwork of ground structures common around airports makes it even harder to spot another aircraft (it essentially provides disruptive camouflage). Finally, the field of view of many aircraft is restricted, particularly when on the ground (and especially in many tail-dragger configurations). Without radio communication, it would be almost easy for two aircraft to find themselves on the same runway at the same time, and there are few options to recover from such a situation; even fewer result in the aircraft remaining undamaged. Radio communication is a valuable safety tool for pilots.

Automobiles, on the other hand, typically rely only on the alertness of the driver to avoid collisions. A conversation will not improve the safety of the car, unless perhaps it is with a dedicated spotter (as is used in difficult terrain when off-roading, and I imagine in many other motor-sports). Furthermore, the nature of cell-phone and air-traffic control (ATC) conversations will necessarily be different. ATC is aware of what the pilot is doing. Conversations are usually terse in my experience and should not draw the pilot's mind to anything unrelated to flying the plane safely.

Re:Dangers of blocking (5, Insightful)

seifried (12921) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765195)

We can't even teach people to signal turns and lane changes reliably. Teaching cell phone safety to the public is about as likely to happen as someone winning the lottery jackpot 37 times in a row by finding discarded tickets in the street.

Re:Dangers of blocking (4, Insightful)

Falconhell (1289630) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765211)

Avaiators have a little saying that goes;

Aviate, navigate, communicate.

Meaning, the last priority is to communicate.

It is extrememly doubtful any pilot worth his salt
(I certainly would not)would make radio calls whilst taking off or when about to land. Such calls are made well before critical periods of a flight-as they may be a distraction.

What you advocate is to say the least dumb.

Re:Dangers of blocking (1)

RedWizzard (192002) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765213)

Better would be to teach drivers to better cope with distractions including cell phone usage. If a pilot be required to be communicating on a radio while they land and take off - in a fast moving vehicle that falls out of the sky if not kept within parameters, at the edge of those parameters - I think drivers can be taught to drive safely on a cell phone.

Those conversations pilots hold with air traffic control are specifically related to what they are doing. Their brains are focused on one activity. Phone calls in cars are never related to what the driver is doing. The car driver's brain needs to be focused on two things at one. It may be that it is simply not possible to train people to pay enough attention to both driving and talking on the phone at the same time.

Re:Dangers of blocking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28765215)

For starters we could enforce the existing laws. Caught talking on your cellphone twice, hand over your license. That has the same problem as the get-tough license revocations for DUI. A scofflaw who drives while talking on the phone or while drunk (or talking on the phone while drunk) is the same kind of scofflaw who will drive without a license after it's been revoked and drive without insurance after the policy is canceled. Pass all the laws you want, they'll be happy to break them all!

Other blocked cell phone studies? - RF safety? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28764765)

Well? We now have proof positive that congre$$ cirtters (or the oil-men-in-the-white house administration) will block the obvious right thing to do. What about RF studies that focus on immediate impacts - e.g. brain function, DNA change, etc - not cancer?

sorry, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28764773)

Sorry I was texting instead of paying attention, what did that article say?

What R Ya Gonna Do About It? (2, Insightful)

rally2xs (1093023) | more than 4 years ago | (#28764783)

Ban cell phone conversations in cars? That'd be the only way - the "hands free" laws are as good as no laws at all, its the division of attention that causes the accidents, not the holding of the phone. The only thing the hands free law is good for is for keeping the other drivers from knowing that the reason that a person is driving like a drunk is that they're blabbing on the phone. And banning phones in cars will cause some people to turn in their phones and cancel the service, because the car is about the only place they use and need them (like me.) So, I want to see the study that pits the consequences of fewer cell phones in society vs. the death rate, since it may take longer to get an accident called in to 911, or for help for a lot of other things to be summoned, etc. It's always a 2-edged sword if you ban something, since you have to consider the effects of its absence as well as the effects of its presence.

Re:What R Ya Gonna Do About It? (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 4 years ago | (#28764969)

Ban cell phone conversations in cars? That'd be the only way - the "hands free" laws are as good as no laws at all, its the division of attention that causes the accidents, not the holding of the phone.

I agree hands free use of cell phones is still dangerous, but at least such drivers are capable of and sometimes do use turn signals.

And banning phones in cars will cause some people to turn in their phones and cancel the service, because the car is about the only place they use and need them (like me.)

I'm sure a few people would, but I doubt that number is significant. Besides, there's no reason to ban them in cars, just for the current driver.

So, I want to see the study that pits the consequences of fewer cell phones in society vs. the death rate, since it may take longer to get an accident called in to 911

For that to be a useful study you'd need to know how many fewer cell phones would be out there if a law banned their use while driving. I doubt it would be significant these days, as cell phones become more and more common and provide more functions. I doubt such a law would put a dent in the increasing use of them.

It's always a 2-edged sword if you ban something, since you have to consider the effects of its absence as well as the effects of its presence.

True, an in a free society you need serious justification for a ban of some activity. Personally, I favor laws making people financially and criminally responsible if they do get in an accident while on the phone, rather than an outright ban.

Re:What R Ya Gonna Do About It? (1)

mdarksbane (587589) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765399)

How are you going to *enforce* it. It's not even something like drunk driving where you can give the guy a blood test and find out if he's been drinking. It'd be damn near impossible to prove that that specific person was on the phone at the moment of the accident, unless the phone gets embedded in their cheek.

Moreover, what of the dangers of eating and driving? Of having two kids arguing in the backseat? What about dropping a cigarette (my mom was hit by someone who did that). When are we going to stop trying to ban the possible dangerous behavior and just make people responsible for their actions.

I'm all for public awareness campaigns - parents come down hard on your kids about driving, push it in all driving schools, whatever. But any law I can see being passed is just for publicity and some more money to the traffic officer retirement funds.

no danger compared to other things (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28764807)

Ordinary cell phones do NOT have associated danger when using handsfree/head set. Completely safe. Although poor people may not afford to install it in their old cars, but why should they be allowed to endanger other people anyway?

Having fighting children in the back seat IS a clear and present danger.

Why can't congress ban shouting children in the back seat? That would save much more lives.

Cell phones are dangerous (-1, Troll)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 4 years ago | (#28764823)

Their use leads to death.

Most people understand this and have possibly lost friends or family due to cell phone use. They are still allowed to be sold and used because of the utterly corrupt corporations controlling the US government. Do you know this? Do you understand the risks but are continuing to use a cell phone, enriching the corporate overlords?

So how come you are still using a cell phone?

Oh, you think it is worth the risk because of the convenience? Are you sure?

Oh, so your job requires it? Would you work for a company that required you to work with asbestos? How about aluminium pots, pans and cans?

Re:Cell phones are dangerous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28764963)

Actually I sort of discovered I didn't need it anymore and, once my renewal period is up plan to ditch all of 'em: Mine, wife and sons. The son doesn't live here anymore so he can buy his own. My wife doesn't work and I work kind of close. No phone, no worries. No $160 bill from Verizon Wireless. If we move I plan on looking for antennas at Radio Shack for the roof. That another $50 I don't need to spend. It all adds up very quickly.

The Details that Matter (4, Insightful)

rueger (210566) | more than 4 years ago | (#28764895)

The NYT article is pretty specific that the study of 10,000 drivers was needed because all of the current estimates of the impact of cel use on driver accidents are based on unproven assumptions and (one might suggest) speculation.

The problem as always is that so much traffic safety "data" is founded on police reports of the "speed was a factor" variety. These are subjective guesswork, not scientific evidence

Certainly any distraction raises the likelihood of driver error, but that includes a multitude of things including loud music, scantily clad women on street corners, animated electronic billboards, and kids fighting in the backseat

You can't eliminate all distractions, so how can we teach drivers to filter out non-essential stimulation, or create auto technology that will protect drivers in moments of distraction?

Re:The Details that Matter (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765143)

The number caught my attention. There are two reasons to do such a large study - 1) you want to impress someone with big numbers and 2) you're looking for a very small effect.

Darwin at work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28764897)

People who get into accidents due to cell phone use are idiots, period. Now, I can't fully say this is Darwin at work, because they will probably wind up injuring or killing an innocent person. But truly, you have to be a moron to get into a car accident that's actually your fault. Use your brain, eyes, and ears, and you'll be fine. I've been accident-free for over fifteen years.

I talk on my cell phone while driving, but I keep my eyes on the road so it's not an issue. ONCE in a while I text while driving, but I make sure of a few things first: #1, that it's not stop-and-go traffic, in which case you're asking for a rear-ending; #2, there are NO pedestrians anywhere nearby; #3, I keep jumping my eyes from my cell to the road every couple seconds to do a quick scan to make sure everything looks OK; #4, put down the phone during situations that really require my attention (road workers, upcoming traffic jam, or anything else out of the ordinary). Is my method foolproof? Of course not, nothing is 100% foolproof. But I'm a hell of a lot safer than the average cell phone user, and a lot safer than the guy going through his briefcase or the woman doing her make-up.

I don't buy it (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28764935)

Look: I've heard the statistics, and I don't drive while on the cell phone anymore simply because it's illegal... but, I don't see how talking to someone causes this kind of distraction. Texting? Sure, I'm on board with that one. When you have to take your eyes away from the road, that's fine. But calling someone and talking to them? How is that any worse than talking to someone next to you? I'm all for making laws that make everyone safer, and I don't think the current law in my state (CA) is particularly unjust, but I do think that pursuing this further is a waste of time and money.

Are cell phones really a big deal? (3, Insightful)

dirk (87083) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765033)

Driving while distracted is (and always has been) dangerous, there's no questioning that. But my question is if cell phone usage is as huge a deal as everyone makes it out to be. There hasn't been a huge increase in car crashes since cell phone came into common usage. In fact, the number of deaths from auto accidents has actually gone down as a percentage of the population according to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_motor_vehicle_deaths_in_U.S._by_year). So the number of deaths from car accidents hasn't increased with the introduction of this huge danger.

I think the issue is that cell phones are something easy and visible for people to blame. Where before an accident was caused by someone playing with the radio, or changing the CD, or eating or whatever, that was easily ignored or missed, now everyone sees that the person was on their cell phone and they KNOW that was the cause. Even when someone cuts them off in traffic, it must be the cell phone, when it is probably the person is either just an asshole or a bad driver. But because they were on the phone, it must be the phone.

If they want to do studies, why not do them on cell phones as well as other common things people do while driving? What effect does playing the radio, changing the CD, programming and following your GPS, eating and drinking, or anything else have on your driving?

Re:Are cell phones really a big deal? (0, Troll)

Alpha830RulZ (939527) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765095)

Please don't ruin good arguments by introducing facts and using logic. It's un-amurican.

Nice bit of research.

Re:Are cell phones really a big deal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28765153)

Exactly. And while doing this study, they should notice how some people perform those tasks without losing control of their vehicle.

It's one thing to be visibly digging through your backseat for the cd binder, it's another to have it in the passenger seat and to pick it out and put it in the player with nothing more than a glance and feeling. Same thing applies to cell phones, or any other distraction that occurs in an automobile.

Re:Are cell phones really a big deal? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28765271)

Maybe you should also research the change in DUI laws, automobile safety and total number of auto accidents, not just fatalities.

Anytime 50 fucktards would be jumping up and down screaming that correlation != causation. This time, since the evidence suits their needs, they keep their mouths shut.

As for the rest of the causes, yes, they are causes of accidents. No one said they should be exempt.

Re:Are cell phones really a big deal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28765319)

The fact that fatality rates from auto accidents has gone down is irrelevant, this rate is more affected by the safety design improvements in vehicles.

Shocked and dismayed... (4, Funny)

ghostis (165022) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765105)

I was shocked and dismayed as I read this article on my iPhone while headed into work on the turnpike this morning.

Obviously (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28765177)

This is the work of Obvious Man!

Smoking cigs... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28765201)

What about those drivers using lighters and smoking in the car? Ban that as well.

Ban Ban Ban, I wanna be sedated (5, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765229)

Driving while arguing with a woman is also dangerous. I ran 2 stop-signs because of such. Are they going to ban that too?

rights of man (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28765353)

I have not heard any comments about whether this is a matter of limiting the public's freedom in their own car which is a little disturbing. There is a real difference between regulating safety and controlling what a driver is thinking about while driving. Numerous distractions exist while driving and no amount of regulations will alleviate the driver's distractions until we have at least semi-autonomous operation or full on mind control.

Maybe the NHSA realizes that the study would be fruitless as it would only be repeating results of previous studies that came to the same conclusion.

They are only trying to save taxpayers money ;)

There is already a perfectly adequate law (4, Insightful)

Savior_on_a_Stick (971781) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765365)

It called Maintaining Control of Your Vehicle.

Good drivers don't really need any other law in order to comply with the above.

They observe what's going on around them, and adapt accordingly - whether it's slowing down, stopping for a nap, adding following distance, or refraining from phone use.

What we actually need is enforcement of the above.

Involved in an accident?

The burden is on you to prove you did everything a reasonable person would to prevent it.

Currently, I can pull out from an intersection and deliberately t-bone someone and suffer no serious repercussions, unless I'm proven impaired, or some other gross act.

"Oops - I didn't seem him" gets people out of what should have been criminal charges all the time.

I blame mandatory insurance for some of this.

Everyone looks at accidents like "you were insured? no harm - no foul.

I see people every day who should be locked up for the lack of common care they put into their driving.

Dangerous or not it really just pisses me off! (1)

PottedMeat (1158195) | more than 4 years ago | (#28765395)

It seems every day now I end up stopped behind some idiot who's too busy texting on the phone to realize he's sitting at a damn green light. Or I watch some soccer mom weaving around in her SUV with the telltale hand to the head posture.

It used to be that here in the south that when you saw a car weaving around it was from good old fashioned drunk driving! WTF happened?!

PM
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