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25% of Car Accidents Linked to Gadget Use

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the turn-your-movie-off dept.

Handhelds 317

BogenDorpher writes "In a recent study by the Governors Highway Safety Association (PDF), driving distractions such as cell phones and other electronic devices cause as much as 25% of all US car accidents. It is common knowledge that driving while distracted is not a safe thing to do, but now we have some scientific data that goes in-depth on the topic. From the article: '"Despite all that has been written about driver distraction, there is still a lot that we do not know. Much of the research is incomplete or contradictory. Clearly, more studies need to be done addressing both the scope of the problem and how to effectively address it," said GHSA Executive Director Barbara Harsha.'"

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317 comments

Here come the "But not special *ME*!" posts (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36719620)

No, you're NOT special.

Re:Here come the "But not special *ME*!" posts (1)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719674)

I got into all my car accidents when I was young and foolish, well before I had a cellphone.

Re:Here come the "But not special *ME*!" posts (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719774)

Ditto.

Early 90s - I was eating McDonald's french fries and I was looking at the container instead of the road. I didn't see the guy in front of me suddenly stop. Bang.

It's not smart to take your eyes off the road.
Even for a single millisecond.

Re:Here come the "But not special *ME*!" posts (2)

Moryath (553296) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719828)

Which is one of the jokes of this kind of "study": failure to identify and properly control for intervening factors.

Younger people (well that and illegal aliens) are most likely to drive drunk.
Younger people are more likely to adopt new tech (cellphone texting, cell email, etc).
Younger people are more likely to be Doing Other Things while driving.

Now, this isn't a 100% certainty. Certainly there are the soccer mom bitches who put on their mascara while driving, and there are the subhuman PHB MBA types who are on the phone talking about how they can cut staff and overwork more people while drinking coffee and doing 90 down the freeway in their BMW. But statistically, the vast majority of car crashes are simply caused by Inexperienced Drivers - and don't worry, the insurance industry has plenty of data [carinsurancerates.com] to justify charging rates accordingly.

Take away the cellphone from a kid while driving and they'll still be distracted. Talking with a friend, staring at their date rather than the road, driving recklessly or doing crazy things merely because they can, failing to realize the limits of their own driving skill, conditions on the road, and abilities of their vehicle.

Re:Here come the "But not special *ME*!" posts (2)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719930)

I have seen people drive and play a trumpet.. when driving 696 in Detroit, you see all kinds of crazy crap.. Seeing someone read a book and drive was so commonplace it was scary.

Re:Here come the "But not special *ME*!" posts (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720032)

I LOLed, because my old high school friend is a trumpet player and he admitted to me that he had played while driving before. The scary part is that he drives an 18 wheeler.

Re:Here come the "But not special *ME*!" posts (5, Insightful)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719944)

I don't get it... are you saying cellphone use should be allowed while driving because younger drivers will be distracted anyway?

Obviously you can't eliminate all distractions, but that doesn't mean we should make it easier to be distracted.

Re:Here come the "But not special *ME*!" posts (2, Interesting)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720394)

Make it easier?

What? Huh? You think having a law against something makes it harder to do? The question is not "should we make it easier" or "should we make it harder" that option was never on the table...its mere fantasy.

The question is, should we authorize jack booted thugs to hunt down and persecute people, for no other reason, than (insert distraction source of the moment) while driving, regardless of whether they are otherwise displaying a problem controlling their vehicle. That is the ONLY question actually on the table.

Re:Here come the "But not special *ME*!" posts (4, Insightful)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720454)

The question is, should we authorize jack booted thugs to hunt down and persecute people, for no other reason, than (insert distraction source of the moment) while driving, regardless of whether they are otherwise displaying a problem controlling their vehicle. That is the ONLY question actually on the table.

If you insist on that kind of hyperbole, then I'll just leave it as is and answer "yes," seeing how "persecute people 'for no other reason'" means "persecute people for creating an even more dangerous situation than driving already is."

Re:Here come the "But not special *ME*!" posts (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719920)

90% of all young driver accidents are due to lack of education, and lack of common sense. I can make it in front of the train... Smoosh.

Re:Here come the "But not special *ME*!" posts (2)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720006)

actually here comes the a: showing that cops have been encouraged to link electronic devices to accidents for the greater part of 10 years and b: the reality of "distractions cause accidents" which is not limited to cellphones and gps, the supposed demon in the situation. How did people ever have accidents before gps and cellphones? oh, right.

The reality is that even the radio can cause a distraction/accident. Yet when are we going to address having things we actually enjoy in our car? oh, right. I think this is when people trot out the protect the children argument.

Re:Here come the "But not special *ME*!" posts (-1, Flamebait)

trum4n (982031) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720026)

Here's some for you. I actually know how to drive, so i don't wreck my car. I call, txt, eat, drink(not alcohol) and play with my computer/stereo in the car while speeding. Not even kidding. Speed limits are archaic. Car accidents are the new natural selection. And i must be doing something right. Bring on the mods! (this is actually all true, but i still expect a shitstorm from idiots who can't control their cars)

Re:Here come the "But not special *ME*!" posts (3, Insightful)

inglorion_on_the_net (1965514) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720114)

Or maybe you have just been lucky so far.

Also, it is worth noting that accidents don't only happen because _you_ are doing something wrong. You could get into an accident because someone else does something stupid. Personally, I think that traffic safety is a game we play together, and you have to have a bit of margin for when other people mess up. I have never been in an accident while I was driving, but I have been in a couple of near accidents because people did stupid things, like changing lanes or crossing without looking.

I also think that traffic laws should be made so that the vast majority can get along safely. Maybe you are an above average driver and can handle higher speed and a higher level of distraction safely. But if that were the case, I bet you wouldn't want to have the rules relaxed so that everybody could do that, if the result would be massive traffic jams because of people who, in your words, can't control their cars.

Re:Here come the "But not special *ME*!" posts (1)

beelsebob (529313) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720118)

Here's something for you. Overconfidence, is the cause of 99.9% of these accidents. The idiot who thinks "I can do it, it's all those idiots who can't control their cars that have crashes" who ends up pushing things too far and causing the crash. Well done for managing to fit the OP's stereotype so well though.

Alternate Take on News Flash (0)

repetty (260322) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719658)

News Flash: Less than 75% of US car accidents involve electronic devices!

Re:Alternate Take on News Flash (0)

localman57 (1340533) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719752)

News Flash: 93% of Drunk Drivers get Home Just fine: http://www.theonion.com/articles/report-93-of-drunk-drivers-get-home-just-fine,6250/ [theonion.com]

Re:Alternate Take on News Flash (1)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720066)

News Flash: 93% of Drunk Drivers get Home Just fine:

http://www.theonion.com/articles/report-93-of-drunk-drivers-get-home-just-fine,6250/ [theonion.com]

Aside from the fact that it's in the onion, this is almost certainly true. It's actually probably higher. There are high-functioning alcoholics who regularly commute while drunk, whose drunk driving likely is the majority of drunk driving.

The problem is that it's so easily for something to go horribly, horribly wrong. A high success percentage doesn't help if the low failure percentage has nasty consequences, like lots of death.

Just 25%?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36719668)

Just 25%?? I would've thought quite a bit more given the number of morons that I see blathering on their cell phones.

But has it increased by 25%? (5, Insightful)

Kanel (1105463) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719670)

Does this mean that the number of car accidents has increased by 25? If not, what improvements have cancelled out the increase in accidents caused by cellphones and other gadgets? Are there fewer accidents caused by people fiddling for CDs in the glove compartment or trying to find a good AM channel? Are there fewer accidents caused by frustrated people trying to find their way on a fold-out map?

Re:But has it increased by 25%? (3, Interesting)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719742)

Does this mean that the number of car accidents has increased by 25?

Maybe, but I have a feeling that what's happening is the number hasn't changed much, but before it was the radio and CD player. Something to consider: Cell phone bills will say very clearly whether or not it was involved, radios and CD players have no such tattling technology.

Re:But has it increased by 25%? (2)

rrossman2 (844318) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719928)

I remember reading about how when cars were first getting radios, some people wanted them banned because they were a distraction and caused accidents. I guess it's only logical that the replacement and/or add-on devices would also receive the same stigma. That's not to say texting while driving isn't worse, but that any new gadget causes a bigger distraction when the operator isn't use to the unit.

An example is my old Motorola E815... with T9 and having used it enough, I could text (in any setting.. doesn't mean while driving) one handed without looking at the phone just fine. But when I first got it, heck no. I had to look to learn where the keys were, double check the spelling, etc.

Even some of the car systems out there now are just so involved and the nested layouts so horrid there's no way you could operate it without looking. For example the BMW iDrive system (or whatever it's called), with the big silver joystick on the center console by the shifter. Even if you were to look, it's still confusing and harder than heck to find what you're looking for. Now compare that to a simpler system such as a 91 civic where there was a button for every function. It took you no time at all to learn what needed to be pressed without looking.

Touch screen are another issue, because you can't "feel" the buttons and count or position the one you want easily. You tend to look to make sure your finger is where you need/want it to be. But the systems that also have hard buttons you can learn the feel/position in a few uses, and the "count" of each button becomes second nature (IE on my Pioneer AVIC-N3> Press the left most hard button and you know you'll change the source... if it's on radio you know if you press it once it goes to CD, again to iPod, again to DVD, again to XM, and then back to radio.. so you can learn the count. More than that you retract the flip-out screen and theres still enough hard buttons and a joystick on the far right so you can change source, track, or preset easily without looking at the radio.)

Re:But has it increased by 25%? (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720020)

True... the thing that saved car radios was the invention of the preprogrammed station buttons that people now take for granted on car radios, and which made it possible for people to accurately tune them to their favorite stations without having to divert their eyes or attention from the road.

Re:But has it increased by 25%? (4, Interesting)

Jaktar (975138) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720140)

My wife always wondered why I was so adamant about not talking to her when she'd call me while she was driving. About a year ago she was in some stop-and-go traffic next to a person who was both making calls and texting during the traffic jam. At one point the traffic picked up speed and then slowed again but they didn't notice as they were too busy pushing buttons. She watched as the person was decapitated during the impact. She doesn't call me while driving anymore.

It doesn't kill you 99.9% of the time but that one time is a doozy.

Re:But has it increased by 25%? (1)

MikeURL (890801) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720380)

I used to watch people behind me with a wary eye. Now I watch them in sheer terror. There are people full on texting while driving a vehicle. This is crazy. I feel like I have to watch the car in front of me and the one behind.

If I see that person doing something they should not be then I'll exaggerate my braking swerve. Human eyes are very well trained to notice something moving laterally in their field of vision.

Re:But has it increased by 25%? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36719760)

Does this mean that the number of car accidents has increased by 25? If not, what improvements have cancelled out the increase in accidents caused by cellphones and other gadgets? Are there fewer accidents caused by people fiddling for CDs in the glove compartment or trying to find a good AM channel? Are there fewer accidents caused by frustrated people trying to find their way on a fold-out map?

It would imply that they have increased by one third, not one quarter.

Re:But has it increased by 25%? (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719836)

It would imply that they have increased by one third, not one quarter.

Yes, we all love Dilbert, too. Remember how he made himself unattractive to Alice with that comment?

Re:But has it increased by 25%? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36719876)

You can easily operate a CD player or radio with one hand blind, so you don't have to take your eyes off the road. That's almost impossible to do with modern gadgets due to complex UIs, lack of tactile feedback and tiny displays that require a lot of attention.

Re:But has it increased by 25%? (2)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719950)

Actually, yes... I remember reading a report in the newspaper a number of years ago that indicated an unexpected and fairly rapid increase in the number of accidents that were happening as cell phone use started become quite popular, and that if one were to simply not count the accidents that were connected with cell phone use while driving, the number of remaining accidents were well within any increase that could be perceived of as typical. The actual percentage increase was not mentioned... only that it was unusually high and unexpected. It was then that I remember the notion of a law banning cell phone use while driving was first brought up where I live (and hotly debated).

While the problems caused can be equally generated by fidgeting with the radio dial or fumbling through the glove compartment for something, the statistics don't indicate that those activities are especially problematic. In truth, of course, any task that focuses one's attention away from driving can be extremely dangerous.

Re:But has it increased by 25%? (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720408)

Actually, yes... I remember reading a report in the newspaper a number of years ago that indicated an unexpected and fairly rapid increase in the number of accidents that were happening as cell phone use started become quite popular, and that if one were to simply not count the accidents that were connected with cell phone use while driving, the number of remaining accidents were well within any increase that could be perceived of as typical. The actual percentage increase was not mentioned... only that it was unusually high and unexpected. It was then that I remember the notion of a law banning cell phone use while driving was first brought up where I live (and hotly debated).

Hmm, quick check of the US Census data on automobile accident rates shows that they have been slowly declining since 1990.

Traffic death rates, ditto.

In other words, no real sign of a jump based on cell phone usage.

Oh, and it should be noted that if you assume that cell phone usage has been a problem since before 1990, the accident stats all show a big drop between 1980 and 1990....

Re:But has it increased by 25%? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720014)

Does this mean that the number of car accidents has increased by 25?

It means its more socially acceptable to tell people you were distracted by an incoming SMS message than you were scratching your itchy rear.

It means its more socially acceptable to tell people its a terrible shame that your boss requires you to carry and respond to a cellphone, than to say you were just plain ole spacing out or staring at a hottie on the sidewalk.

It means its more socially acceptable to tell people your cellphone ringtone startled you, than to admit you were driving sleepy and nodded off.

Remember when the media told people that anytime a toyota crashed, it was because the accelerator stuck? The result of the reports was, the reported stats indicated toyota crashes were caused by stuck accelerators, until about a week after the media stopped chasing that ambulance, and the reports dropped to their normal just about zero...

I am certain if the media stopped reporting that gadgets magically caused accidents because they are evil voodoo totems straight from the devil leading us on the path to hell, the REPORTED gadget-caused accident rate would drop to just about zero and we'd return to the real, true causes... "I was spacing out" "I drifted off to sleep" "I was screaming at my kids in the back seat"

Re:But has it increased by 25%? (4, Insightful)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720194)

With 32,708 deaths on US roads last year, word games won't solve the problem.

Obviously analysing the cause of every accident and endeavouring to eliminate the greatest causes by percentage will have the greatest impact upon reducing road tolls.

The the current generation of youth addicted to cell phones and texting, in fact taking priority over every other activity (they will practically stop anything they are doing to answer the phone and their use has to be actively banned to prevent this occurring).

Whilst the telecom and their marketdroids benefit by this action, this distraction at critical moments whilst driving causes problems, problem that lead to death and debilitating injury. Obviously ensuring people remain as focused as possible upon driving will reduce car accidents. Perhaps greater personal liability for causing an accident is warranted, some time cooling your lead foot in a low security detention facility (something that insurance won't cover). Perhaps further reductions to speed limits. Perhaps subsidised taxi's. Perhaps expanded, safer and cleaner public transport. Perhaps, lateral thinking, like easier access to 'quality' high density housing to promote foot traffic.

Re:But has it increased by 25%? (1)

bth (635955) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720424)

If 50% of the accidents are caused by men, does that mean men shouldn't be allowed to drive? There are standards in the scientific community for how to do valid prospective and retrospective studies. You can then measure whether using or not using something actually increases (or not) your probability of experiencing the undesirable event.

Re:But has it increased by 25%? (1)

jandersen (462034) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720204)

Does this mean that the number of car accidents has increased by 25?

No - the only reasonable meaning one can put into it is that they went through the data for a number of accidents and found that gadget use was involved in 25% of them.

If you include cars as devices (3, Funny)

pizza_milkshake (580452) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719672)

it skyrockets to 100%

Re:If you include cars as devices (2)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719808)

If you include motorcycles and trucks it's 125%!

Re:If you include cars as devices (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36719972)

If you include bikes, tricycles, and mobile-biped accidents that do not necessarily involve an automobile, it's over NINETHOUSAAAAND%

Re:If you include cars as devices (1)

harrytuttle777 (1720146) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720042)

Absolutely. Cars kill thousands of people each year. When can we get some politicians to act responsibly and do the right thing. Think of the children. More kids die each year in automobile accidents than they do at abortion clinics. We need to start holding the automobile, and asphalt companies responsible. These companies are making millions of dollars off the blood of our innocent children. When will this assault on the children cease? I ask you. Which politician has the courage to stand up and do what is right.

I have also noticed a direct correlation between automobiles and faggotry. We, in the United States, have an epidemic of faggotry. It wasn't always the case. Today cars are like fags, they are everywhere. In the 50's and 60's there were fewer cars, and fewer fags. In the 1700's there were no cars on the road, and no fags( at least none that would admit it). Sure correlation does not imply causation, but can we take the chance. We sure as hell shouldn't be taking chances with our kids, and we should not be exposing the population for potential vectors for gayness.

Yes cars are gay. When you go to work in the morning, you have a choice. Do you sit endlessly in your pussy mobile built and designed by someone with more mechanical knowledge than you, or do you man up, and brave the onslaught of careless drivers in a suicidal dash to save 15 seconds of your compute on your bicycle. Yes Bicycles are manly. Bicycles expose you to danger and the elements. You become one with the bike and the road. You feel the wind rushing through your hair. You become and active participant in the morning commute, rather than just allowing yourself to be ferried like a ferry to your gay ass job.

I have evidence too. The Hollandish (aka the Dutch) are known for being exceptionally tall, good looking, hard drinking, and endowed with long hard dicks. There is nothing gay about them. They all drive bicycles, because they know cars are for faggots who do not care for their children.

I don't see the point of texting while driving? (1)

madhatter256 (443326) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719706)

Seriously, why do people do that? Talk to the person using your phone rather than texting.

I have hands free bluetooth built into my car with voice command. It's soo much easier than using a headset.

Although I'm all for natural selection....

Re:I don't see the point of texting while driving? (1)

inglorion_on_the_net (1965514) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719908)

I have hands free bluetooth built into my car with voice command. It's soo much easier than using a headset.

My guess is that people are too cheap to buy the equipment that lets them use their phones hands-free.

Also, a lot of people think that they _can_ safely use their phones while driving. They know that accidents happen when people do that, but they always happen to _other_ people, you know.

Some people are too stupid to realize the danger. Others are too intelligent. Others know it's dangerous, but it won't matter if you do it just this once. Taken together, I fear people who will text or talk on their phones while driving are a rather large percentage of all drivers.

Although I'm all for natural selection....

So am I. Now, if only there were a way to make it only apply to people doing stupid things ... The problem is, in traffic, it's common for innocent people to get harmed because others were being stupid.

Re:I don't see the point of texting while driving? (2)

localman57 (1340533) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720010)

Although I'm all for natural selection....

So am I. Now, if only there were a way to make it only apply to people doing stupid things ... The problem is, in traffic, it's common for innocent people to get harmed because others were being stupid.

I don't think natrual selection ever worked this way. I assume lots of the people over time who have been "unselected" took a bunch of others with them. Gotta take the good with the bad.

Re:I don't see the point of texting while driving? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720198)

Also, a lot of people think that they _can_ safely use their phones while driving. They know that accidents happen when people do that, but they always happen to _other_ people, you know.

Naah, its more of a slippery slope thing. The media pounds it into your head that its terrifying and you'll kill people. You start with texting perfectly safely while using the car as an expensive chair, sitting in a parking lot, engine off and transmission in park. Once your heart rate is normal in that situation, you try texting with the engine running, but still in "Park". After that hurdle, you're texting at stop lights. Then you only need to enter one more word when the light turns green, so why not?

Next thing you know, you're going 80 MPH in dense fog weaving on the freeway while voting on american idol. After all, the media lied when they said it was dangerous to text in a car ... while its in "park" ... so they must be lying about texting while freeway driving, right?

Re:I don't see the point of texting while driving? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36719948)

I don't see the point of texting at all, but then get off my lawn. Texting behind the wheel is nothing more than a selfish indulgence in risky (to the point of lethal) behavior. No excuse for it. No need for it.

Re:I don't see the point of texting while driving? (0)

Moryath (553296) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719952)

Sometimes people can't talk but can text.

Like when they're hiding in a closet, waiting to make a break for it once last night's date convinces the boyfriend who got home a bit too early to go take a shower.

(Actually have had a friend who got into this situation. We were laughing hysterically when he texted back about why he couldn't talk).

Re:I don't see the point of texting while driving? (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719968)

>>>Talk to the person using your [hands-free] phone rather than texting

It's also more cost effective. 20 cents per minute of two-way conversation versus 15 cents for a short text. (Plus you get to hear her sexy voice.)

Re:I don't see the point of texting while driving? (1)

Idbar (1034346) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720062)

Talk to the person using your phone rather than texting.

There are some times that you can't afford to talk and quick messages can be very useful, just as it was push-to-talk some time ago for me.
Independently, well, the fact that people try to do it, and worst of all, hiding because it's not legal, make them even more prone to mistakes for keeping their eyes off of the road.

Although I'm all for natural selection....

Yes, what about one of them crash into you and you die? So much for natural selection!

Re:I don't see the point of texting while driving? (1)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720094)

Hands free is not good enough. The major problem is not that you're holding the phone, it's that your mind is on the call instead of the road - you're not distracted because you're holding something with your hand, you're distracted because you're concentrating on the call, and for a lot of reasons it's more distracting than merely having someone in the car that you're talking to.

Source: Study: More Dangerous to Drive on Cell Phone than Chat with Passenger [ergoweb.com]

Before you say you're capable of multi-tasking, see what's currently the first post (scores of 1+): Here come the "But not special *ME*!" posts.

Source: Hands-free phones no safer than hand-held: US study [caradvice.com.au]

Honesly, what's worse - holding a beverage cup in your hand and taking the occasional sip, or talking to someone on the phone, hands free or not? It's the mental distraction, not the physical one... you need to pay attention to the road, and hands free doesn't help you do that.

Re:I don't see the point of texting while driving? (1)

schwinn8 (982110) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720292)

Exactly. The problem is ANY distracted driving. Once your mind is on something else, it's not on the task of driving. Hands-free doesn't even solve the problem, since you are still mentally distracted: Hands-free cell phone usage equally dangerous while driving [yahoo.com]

The point is, pay attention to the road first... not the phonecall or other person. The priority needs to be the road, not anything else in the car.

From The Report (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36719714)

How does distraction affect crash risk? The limited research suggests that:
** Cell phone use increases crash risk to some extent but there is no consensus on the size of the increase.
** There is no conclusive evidence on whether hands-free cell phone use is less risky than hand-held use.
** Texting probably increases crash risk more than cell phone use.
** The effects of other distractions on crash risk cannot be estimated with any confidence.

Sounds really cut and dried.

Control Group? (0)

retroworks (652802) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719720)

What about the 75% of accidents which were not correlated with gadgetry? And what about the gadgetry in use while driving which did not create an accident? I have seen enough weaving on the road that I don't wish to blindly defend people using GPS while driving. But what percentage of people who had an accident had brown eyes? Or is this based on the claim of the driver, which would discount a) liars (drinkers?) who have been in accidents, and b) fatal accidents.

I think we need to figure out what is going on. When car blinkers and car radios were first introduced, people had accidents because they didn't know how to use them, and people driving stick who learned to drive automatic may be a risk element too.

Re:Control Group? (2)

black soap (2201626) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719878)

Those people who distract themselves with gadgets and get into accidents are probably the bad drivers who would have managed to get into accidents anyway.

Re:Control Group? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720248)

Those people who distract themselves with gadgets and get into accidents are probably the bad drivers who would have managed to get into accidents anyway.

... by being distracted by hottie on sidewalk, by being distracted by billboard advertising their favorite TV show, by being distracted by screaming at their kids in the back seat, by being distracted by the music on the radio...

The problem isn't the good drivers are being distracted, the problem is bad drivers who can be distracted by ANYTHING. Take away the gadgets, they'll find another way to create mayhem on the roads.

Re:Control Group? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36720048)

According to the study, 25% to 50% of the time the average driver is distracted (see Executive Summary of the report).

Only 25% of accidents involve a distracted driver.

Doesn't that mean distracted drivers are less likely to be involved in accidents?

I don't doubt it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36719722)

I almost hit the car in front of me when I read this.

Notice.... (2)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719724)

How the highway safety folks....

A) Always lead with the high side number. 15-25% so its either this number, or as low as half that. Yes, clearly the high number is the one to report, alone.
B) do not even an attempt is made to distinguish which class of accidents these are. Does it cause more little heavy traffic bumps and scratches? Or does it account for many major accidents? Plan to tell us? not today clearly.
C) Mention that banning cell phones or texting doesn't change this, and fail to connect the dots to ask the question as to whether this has been true since the freaking radio was installed

Course, if they did any of that, it may not make their jobs sound very relevant.

Re:Notice.... (1)

Moryath (553296) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719934)

C) Mention that banning cell phones or texting doesn't change this, and fail to connect the dots to ask the question as to whether this has been true since the freaking radio was installed

Ironically, attention to What The Fuck They Are Doing While Driving has been going down since the automatic transmission was invented. People don't have to pay attention to the state of their car (speed AND tachometer reading and associated gear choice), they just go "ooh put it in drive, gas=go, vroom vroom."

Likewise, in cars and also (ironically) in Football, an increase in the number of safety devices in the vehicle has caused an increase, not decrease, in the number and severity of crashes/injuries. The problem? In both cases, a significant portion of the population involved behave even more recklessly, believing that they are now "safe" to do so because the "safety devices" will save them.

Antilock brakes, for instance, led to far more rear-end collisions on freeways at higher speeds, because most of the idiots out there thought "ooh, I have antilock brakes, I can stop on a dime" when antilock brakes actually don't cut your stop distance that much, they just help make a safer stop by (within limits!) allowing you to maintain control rather than going into an uncontrolled skid.

Re:Notice.... (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720436)

How the highway safety folks....

B) do not even an attempt is made to distinguish which class of accidents these are. Does it cause more little heavy traffic bumps and scratches? Or does it account for many major accidents? Plan to tell us? not today clearly.

Actually, yes. From TFP:

NHTSA estimates that 16% of fatal crashes and 20% of injury crashes in 2009 involved at least one distracted driver (NHTSA, 2010a).

From a another study quoted in the paper:

Farmer et al. (2010) combined the fourfold increase in crash risk while using a cell phone from the McEvoy et al. and Redelmeier and Tibshirani studies with the 7% cell phone use rate while driving obtained in a telephone survey to conclude that cell phone use caused 1.3 million crashes in 2008, or about 22% of all crashes, 19% of all fatal crashes, and 23% of all injury crashes. The National Safety Council (NSC) (2010a, 2010b) used similar methods to produce a similar estimate: 25% of all crashes are caused by cell phones.

And as to the question (in a nearby thread) of additional accidents due to distraction by gadgets . . .

Wilson and Stimpson (2010) compared trends in distracted driving fatalities recorded in FARS with trends in cell phone subscriptions and text message volume. They observed that distracted driving fatalities and text messaging both increased substantially from 2005 to 2008. Their multivariate regression analysis estimated that increased texting since 2001 produced over 16,000 additional traffic fatalities.

Addressing the problem (2)

rocketman768 (838734) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719730)

... and how to effectively address it

Uh, stop using gadgets while driving?

Re:Addressing the problem (1)

inglorion_on_the_net (1965514) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719956)

Uh, stop using gadgets while driving?

That may work, but you saying it on Slashdot probably isn't going to help implement that solution.

I'm actually curious: what is the penalty you get for causing an accident by being involved in activities other than driving while you're in control of the vehicle? This is a case where I suspect that steep penalties may actually help, e.g. "Don't use your phone while driving, or your driver's license will be revoked if you get into an accident."

Re:Addressing the problem (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720076)

So you would like to prioritize this over other reasons to have an accident, like speeding, driving without corrective lenses, driving with an injury, driving while drunk, and driving while sleepy?

Re:Addressing the problem (1)

inglorion_on_the_net (1965514) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720294)

So you would like to prioritize this over other reasons to have an accident, like speeding, driving without corrective lenses, driving with an injury, driving while drunk, and driving while sleepy?

Not necessarily, no. Apologies if I gave that impression. I think the prevailing principle should be that if you are in control, you are responsible for the safety of your passengers, yourself, and everyone else. Given that, you should not be driving if you can't see well enough, are too sleepy, etc.

As far as enforcement goes, it gets a little trickier, because what exactly is "too sleepy", how do you establish that, and how do you deal with the fact that it is basically a judgment call, and there are various things that affect that judgment (for example, feeling less sleepy because you've had coffee)? However, some things are rather clear cut, such as, for example, having inoperative brakes or lights on the car, breaking rules such as which side of the road to drive on, red lights, etc.

I think that if someone does something clearly wrong, that they knew to be wrong, and got into an accident because of it, they have demonstrated that they cannot be trusted to drive safely, and revocation of their license would be appropriate.

Why do police get exempted then? (1)

whoda (569082) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719748)

If it's so bad and causes so many accidents, why are police allowed to use their personal cellphone while driving?
Don't tell me it's their driver training, plenty of civilians can attend those classes and that doesn't exempt them.

Re:Why do police get exempted then? (1)

Toam (1134401) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719932)

It kind of bothers me that the same rules apply to the same people (read: civilians) regardless of driver training.

Re:Why do police get exempted then? (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719958)

"Don't tell me it's their driver training, plenty of civilians can attend those classes and that doesn't exempt them."

Really? lots of civilians attend police drivers training courses? I dont see many civillians taking training on skid pads or defensive driving.
I think you just have no clue as to what kind of training cops get.

Re:Why do police get exempted then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36720168)

"Don't tell me it's their driver training, plenty of civilians can attend those classes and that doesn't exempt them."

Really? lots of civilians attend police drivers training courses? I dont see many civillians taking training on skid pads or defensive driving.
I think you just have no clue as to what kind of training cops get.

There are VIP chauffeur classes available pretty much countrywide that teach escape and evasion, with a practical test at the end.
There's a place in Michigan you can go and do skid pad training for semi-trucks with multiple trailers attached.

To get a concealed weapons permit where I live, you have to go to the police training center and take firearms classes sitting next to police officers.

But, civilians can't access anything like that. Whatever.

Re:Why do police get exempted then? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36719964)

Since when do laws apply to authority?

Clearly, more studies need to be done... (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719758)

Absolutely! Gotta keep that money flowing to study the clearly obvious..

What is needed is an autopilot for cars.. Driving is the distraction

gadget while driving == driving while intoxicated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36719790)

As far as I'm concerned the danger posed by someone texting/chatting on a cell while driving is exactly the same as the danger posed by a drunk / high driver, and the penalties should be equivalent. Needless to day this would be a very politically unpopular ruling, despite that fact that the dangers are equivalent

Re:gadget while driving == driving while intoxicat (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720254)

Translation: "As far as I'm concerned, the danger posed by a drunk/high driver are the same as any other driver, and the penalties should be equivalent. Needless to say, this would be a very unpopular ruling despite the fact that the dangers are equivalent."

It would be unpopular because they aren't comparable. When you are distracted while driving, you're distracted for a few seconds. An accident only occurs if something happens to occur during those few seconds. When you are drunk, you are incapacitated for the entire duration of your trip. This makes drunk driving much worse than distracted driving.

Also, everyone gets distracted once in a while by something, whether it's texting on a cell phone or shouting at the person you disagree with on talk radio. So in effect, you're arguing that one particular distraction should be singled out, when there's no evidence that it won't simply be replaced by other distractions.

Put another way, 25% of car accidents are linked to gadget use. Better than one in ten drivers are using cell phones at any given moment. This means that this is only a mere 2.5x more likely than you'd expect by purely random chance, and probably less than that if you take into account that teen drivers are much more likely to use cell phones, and are much more likely to have accidents. In short, it is quite likely that this correlation can be explained away completely as mere chance. Probably not completely, but most of it—so much so that passing laws on the subject is unlikely to have a significant impact on accidents.

This is borne out by California's passage of an anti-texting law. Although traffic fatalities went down, they went down by roughly the average amount that they have been dropping each year for the decade prior, suggesting that such laws have minimal impact.

Worse than DUIs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36719820)

This isn't a popular comment but think about it... Look at all the money that is spent going after DUIs, but hardly any is spent going after distracted drivers. Look at how much money someone spends after being convicted of a DUI. Not think about how much someone spends after being convicted after driving while distracted. DUIs grab headlines, but someone playing with the GPS, talking on the phone, etc does not. Are we looking in the wrong places? Organizations such as MADD have a powerful lobby. There isn't a version of MADD - Mothers Against Distracted Drivers

Re:Worse than DUIs? (1)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720158)

You make a good point; I think that while a lot of us think driving while using a cellphone (either talking or texting) is just incredibly stupid, so many people from all walks of life are guilty, and they know they won't stop if penalties are increased, so don't want to make it potentially worse on themselves (as if killing someone isn't bad enough). I bet a lot of those MADD drivers use cellphones while driving, as do their husbands and older kids - but talking on a cellphone is also not morally objectionable like drinking alcohol is to some people.

What percentage of accidents are caused by ... (0)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719832)

following the defective directions of a GPS?
  "TURN LEFT NOW! " (off the road and into a lake).

Just like alcohol related accidents. (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719848)

If anyone in the car has been drinking, or there's a 3 week old empty beer can in the bed of the truck -- It's an alcohol related accident; Even if the driver is sober/designated, and/or those open cans are in-route to the recyclers.

I was once made to perform a field sobriety check at a DUI checkpoint because a passenger, my brother, was intoxicated (I was assumed drunk by relation, I suppose) -- I noted the officer's mention of my Sansa Media player to another, apparently this was a Gadget related 4th amendment violation.
--
Mrs. Doubtfire: He was quite fond of the drink. It was the drink that killed him.
Miranda: How awful, he was an alcoholic?
Mrs. Doubtfire: No, he was hit by a Guinness truck, so it was quite literally "the drink that killed him".

Gadgets are not just cell phones (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719850)

And gadgets have been around forever. How many accidents are caused by people messing with their radio? Touch screens are really, really a bad idea, and I'm always disappointed when there are so few, good head units that have physical knobs for adjusting playback and volume.

The article seems to be more focused on the even more general "distractions":

...distractions affect our driving performance and how drivers are typically distracted most of time. One thing that stood out of the report was the claim that being distracted was the cause of 15 to 25% of all accidents

Duh. Passengers talking, kids doing practically everything kids do, Billboards, airports (I fear for my life when my former Air Force father-in-law passes a military airport), food, parcels shifting around, or just plain daydreaming. It doesn't have to be modern electronics causing the issues, they just add to the cacophony of distractions that exist.

Re:Gadgets are not just cell phones (1)

SirWhoopass (108232) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720144)

Working in the field of transportation safety research (including distraction) my observation is that people over-estimate the control of the device as a problem (punching in the phone number), and under-estimate the mental resources dedicated to the task (the conversation). This is why radios, fast food, and other "distractions" don't generally produce the same level of effect as cell phones.

It doesn't make a lot of resources to push the button (assuming you already know how to operate the device) or shove a cheeseburger in your mouth. This is why hands-free shows the same level of distraction as hand-held phones, and both are worse than other tasks.

As to why in-car conversations are less of a problem than cell conversations... no one has any convincing proof. One is the difference between self-paced and forced-pace tasks. Others theorize a "day dreaming" state in which the person dedicates a lot of mental resources to put themselves into the remote conversation. Adults are the best at safely maintaining in-car conversations. Teenagers are significantly more dangerous with other teens in the vehicle.

Your comment about your father-in-law is interesting, and (in my opinion) a great example of distraction. He isn't operating a gadget, he is getting lost mentally. This is the issue with phones.

Re:Gadgets are not just cell phones (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720242)

"How many accidents are caused by people messing with their radio?"

Statistically, not as many as are caused by that as are by cell phone use.

Also... while it is true that the introduction of car radios resulted in an increase in accidents, this increase subsided when preprogrammed station buttons were invented, which made it possible for people to adjust their radio to their favorite stations wholly by tactile sensation, and they did not have to divert their eyes and attention from the road.

Of course, *ANY* task that diverts one's attention from driving is problematic... it's actually entirely unrelated to cell phone use, in particular... however, I remember reading a report a number of years ago that was discussing the unforeseen recent rise in the number of accidents and noted that if one discounted the accidents that were connected with cell phone use while driving, then the remaining number of accidents was well within any increase that would be considered typical. Since the general public does not seem to have the mental wherewithal to make intelligent decisions about what activities are safe to do while driving, laws prohibiting the most problematic ones were created.

Expect this situation to happen again when other new technologies are invented which have a statistical impact in the number of distracted drivers.

I always find it interesting.... (1)

Capt James McCarthy (860294) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719852)

That even though I live in a 'hands free driving' state, that whenever I pass a police officer, they have a cell phone up to their ear. So there is a law in place and I don't think I've seen it enforced. Does talking on the cell phone or texting while driving affect the driver? For most folks, hell yes. I can't count the times that I've come up on a driver who's going too slow in the far left lane, or going outside their lane, and passing them only to see them talking on their phone.

But the true 'root' cause of these accidents is stupidity, not the device itself. They were not paying attention. Be it a cell phone, reading a paper, putting on make up, or looking for their lighter. Looking away from the road for anything can cause an accident.

Re:I always find it interesting.... (1)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720234)

That even though I live in a 'hands free driving' state, that whenever I pass a police officer, they have a cell phone up to their ear. So there is a law in place and I don't think I've seen it enforced. Does talking on the cell phone or texting while driving affect the driver? For most folks, hell yes.

Yes, I see cops violating the law all the time... speeding when they obviously are not on a call, failing to signal, tailgating... As for your last sentence, it's not "most follks," it's everybody .

But the true 'root' cause of these accidents is stupidity, not the device itself. They were not paying attention. Be it a cell phone, reading a paper, putting on make up, or looking for their lighter. Looking away from the road for anything can cause an accident.

It's not just looking away, though. Your eyes can be on the road and you still not paying attention because your brain is processing the phone conversation you're having. I gave links above, I won't repeat them - hands free, for example, does little to stop the distraction.

If you're looking for a distraction... (1)

Thruen (753567) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719864)

...you'll find it. I don't think the issue is the availability of gadgets that drivers will distract themselves with, I think it's drivers who look for something better to do while they're driving. It's easy to pin it on gadgets now because everyone has one and it's the go-to distraction, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who's witnessed the occasional morning driver with one hand holding a coffee and the wheel while the other holds the newspaper to the steering wheel. Now, as for how to address the issue, I'm at a loss. Without having a police officer in every passenger seat, I don't see any way to enforce any laws against distracted driving in general.

Bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36719880)

It is not dangerous at all to text while driving. I am driving right now and am not at all distr

What about cigarettes, at 50%? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36719912)

I read somewhere that approx. 50% of auto accidents involve someone who was smoking. So, will they ban smoking? Oh wait a minute, they're trying that already. And then of course there's CB Radio. Nobody has ever tried banning that, have they?

There, I fixed that for you... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36719938)

Have the auto manufacturer's build most cars with ( and some cars without, I guess ) the wire mesh used to make a faraday cage. This will keep wireless signals out of the car. No phone calls, no texting, no twittering or facebooking when in the car, period.

Re:There, I fixed that for you... (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720050)

Great so now the driver opens their window and holds their cell phone out of it. That'll improve things.

sloppy conclusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36719942)

The linked report from the Governor's Highway Safety Association does not present a details of the methodology and results of a study, but rather refers to one- or two-sentence summaries ("20 pct of injury crashes in 2009 involved at least one distracted driver") from several studies conducted by NHTSA and others. The term "distracted driver" seems to be defined as a driver looking away from the forward highway, so that can encompass all kinds of activities in addition to electronic gadgetry: eating, talking or reacting to passengers, applying makeup, staring at someone or something on the sidewalk or roadside, etc.

But from this the press will likely seize on "25 pct of accidents involve drivers distracted by electronic gadgets."

The remaining 75% (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36719960)

The following, mostly non-overlapping groups were also discovered. 20% were people driving drunk / high, 15% (yes, 15% of all accidents) were caused by a driver from New Jersey or New York just driving as they do normally on roads outside their states, another 15% were simply inexperienced teenagers (hey, it does take practice), and the remaining 25% were women checking their makeup in the mirror while reading the newspaper and sipping on a Starbucks coffee in an SUV (which, if I hadn’t seen near-accidents caused by this several times, I would think this was some kind of stereotype).

Bait and Switch study (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719974)

The study talks about the fact that distracted driving involves more than just cellphones, then most of their recomendations involve restricting the use of cellphones while driving. When they talk about the only objective basis they have for analyzing the impact of distracted driving (the actual accident reports) they lump all distracted driving into one category and do not give you any idea of what percentage of those involve cellphone use and what percentage involve other things (like changing the radio station). This is the problem I see with all attempts to push laws increasing restrictions on cellphone use in cars, they either do not point out all the other things that people do routinely while driving that are just as big of a distraction as cellphones, or if they do, they use the impact of those things on the incidence of accidents to support restrictions on cellphone use while driving.
The thing is, driving is dangerous. People need to be reminded on a regular basis that they need to pay attention to what is going on around them when they are driving. New laws are not needed.

Too general (1)

Toam (1134401) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719988)

Note: I've not read the pdf as it isn't loading for me.

I hate when studies like this consider accidents due to "cell phone use". That is far too general. You need to split it up into talking and texting. As much as I'm sure that talking on a phone does increase your risk of having an accident, that effect would be trivial when compared to the risk increase due to texting. However, people text with their phones in their lap, so it can't be seen from a passing police car so they have a blanket ban on phone use and fine people for talking on their phones when that isn't really the problem.

Not just cellphones (1)

Tx (96709) | more than 2 years ago | (#36719996)

FTA: "Distracted driving definitions. Distracted driving immediately brings to
mind cell phones and texting, and perhaps use of other electronic devices.
But there are many more driving distractions: activities like eating, changing
a CD, or talking to other passengers; billboards or other objects outside the
car; even planning the day’s work, rehashing an emotional moment from the
previous night, or just daydreaming. It is useful to begin by defining what
distracted driving means. "

Glad to see this study acknowledges that there are an awful lot of distractions other than cellphones, most of which can't reasonably be banned. It also mentions that there's no evidence that cellphone or texting bans have any effect on accident rate. So focussing all attention on banning cellphone usage is not the solution, or at least not the only solution. Personally thing most likely to distract me is incompetent drivers who don't know which lane they're supposed to be in, when to signal, or when to join a roundabout. Learn to drive, people.

Reading on a kindle while driving (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720034)

A few days ago I over took another car on a high way and the driver had a kindel on his stearing wheel.

Obvioulsy he was driving and reading same time ...

Scary!

Re:Reading on a kindle while driving (1)

Cro Magnon (467622) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720186)

Before kindles, idiots were trying to read newspapers or books while driving (I actually saw some of that).

More Research Warranted (1)

inglorion_on_the_net (1965514) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720038)

Despite all that has been written about driver distraction, there is still a lot that we do not know, Much of the research is incomplete or contradictory. Clearly, more studies need to be done addressing both the scope of the problem and how to effectively address it

This is somewhat surprising, given that governments around the world have taken steps to ban gadget use (especially talking on the phone) while driving. You would think they would do this based on evidence that it actually posed a significant safety risk, but if that were the case, you would also expect that research would clearly show this. Clearly, something is fishy here.

Personally, I like to focus on driving when I'm at the wheel, because I can't bear the thought of getting into (not necessarily even causing) an accident because I wasn't paying attention. Clearly, other people are not so worried. And, apparently, it's difficult to clearly established if they should be.

Why is it even necessary to argue this point?! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36720044)

The replies to articles like this one always confuse me. It might be because I'm a gauche European, but I wonder what's wrong with Americans: a quick calculation shows that per billion km travelled, 3 Dutch (I used that for comparison 'cause that's where I'm from) people die on average each year. 7 Americans do. If you can't see that texting while driving interferes with your ability to drive, and think that prohibiting you from doing so is depriving you of your 'freedoms', I sincerely hope you hit a tree, and not some oncoming motorist...

Not to bad... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36720056)

This is not so dangerous, I'm driving right now and I can say there aren't any acc.. Ahhhgggggggggggggggggg !!!!!!!%&/($&)$dhfg%456gt

Gadgets are not the cause of accidents (1)

grimmjeeper (2301232) | more than 2 years ago | (#36720348)

Drivers are the cause of the accidents.

Drivers were getting into accidents long before there were any gadgets in the cars, even radios. Drivers let themselves get distracted by a lot of different things. They can even get distracted by nothing at all. Driving along in your mundane commute, it's easy to start daydreaming and not pay attention to what goes on around you.

But it's not just distracted driving that causes accidents. Overconfidence and impatience are both big factors. People who think they can drive so much faster with a cell phone in one hand and a latte in the other, just because they haven't crashed lately, cause a lot of accidents. People in too much of a hurry to drive safely cause a number of accidents as well. Let's not forget intoxication though. That too contributes significantly.

The thing is, though, that none of this is really new. These problems have existed since the invention of automobiles. And they all have a common source. The driver. Drivers cause accidents. Aside from the occasional mechanical failure allowing a car to roll down a hill on its own, cars don't get in accidents by themselves. There's (almost) always a driver behind the wheel when the car is in an accident.

I don't think it makes sense to blame the gadget for the accident. The idiot using the gadget would be distracted for some other reason if they weren't using the gadget.

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