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Why the NTSB Is Wrong About Cellphones

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the illusion-of-perfect-safety dept.

Cellphones 1003

YIAAL writes "After a multi-car pileup involving two school buses, the NTSB is urging states to ban all cellphones and personal electronic devices in cars, even hands-free phones. But on looking at the NTSB report, it appears that the big problem was a school bus driver who was following too closely, and another school bus driver who wasn't watching the road. Why is the NTSB targeting gadgets instead of bad drivers?"

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multitasking (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38387436)

About 1% of the population is capable of multitasking. Only they can focus on their gadget and the road. The rest should stay as far away from that as possible.

Dunning-Kruger effect (5, Informative)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387622)

About 1% of the population is capable of multitasking. Only they can focus on their gadget and the road. The rest should stay as far away from that as possible.

According to published studies [bbc.co.uk] , those who are actually good at multitasking generally consider themselves bad at it, and tend to avoid it. On the other hand, those who consider themselves good at multitasking are rather bad at it. Yet another manifestation of the Dunning-Kruger effect [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Dunning-Kruger effect (5, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387738)

In other words if you have the brain power to be good at it, you are smart enough to know that you shouldn't do it. As you can feel your normal attention drain while trying to multi-task.

Obligatory conclusion (0)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387920)

Thus 1% of the world population is smart?
I'm Ron Burgundy?

Re:multitasking (5, Insightful)

jdgeorge (18767) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387630)

Anonymous Coward is correct. Regardless of this particular incident, there at least two good reasons why it is bad for people to use their phones while driving: Phone use while driving slows down traffic [utah.edu] , and drivers using their phones are more likely to be in an accident.

My read is that the drama of this incident gave the NTSB the opportunity to make a recommendation that would otherwise risk political repercussions from the 10,000-text-message-per-month set.

Re:multitasking (4, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387844)

Texting while driving is something which shouldn't be legal. It's not a matter of morality, it's dangerous enough that it should be banned. Same goes for talking on the cellphone without a handset. Eating lunch and really anything else that's distracting and requires one to take a hand off the wheel.

Now, when it comes to talking with a handset, listening to the radio etc., there's room for debate. Personally I don't do any of those things because the last I heard they were significant risk factors for having an accident. Should those be banned, I really don't know.

The problem ultimately is that the laws regarding motor vehicles are lax and ultimately it's not just the driver that can get killed, it's the other drivers, passengers and pedestrians that are also at risk.

Re:multitasking (5, Insightful)

Skarecrow77 (1714214) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387924)

Texting while driving is something which shouldn't be legal. It's not a matter of morality, it's dangerous enough that it should be banned. Same goes for talking on the cellphone without a handset. Eating lunch and really anything else that's distracting and requires one to take a hand off the wheel.

So we're banning smoking in cars, manual transmissions, and the handicapped now?

Another security theater excess... (4, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387440)

This is exactly what I thought when I saw pictures. The buses ran over the kid who was texting. Not one but two of them.
How did he cause that?

Now had the kid been on the phone (hand held or hands free) instead of texting even his accident would not have happened,
because he would have had his eyes on the road.

Its my contention that forcing cell phone out of the hands (some states even forbid hands free phoning) represents a cure
worse than the disease. Too many people fear a ticket for talking, and they compensate by texting from their lap (or below
the level of window). Texting out of sight takes your eyes off the road. Talking on the phone, while still a distraction, allows
your eyes to be on the road.

Re:Another security theater excess... (2, Informative)

InsightIn140Bytes (2522112) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387634)

I think western people have it too easy too. If you have ever been to Asia you know how chaotic the traffic and driving can be. Yet it's an organized chaotism, and works out just fine. Most of the times when people hit something it's a dog, and that just leaves bruises on your legs and arms. Now, I don't really want to drive there and that's why I take tuktuks or go on back of my gf's scooter. But out of necessity they're much better drivers than you see in west. Stuff like this [andamanadventures.com] isn't uncommon either.

Re:Another security theater excess... (1)

B'Trey (111263) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387672)

Re:Another security theater excess... (5, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387718)

This is exactly what I thought when I saw pictures. The buses ran over the kid who was texting. Not one but two of them. How did he cause that?

Well from the article:

A 19-year-old pickup driver rear-ended a truck, and then was rear-ended by two school buses. Two people, including the pickup driver, were killed, and 38 were injured. Although there’s no evidence as to whether the pickup driver was texting at the moment of the crash, he had sent or received 11 texts in the previous 11 minutes.

You conveniently neglected to mention that the 19-year old 'kid' (he should be treated as an adult in my book) was irresponsible and caused the initial accident which then caused the pile up. Was it the bus drivers' fault for following too closely? You bet. But if that initial accident from the cell phone hadn't happened, that whole pile up probably wouldn't have happened either. People follow closely in rush hour traffic and it's bad driving. But maybe if that 'kid' had even put his break lights on, the buses would have also and the collision would have been just a rear ending. You concentrate on the car in front of you and if you are too close, you depend on them to give you some warning. If there's no warning, you both fail.

Re:Another security theater excess... (5, Insightful)

Brian Feldman (350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387982)

No, start over. How the fuck does a rear-end collision in front of you cause a rear-end collision behind you? Either the buses could have stopped, regardless of the collision, or they could not have stopped, regardless of the collision.

Cell jammer (0, Flamebait)

retech (1228598) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387444)

If cell phones are allowed on the road, I'd like it to be legal to allow a 1000ft cell jammer in my car.

Re:Cell jammer (2)

Scareduck (177470) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387528)

Great idea. What if someone in the car next to you has a real need to be on the phone?

The FCC has made these illegal for a REASON.

Re:Cell jammer (3, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387720)

Then they can pull over. There's rarely a case where the person in the car has to be moving while talking. That's what we have emergency responders for - who can be called into action.

Note that I'm not (necessarily) advocating mobile jammers. Someone in a nearby car might not need to be on the phone, but they might just want to be, and are not driving. It's their privilege to be on the phone, that is not overwhelmed by someone else's interest in jamming everyone.

I'm just pointing out that these "need to talk and drive" excuses are BS.

Re:Cell jammer (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387900)

What about the passengers, is there any particular reason why they shouldn't be able to use their cellphone? Or the driver for that matter. The risks related to cellphone use while operating a car are from operating them both simultaneously. Having one sitting on the seat or in a purse receiving texts and emails isn't a risk factor for causing an accident.

Re:Cell jammer (1)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387954)

What if it was the 1940s?

Re:Cell jammer (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38387550)

Because what you want is the guy barreling down on you to be looking down at his phone to see if his call dropped when he enters your jamming field.

Won't end well.

That's cool. My request. (4, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387592)

If cell phones are allowed on the road, I'd like it to be legal to allow a 1000ft cell jammer in my car.

That's fine. Since we are granting requests then, I would like to be able to house a jammer-seeking missile in my car. This would have two benefits:

1) Would allow my cell phone based GPS to continue working.

2) Removes an asshole from the planetary gene pool. Now THAT's green!

Re:That's cool. My request. (1)

InsightIn140Bytes (2522112) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387714)

You don't want to forget droppable oil, spikes and other traps either. Takes out people behind you much easier than missiles.

Not as fun. (1)

www.sorehands.com (142825) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387888)

Missiles are cooler than the other traps. Especially when they are shot from the headlights.

Re:That's cool. My request. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38387942)

Personally I prefer Red Shells.

Re:That's cool. My request. (1)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387976)

I agree, people who cross multiple lanes at a time while going 70MPH should be taken out before they hit me.

Re:Cell jammer (1)

CaptainPatent (1087643) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387620)

Awesome Idea - until the person beside you is using the cell network to navigate and is quietly listening to directions until the cellphone stops working.

Then distracted by the lack of directions starts messing with the phone to fix the problem getting far more distracted from the road than they already were.

Or someone who is texting every couple of minutes... instead of hanging on to the phone for a few seconds at a time they'll now probably study the phone until the text goes through... which will be far longer.

Or worst yet, someone who needs the phone for a true emergency.

Man, that sounds like it will make drivers less distracted *rolls eyes* And don't get me wrong - I don't advocate actively using your phone while driving at all, but your "solution" will at best do nothing, and at worst just create a bigger problem.

Re:Cell jammer (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38387632)

And the passengers in the minivan each with their cellphones on and working get theirs jammed why?

Ram that cell jammer up your ass and turn it on and fry your nards... You DO NOT need to procreate, one of you is enough.

Re:Cell jammer (4, Insightful)

GuldKalle (1065310) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387686)

Because cars can only contain one person?

because its simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38387448)

Cellphones are easy to name, human error is hard to quantify and hard to address.

But "CELLPHONE DID IT" is easy, and even fits in the title.

Re:because its simple (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387948)

Cell phones don't cause the accidents, they will however contribute to the accident. I'm not sure why it's OK to bar drivers from driving drunk, but driving distracted is perfectly OK. Ultimately, as long as drivers can maim and kill other people there's going to be justification for restricting what they can do while driving.

The real problem is that in the US we've been way too lenient.

Because it's easy (4, Interesting)

Audent (35893) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387466)

It's easier to say "ZOUNDS, we must BAN this THING" than it is to say "Our driver training is not up to scratch, we don't review our training at regular intervals and we don't have mandatory retests for the people we entrust our children to" because that would sound like they've not done their job.

Sadly this isn't restricted to driving buses either.

Re:Because it's easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38387552)

Anyone at all can see through the NTSB and their ilk. All these 'studies' link cell phone use to various proxy measures like level of distractedness and reaction time and time spent watching the road. Just plot cell phone ownership on the same graph as traffic accidents and realize they are unrelated.

They proxy. They don't use actual accident data because they can't.

Re:Because it's easy (1)

Xyverz (144945) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387618)

I've always thought (and I would abide by this if it were reality) that all drivers should go through driver's ed every 2 years and re-take driver certification classes every 4. I just think it makes common sense. (YMMV)

P.E.B.K.A.C! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38387906)

Don't worry, we'll create another device to monitor that device so that person using the original device won't make mistakes...

Bad drivers have reduced concentration (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38387474)

I sure wouldn't want to fly in a plane where the pilot were allowed to have their cell phone switched on. The same applied to other professional driving industries such as train drivers. I just wish Taxi drivers could let go of their cell phones and start acting as professional as they used to be.

Re:Bad drivers have reduced concentration (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387704)

I just wish Taxi drivers could let go of their cell phones and start acting as professional as they used to be.

Name a time when taxi drivers were ever professionals!! These guys usually drive cabs because they can't hold down any other job.

Think of the Children! (4, Insightful)

BuildMonkey (585376) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387484)

They are targeting cell phone users because when something bad happens constituents expect a government response. While it is impossible to legislate (or enact regulations) to "be a good driver", it is possible to legislate or regulate cell phone usage. Just another regulation that will be arbitrarily enforced...

Not to take sides (5, Insightful)

Anubis350 (772791) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387498)

'cause i'm not sure how I fall on the issue of banning phone use entirely at the moment (particularly since I use the tom tom app on my phone as my gps) but..

Why is the NTSB targeting gadgets instead of bad drivers?

Because using cellphones statistically seems to downgrade everyone a bit, so an excellent driver becomes a good driver, a good driver an ok driver, an ok driver a bad driver, and... a bad "barely got my license" driver a motor powered angry bird

Re:Not to take sides (1)

Entrope (68843) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387762)

Because using cellphones statistically seems to downgrade everyone a bit

[citation needed]

Seriously, do you have any good basis for your claim? In particular, which studies use the correct baseline of "distracted by everything except cell phone", rather than "not distracted", when comparing the impact of driving "distracted by a cell phone"? The US death rate due to traffic accidents dropped quite a lot over the last two decades -- and that is true whether you measure deaths per vehicle-mile, per capita, or per registered vehicle. (For example, fatalities per 100 million vehicle-miles traveled dropped from 1.73 in 1994 to 1.14 in 2009, even as phones-in-cars went from near zero to near ubiquitous.) Sure, we have a lot of other new safety systems in newer cars that help bring death rates down, but the marginal distraction due to mobile phone use is obviously hard to quantify.

Re:Not to take sides (5, Informative)

NilesDonegan (136760) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387822)

FWIW, Mythbusters tested it.
Episode 33: Killer Brace Position and Cellphones vs Drunk Driving

The brace position on airlines increases chance of death: mythbusted

Talking on a cellphone while driving is as dangerous as drunk driving: confirmed

http://kwc.org/mythbusters/2005/06/mythbusters_killer_brace_posit.html [kwc.org]

Re:Not to take sides (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38387776)

So why do accident rates go up when states ban cell phone use? :) I realize that's not a fair question, but it's an important question here. Just because cellphones cause accidents doesn't mean banning cell phones will prevent accidents. We can't uninvent cell phones, so we need to learn how to live with them.

Duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38387514)

Because somebody who was paying attention would have had a higher chance of avoiding the accident? Duh.

Probably not what it seems (5, Interesting)

FlavaFlavivirus (2021178) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387522)

As a motorcycist, I would encourage people to not talk or text on their phones while driving. Whenever someone tries to kill me, it's always the same: a woman fiddling with her phone. However, I'm sure this ban would be enforced sporadically, with no reduction in traffic accidents caused by distracted driving...it will just become another excuse for the cops to pull you over and smell your breath.

Re:Probably not what it seems (-1, Flamebait)

NEDHead (1651195) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387600)

While my breath is minty fresh at all times, perhaps a solution such as the Saudis use would help: just ban women from driving... (and girly men as well)

Re:Probably not what it seems (2)

dbc (135354) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387726)

As someone who sometimes drives a van, please be aware of vehicle blind spots. Do not cruise in them. It astounds me how many times a motorcycle will pull up on my right hand side, just behind the rear, or even just *ahead* of my rear bumper, and cruise there. The best rule for vans and motorcycles: stay behind on the left, or get the hell past quickly on the left. Anything else is a death wish.

Re:Probably not what it seems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38387812)

EXACTLY! Motorcyclist here and almost every single near miss has been someone playing with their phone. I think we need to go a lot farther than a ban on phones. That's a good start but we need to start to get these bad drivers off the road for good. How about actually going after people for manslaughter charges rather than just a teary eyed "sowee i pwomise never to do it again" and getting to drive home after killing or injuring someone out of stupidity.

You are lucky. (1)

www.sorehands.com (142825) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387962)

If they were not using their cell phone, they would have been able to focus better on hitting you.

Cab drivers in Boston have pictures of little motorcycles, crossed out, under the driver's window.

Re:Probably not what it seems (3, Insightful)

Bezultek (1109675) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387990)

As a motorcyclist since the 80s, let me assure you there was no shortage of people trying to kill us motorcyclists before the advent of cell phones.

Look, this is pretty straight forward. Show me a graph of car accidents as a function of year, then superimpose the percent population with cell phones as a function of year over it. If you see the number of accidents increase at the same rate as the percent population with cell phones, I'll buy that cell phones are the hazard people claim. But even though there are more drivers today then in the past, the number of fatal accidents over the last 15 years has decreased. Sure, cars are safer now, and that accounts for some of the decrease, and I'm sure advanced Emergency response techniques also accounts for some of it.

Point is, show me the data. The data I've seen doesn't support the claim that cell phones are as dangerous as they claim.

And don't even get me started on the claim that cell phones cause cancer....

Only sort of wrong. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38387524)

No one should be saying that cell phones are magical attention draining devices. I would posit, however, that using a cell phone, even a hands free setup, constitutes not paying enough attention to your driving, and ergo the people who do it are by definition bad drivers.

Re:Only sort of wrong. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38387802)

Because talking on the phone is a whole lot worst then talking to the person next to you, eating, sipping coffee, or listening to the ball game on the radio.
I would posit you are nuts.

Re:Only sort of wrong. (1)

crakbone (860662) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387940)

You do know that most major racing groups use radios to communicate to their drivers? That Rally car racing drivers are constantly talking to their navigators. If it is that much of a performance drop they would not be using them. Cell phones are no different than that. The problem is training and education and not gadgets. Right now I do not know of one single state requiring simulated driving tests, just the "get in and parallel park" stuff. Put them in a sim, make them stop for a deer, have pedestrians walk out in front of them, have a driver cut them off while texting. Have them hit black ice, have a person in the back yell at them, and have them make a cell phone call while on a turn. In a sim they wont do any damage and they will learn how to handle it. Right now we hand out a license to any person that knows alcohol limits and can park a car. Get them better trained.

May be a poor reason, but a good result (1)

ip_freely_2000 (577249) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387532)

I think we're at the point we can agree that DIALING a cell phone or looking at a phone screen is dangerous. We've all had near misses ( or worse ). I think the NTSB is overreaching on an outright ban, but I like the direction it's taking. Talking on a phone is no worse than talking to someone in the passenger seat. Using voice activated dialing systems in a car seems like a reasonable line to me.

Cell Phones. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38387536)

All the talk about banning cell phones while driving is pretty dumb since it would be more or less unenforceable until after the accident. If they want to fix this, they could do it without a law. All they would need to do is have the FCC mandate that phones done work if they are moving faster than say, 20mph. Pretty easy to do even without GPS or an accelerometer, the phones own software should be able to do that off the towers.

Re:Cell Phones. (2)

j-pimp (177072) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387650)

Uh that's a terrible idea. What about passengers? One of the reasons I take public transportation is so I can text. Executives are given chauffeured limos and towncars so they can work from them.

Re:Cell Phones. (2, Funny)

Aardpig (622459) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387748)

Public transportation? Fuck off and die, you commie socialist marxist scum.

Re:Cell Phones. (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387914)

Really? So all the passengers have to sit there in stony silence just because they are riding with someone going over 20mph?
How many "are we there yet" questions do you want to answer?

Its not talking on the phone that is so dangerous (a slight distraction admittedly), its dialing or texting that takes your eyes off the road.

We often call ahead for reservations, and chat with friends while riding in the car, or car pools, or buses or commuter trains. Your solution is worse than the the knee jerk reaction of the NTSB.

Eating a Big Mac takes more concentration (1, Troll)

coastal984 (847795) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387544)

Seriously, eating a Big Mac from the drive thru takes more concentration from the road than talking on the cell phone. This is just ignorance by the NTSB. I don't see them trying to ban drive thrus!

Re:Eating a Big Mac takes more concentration (1)

GuldKalle (1065310) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387768)

because not solving all problems at the same time is worse than doing nothing? Because when someone buys food from a drive-in, it's impossible to keep it in the bag until you get home?

glenn reynolds? LOL (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38387548)

His reporting is about as trustworthy as a toothless crack ho.

It has nothing to do with "bad drivers" (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38387562)

When you are distracted while driving you are not using your full attention to focus on the task at hand [fnal.gov] , which is guiding about a ton or so at high speed where merely the errant twitch can kill or permanently injure someone.

There are many, many studies in cognitive science [apa.org] that have shown that any distraction while driving reduces your ability to react, your reaction time, and the quality of your judgement. Your brain has a finite amount of resources and you are expending them on paying attention to the phone. In any case, cell phones are currently one of the most avoidable distractions out there. It stands to reason they'd be the first targeted for "banning."

Turn your phone off while driving. It could save a life.

this accident is not the reason (5, Insightful)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387564)

After a multi-car pileup involving two school buses, the NTSB is urging states to ban all cellphones and personal electronic devices in cars, even hands-free phones.

This particular accident is not the reason why the NTSB is proposing this. The NTSB is proposing this because there is a huge amount of incontrovertible evidence that when people talk on their cell phones while driving (regardless of whether the phone is hands-free), the become distracted and drive badly.

Why is the NTSB targeting gadgets instead of bad drivers?

The NTSB isn't targeting gadges. The NTSB is targeting bad drivers. You can put your cell phone in your car while driving, and nobody will target it. But if you talk on your cell phone while driving, you are a bad driver, and you should be targeted.

Re:this accident is not the reason (1)

Scareduck (177470) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387788)

The NTSB is proposing this because there is a huge amount of incontrovertible evidence that when people talk on their cell phones while driving (regardless of whether the phone is hands-free), the become distracted and drive badly.

Opposite, what? Carrying a three-year-old in the backseat?

No, this is an excuse. A stupid idea and an encroachment on legitimate freedoms.

Re:this accident is not the reason (1)

fred fleenblat (463628) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387918)

hand phone to 3 year old.
problem solved!

Busy work (5, Insightful)

kimvette (919543) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387576)

It's easy. Politicians love to look busy by passing new laws rather than prodding the executive branch into enforcing laws already on the books. If any of the following were to be enforced regularly, the problem would solve itself by either teaching inattentive drivers to change their ways, or remove them from the roads:

  * reckless driving
  * Driving below minimum legal speed (usually 10mph below speed limit)
  * hindering the flow of traffic
  * improper lane changes
  * failure to use indicators when required
  * failure to yield the right of way
  * failure to maintain control of the vehicle
  * following too closely
  * driving left of center
  * traveling in the passing lane
  * failure to obey traffic signals

. . . and so on

Re:Busy work (2)

Imagix (695350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387852)

We have a law coving this directly: "Driving without due care and attention". The trouble is attempting to prove it in court so that it will stick. Banning things like handheld devices lowers the "proving it" requirement. Not that I think a new law is required. Part of the problem is the attitude of people who will challenge every driving ticket they get in the hopes of getting off (and resultantly overburdening the courts). I'm all for challenging tickets where you honestly figure there's been a problem with the ticket. But if you're doing 80 in a 50 zone, don't challenge that ticket. You know you were speeding, you just got caught. (Unless you have some other defence for speeding, extenuating circumstances and such.)

The Incident Isn't the Only Reason (1)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387582)

It's sort of silly to say the NTSB is wrong because this particular accident may or may not have been caused by operating devices while driving. I found this in the article:

Yes, texting while driving is inherently dangerous: It takes your eyes off the road and your hands off the wheel. That is presumably why texting while driving is already illegal in Missouri for drivers under 21. But there’s a big leap from the Missouri accident to the NTSB’s suggestion for a broad, new national ban.

So you would agree that texting while driving decreases your reaction time and decreases how alert you are to the road? Okay so what else does that? Well, being drunk and driving is pretty much a death sentence in most states. I drove a friend to and from work every day for a year adding over 1 hour to my daily commute. Because he was pass the legal limit when he was pulled over. After that he had an interlock system that he had to pay to have installed in his car that wouldn't let him drink and drive. All of this because he was doing something that impaired his reaction time and alertness.

Now you fight the NTSB about banning cell phones while driving? What happens now when you're pulled over while texting (if you even are)? $200? A slap on the wrist? Are you forced to pay to have a Faraday cage installed in your automobile? Is your driver's license revoked for a year? Why not?

I'm reminded of the car talk episode where a guy was calling into a radio station while driving and you hear him hit a car and one of the hosts of Car Talk says "Good, ya jerk!"

the report tells us why (4, Informative)

prgrmr (568806) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387590)

from TFA:

4. The absence of a timely brake application, the cellular provider records indicating frequent texting while driving, the temporal proximity of the last incoming text message to the collision, and the witness statement regarding the driver's actions indicate that the GMC pickup driver was most likely distracted from the driving task by a text messaging conversation at or near the time of the accident.

9 The GMC pickup driver was fatigued at the time of the accident due to cumulative sleep debt and acute sleep loss, which could have resulted in impaired cognitive processing or other performance decrements.


And that's why texting while driving is bad, boys and girls. And not getting enough sleep will, apparently, make you stupid enough to do it.

"But I'm a BETTER driver than most!" (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38387594)

Listen, most of the people who you talk to think they're one of the "good drivers," who can talk on a cell phone and drive at the same time. It's not like this argument hasn't been used before. I'm sure most of the people you would ask would also respond that they're "smarter than the average person" or "better at X than the average person." NO ONE wants to think of themselves as deficient or average in any manner.

I work at a driving simulator. We've done quite a few studies on distracted driving (including two studies specifically targeting cell phones). These studies have sampled a few hundred different drivers, from all age ranges, technical abilities, genders, etc. ALL of them show (VERY clearly) that EVERYONE is bad at driving while being congnitively distracted. Hands-on, hands-free, whatever--the facts show that if you're concentrating on something other than the task at hand, EVERYONE has problems.

Am I concerned about not legally being able to talk while I drive? Hell no. It's about time.

Re:"But I'm a BETTER driver than most!" (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387874)

I would consider myself an average driver. There are times even when not distracted with a phone or other device I do something stupid that I realize I shouldn't have. But knowing that I am fallible I try to give myself a good distance away from other cars. Which gives me time to stop if something happens and my mind isn't as connected to driving as it should.

But I have rid with people who call themselves good drivers, they are tailgating and swerving around people trying to drive safely and complain about them all the way.

Why did this story get promoted for all to see? (2)

mothlos (832302) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387610)

Do people honestly have doubt that distracted driving such as operating cell phones is not a risk to traffic safety? Seriously? Sure, every accident has a multitude of factors involved and how they count the number of accidents where something is 'a factor' is shameful (if you get in an accident and a bottle of wine in your trunk breaks, suddenly your accident was 'alcohol related'), but come on people, having a conversation with someone not in the vehicle is not something a significant proportion of the population should be attempting to do. Trying to type and read off of a screen is a liability to yourself and others in your vicinity. I know we are all above average drivers, but they aren't and we sure as hell don't trust them.

What's wrong with cell phone bans? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38387636)

Why not ban both cell phones and bad drivers?

I have no idea if the research suggests that using a cell phone while driving is inherently distracting or not, and whether or not people have a good metacognitive awareness of how distracted they are, but if the research does suggest it's distracting, why not ban it? Is there really such an imperative that someone be permitted to use a cell phone while driving on public roads? We also disallow driving while drunk, while under the influence of certain drugs or medications, for people who are at risk of seizures, etc. In all of these cases, we do these bans despite the fact that some drivers are better than others, and that swerving over the road or drifting into another lane is already illegal if you do it while sober and alert. We ban it because those behaviours increase the chance of accidents, and more importantly, because people are notoriously bad judges of whether or not their behaviour is dangerous or not. The bright line distinction in those cases has reduced accidents and injuries.

I can't tell if the submitter is arguing that we shouldn't ban specifically bad driving behaviours because bad driving is already illegal, or if he's arguing that using a cell phone doesn't distract drivers, just shitty drivers? Either way, it seems like a generalized "don't tread on me" objection to what sounds like a fine policy.

I live in a jurisdiction that has banned cell phones for drivers, although not hands-free devices. I have no idea what the policy merits of exempting or including hands-free devices are. But provided that research indicates the behaviour is distracting, I'm not sure what the problem is with banning it. I think that applies just as much for trained, specialized drivers as random drivers off the road. *shrugs*

Blame the phones... (1)

tacarat (696339) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387642)

By their nature, bad drivers can't self-identify. It's the other driver, not them, right?

Because Gadgets Make Them Worse (4, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387648)

Yes, those examples cite bad driving while on a cellphone, not just driving while on a cellphone, as the cause of the collisions. But driving while talking on a cellphone doesn't reduce the rate at which people do the bad driving. In fact it seems obvious that distraction by the phone makes it more likely to do more bad driving.

Just talking on the phone isn't colliding with someone. But talking on the phone doesn't make anyone a better driver. It's obvious to everyone on the road how very often it makes many people worse drivers.

Handsfree phones should be required; anything else should be prohibited. And any collision or moving violation should cause subpoena of the phone records (phone#s redacted) to see whether the driver was on the phone at the time. If so, they should be found guilty of distracted driving (and perhaps negligent homicide, if they killed someone). And their insurance policy shouldn't cover the event.

Re:Because Gadgets Make Them Worse (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387916)

Handsfree phones should be required; anything else should be prohibited.

Hands-free doesn't help:
http://unews.utah.edu/old/p/062206-1.html [utah.edu]
http://www.aaafoundation.org/resources/index.cfm?button=cellphone [aaafoundation.org]

There are other studies to point to. Point is, it's not the distraction of the hands that's the really big problem, it's the distraction of the brain.

Why so serious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38387652)

Look the driver of any vehicle (or pilot) should be focused on driving not on communicating. Whining about the government or nit picking the study denies what everyone sees on the road every day - people who use their cell phone while driving are inattentive drivers and scares the hell out of pedestrians/bicyclists/other drivers all the time.

Let's try to have an honest conversation on why the hell everyone has their panties in a bunch over taking away something that did not exist 15 years ago. You do NOT need to text while driving, you do NOT need to talk on the phone while driving, you DO need to get there in one piece without causing an accident.

I am just sayin....

A reasonable take on this? (1)

DCFusor (1763438) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387654)

A: They are just stupid - gov always is. Tailgating caused that. It's never enforced except by Darwin, and sometimes you can't avoid doing it. Leaving enough room means some fuckwad just puts himself in it.
B: Phones are distracting. There's an obvious reason. If the person you're talking to is in the car, they realize when you're entering a dangerous situation, and shut up, even help look for problems. On the phone, you're pretending to be doing something useful, probably pretending not to be in a car at all. Thus you don't get the critical pauses at times when it's dangerous. The other guy, unaware of your situation, might be driving home his crucial point just as you're turning left across traffic into a multi-lane zoo with someone changing lanes into your path. No time to be either listening or talking, IMO.
C: While I love my new Chevy Volt, all that animation on the multiple screens is MUCH MORE DISTRACTING than the phone is. Period. I use the phone to order pizza on the way to get it, that's about it. Never a problem, I pick my spot, and it's short and over with. But if you adust the cruise control, it takes time for that popup window to pop up, show the data, then go away - and your eyes are off the road the whole time. Ditto the center stack. I just know that several times while driving this car, I've noticed myself not paying enough attention, and it's been that, never the phone. Lucky this has only happened so far when it was just drifting out of lane on a road with no traffic...but I'm going to have to get discipline about not looking at the eye candy fer sure.
D: All you idiots out there for whom the only possible application of the word smart applies to something you're holding, not you. If they let you have this shit, you'll be texting and playing games...no way that's good - and it's so addicitve people already lie about it - they say it's dangerous when others do it, but not when they do - pure vain rationalization.
I think you're half insane to even have a cel phone. Gosh, that means everyone with my number who gets bored thinks they own my time - and you give into that because you're so damn insecure you think it gets you friends, sucker. If that's what it takes, they ain't your friends, they're parasites on your time.

Begone (1)

Tmann72 (2473512) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387660)

The reason to kill off cell phones while driving has nothing to do with this event. For some reason it grabbed screen time and the attentions of many people. However, the reason for banning phones has more to do with the fact that every time I go driving the driver of pretty much every other car I drive by is chatting on their phone. Studies have proven that when we multitask our IQ for each task drops significantly. Hell even the myth busters showed how much this can affect your driving and they didn't even have to do that much testing to show that talking on the phone was a problem. Compile a decade of reports from wrecks and I'm sure the point is obvious. I heard people constantly saying "oh but it will be so hard to enforce." This is simply lies. If its illegal to be on your phone at all while driving then any cop who sees a phone in a drivers hands has cause to immediately ticket the driver. Just as if they drive by me and they notice my seat belt is off. Fact is, this law would save lives at the cost of a slight convenience the human race didn't even have over 20 years ago. We made due then, and we can make due now.

There are already laws against bad driving (4, Insightful)

brainzach (2032950) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387668)

Following too closely will result in a ticket.

Also cell phones are linked to more than one accident. There is plenty of evidence that cell phones are a major cause of driver inattentiveness and accidents.

The proposal against banning all cell phones could be excessive, but there are plenty of reasons to be concerned about the issue.

Re:There are already laws against bad driving (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387966)

Following too closely will result in a ticket.

Also cell phones are linked to more than one accident. There is plenty of evidence that cell phones are a major cause of driver inattentiveness and accidents.

So why didn't accident rates increase dramatically when cellphones became popular and decrease dramatically when cellphones were banned?

theater (2, Insightful)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387676)

Why is the NTSB targeting gadgets instead of bad drivers?

Because it is always easier to come up with a technological solution (even if it doesn't work) than it is to address the real (usually human) problem.

even hands-free phones

This really illustrates the absurdity of the claim that phones are to blame for the problem.

If you're using a hands-free device, you're just basically having a conversation with someone who isn't actually in the car. It's not going to be any more inherently distracting than having a conversation with somebody who is in the car. So if hands-free phones are a problem... So is talking to a passenger.

Re:theater (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387958)

Why is the NTSB targeting gadgets instead of bad drivers?

Because it is always easier to come up with a technological solution (even if it doesn't work) than it is to address the real (usually human) problem.

No, it's because of something the summary leaves out - there's a very high probability that the accident that started the chain reaction (which the buses were at the end of) was caused by... somebody paying more attention to texting than to driving.

Re:theater (5, Insightful)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387964)

If you're using a hands-free device, you're just basically having a conversation with someone who isn't actually in the car. It's not going to be any more inherently distracting than having a conversation with somebody who is in the car. So if hands-free phones are a problem... So is talking to a passenger.

I think that the consensus is that a conversation with a passenger is different from that with some one on the phone - as the passenger is aware of the same environment and you both automatically adjust the tone/pace of the conversation depending on the current conditions. I.E. the passenger will generally keep quiet when you are performing a complex maneuver. That is not to say that passengers can not be a distraction, just that in general a phone conversation is a worse distraction that most passengers.

Re:theater (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38387986)

Like many things in life, what's intuitive isn't necessarily true. Research has found that driving hands free IS more distracting than having a conversation with a passenger. They don't know why, but it's been verified in more than one study.

misleading (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38387722)

It may be the case that the NTSB is exploiting a dramatic (and potentially unrelated) incident in order to drive forward the argument against gadgets while driving. However, this shouldn't distract us from the general fact: cell phone use (hands-on and hands-free) while driving causes distraction that leads to the impairment of drivers. (I won't even bother citing any studies; Google pulled up sufficient summaries of studies that I didn't bother picking one.) If the science indicates that this causes problems (it does), and if making it illegal will reduce the incidence of accidents (some here think it won't; I'm not sure that I buy that), then we should make it illegal, just as with alcohol/drug use, headphone use, and other driver impairing activities.

Wait until it affects you.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38387742)

I know people love their tech gadgets, and everyone thinks they're capable of adding just one more "little" thing they can do while they're driving, but once you've had an incident that DOES involve a driver drinking, texting, whatever (and I know that's not necessarily the case here, I'm talking in general), you'll probably understand why we don't need ANY extra POTENTIAL distraction when piloting a ton-plus weapon anywhere near where someone else can get hurt.

What about unlicensed drivers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38387752)

I believe that unlicensed drivers (read illegal aliens) cause more deaths than cell phones (not including texting). Why doesn't someone do something about them?

Re:What about unlicensed drivers? (2)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387808)

You mean by making it illegal? It already is dumbass.

Because distractions are bad? (1)

Tridus (79566) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387758)

Because everyone is a bad driver when they're too busy talking on the phone to pay attention to what they're doing, dumbass. This isn't some new thing. It's been known for a very long time that most accidents are caused by distractions, and that talking on a phone (and even more so with texting) are significant distractions.

The NTSB is pointing out what is blindingly obvious to anybody who pays attention, rather then thinking that driving is a great time to be doing other stuff.

How about... (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387780)

How about we ban the posting of inflammatory, trollish summaries on /. and return the site to a place for bloody nerds, if any are left these days?

Typically Slashdot idiocy (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38387782)

You all seem to be commented as if it's only bad drivers who are the problem. If you think that you're good enough at yakking and driving to be able to do it safely, you're wrong. You're not.

Every other goddam day I pass someone wondering, "What the hell are they doing?" And the answer is always - ALWAYS - yakking on their goddam phone.

HANG UP AND DRIVE.

And I bet you think you're a good driver (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38387816)

> Why is the NTSB targeting gadgets instead of bad drivers?

Because driving is a necessity where there's no mass transit coverage? (aka - you can't make the bad drivers go away. Awful ones, yes; bad ones, no...)
Because the majority of drivers have an inflated estimation of their multi-tasking capability and think the problem is "the other guy"?

Killing the process which is hogging the CPU is making the best use of limited multi-tasking ability for what should be higher priority tasks. Much better than letting that process kill innocent bystanders in my estimation.

NTSB based on decade of data, not single incident (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38387836)

The recommendation comes from a study of accident statistics and patterns over 10+ years, not a single school bus incident. 3,000 deaths and 800,000 collisions per year from distracted drivers combined with research showing how much more distracting it is to dial a number, talk to somebody, read or write a text, etc. Regardless of what can be enforced or other remedies pursued cell phone use in cars is killing people and causing many millions of dollars in medical, insurance, car repair, lost income and other costs.

All electronics? (2)

Ogive17 (691899) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387850)

I'm for a ban against texting while driving and talking on a cell phone while driving unless a hands free device is being used. Even using a hands free device is still a distraction to driving. My car has it built in and I can admit that when I'm talking to someone it does take away some attention to the road. It's not nearly as bad as holding the phone to my ear.

Too many times have I almost been in an accident due to a person talking on their phone not paying full attention to the road. On the highway it's not a big issue, driving through town while going through stop signs, lights, watching for pedestrians, making turns.. it's just too much to do with one hand occupied by a phone.

I'm only 32 but I can remember a time before everyone had cell phones when a person could drive 10 minutes without having to make/receive a call.

Paper's Please (1)

Brainman Khan (1330847) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387860)

This will no doubt pass, and the TSA will enforce it.
Since almost everyone has a cell phone this emergency is perfect for giving the Government carte blanche to pull anyone over.
This "Emergency" is too perfect not to exploit.

Laws already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38387862)

There is always laws in place in NY banning electronic devices when the car is in motion. The problem is the police do not enforce it. I know people who have gotten a ticket for talking on the phone which the state said is automatic 2 points and $150 fine however, the person went to court and settled for a $50 ticket and no points. That is no deterrent for cell phone use. Until they up the enforcement and start making it a big offence, the bans will do nothing.

Lets see .. (1)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387872)

In recent weeks driving along some interstates I have witnessed numerous people driving below the speed limit, weaving from side to side within their lane and obviously looking down instead of straight ahead. The common element in all of these cases is that the drivers were doing something on their cell phones.
 
The crash with the school bus may or may not have been due to the driver following to closely, but I am sure as hell sick of seeing impaired drivers on the road and look forward to people being forced to pay attention to navigating a metal death missile at high speed.

This is ridiculous (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38387880)

This isn't a one-study thing. Over the past five years a bunch of studies have come out saying, basically "cell phones increase your likelihood of crashing as much as drinking" and "hands free headsets do not lower this risk significantly".

Focusing on the phones makes sense. No one drives as well with the phone as without. Lots of people think that the headset helps, even though there's plenty of evidence that it doesn't. It does not MATTER if it keeps your hands on the wheel or your eyes on the road, the issue is attention in general. People's feelings on this don't match up with the actual evidence, so we're forced to legislate, since it impacts other people as much or more than the driver.

You make it illegal so that someone who's always riding around without paying attention to what they're doing doesn't have to kill someone before we get them off the road.

The Mythbuster Study (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38387910)

Instead of doing a flawed study, I think the NTSB should have on their website a link pointing to the Mythbuster's episode where they test who is more dangerous:The idiot behind the wheel speaking on a cell phone, or a very nearly drunk driver.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGN1pLI4ZaM

Why your logic is wrong (1)

hfollmann (564898) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387926)

I do not understand the logic here. Because other driving habits are dangerous too, the use of cell phones while your driving is OK? You are so wrong. Using the cell phone while your driving is not safe. And it doesn't matter if you are using a headset either. I see it every day and there are studies to prove this. And because people are usually too stupid to make good decisions on their own, they have to be told what not to do. That's why DUI is illegal too, even if there are more things which you shouldn't do while driving. -H

Because... (1)

QuietLagoon (813062) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387932)

Why is the NTSB targeting gadgets instead of bad drivers?"

Because the gadgets are involved in, and the cause of, a very large number of accidents. You can cherry pick the accident stats all you'd like in a failed attempt to dodge the issue, but the fact is that the car's driver seat is becoming more like the comfy chair in the living room instead of a driver seat.

.
Should cell phones be singled out? I'd say no. But the problem remains, how do you determine the "bad" driver who thinks it is OK not to pay attention to what is occurring on the road around him/her?

How do you find and remove from the road the drivers who are simply not paying attention?

Simple, really... (0)

mholve (1101) | more than 2 years ago | (#38387944)

Because most people don't know how to drive (in the U.S. at least)... Can't go blaming everyone now can we? A gadget is easier - it can't defend itself. ;)

Drive Stick (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38387960)

And not only will you avoid the temptation to text, but you won't be eating junk food.

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