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No Tech Panacea For Tech-Distracted Driving

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the stupid-and-expensive-cya dept.

Cellphones 257

The Washington Post features an article on the continuing problem of drivers distracted by technology, specifically by texting or even talking on the phone while at the wheel. The piece mentions a few apps designed to disable phones, or at least some phone features, when they detect sustained motion that might indicate that the user is driving. Trouble is, as the writer points out, these apps are trying to do a context-sensitive task (under the best of circumstances) with only the broadest of clues. Further, many of them require ongoing subscription fees, just to be able to disable phone functions — and yet feature override features simple enough for a driver to activate.

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257 comments

My solution! (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40281845)

Easy, just use my patented DPUTFP method.

Don't Pick Up The Fucking Phone.

Same As the NTSB (5, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 2 years ago | (#40281871)

Easy, just use my patented DPUTFP method.

Don't Pick Up The Fucking Phone.

Right. And it's no surprise that that is what the NTSB is recommending. From the article:

The National Transportation Safety Board hasn’t weighed in on any apps. Its recommendation is a human solution: Just don’t use your phone at all while driving, even if you’re using a hands-free device.

I'm glad to see that their prosecution efforts are coming to fruition [go.com]. Now we just need to get the word out that, like drinking and driving, this is socially unacceptable and a harsh negative stigma should be associated with it. If you do it, fuck you, you're endangering people's lives. They're finally looking at cell phone records for the time periods surrounding crashes, just like BAC and sobriety checks although most people are probably lying to escape any ability of police checking those records [11alive.com].

Re:Same As the NTSB (2)

alphatel (1450715) | about 2 years ago | (#40281915)

My car has a nanny for the built-in GPS map. You can't do anything while you're driving. even at 2 MPH which means you have to pull over just to select a different destination.

Of course, someone hacked the somnabitch and normal usage is re-enabled. I don't see a point to trying to nanny bad drivers. They suck no matter what you do.

Re:Same As the NTSB (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40282035)

I don't see a point to trying to nanny bad drivers. They suck no matter what you do.

And what would you call it when cops ticket people for running a stop sign? Isn't that an attempt to "nanny bad drivers"? I mean, in both situations you're doing something careless and endangering people. And most states now consider texting while driving a violation of traffic laws. So are you arguing that mild fines for disobeying traffic laws isn't going to stop bad drivers from sucking?

Re:Same As the NTSB (2)

tom17 (659054) | about 2 years ago | (#40282107)

Sorry, I just need to go off on a tangent here. For the record, I begrudgingly obey all stop signs.

But tell me, where is this 'endangering people' coming from in the situation where you roll through a 4-way stop when there are no cars even remotely visible on any of the adjoining roads? I can think of one danger vector - the guy speeding at 100mph without any intent of stopping who plows into the side of you, but he is coming whether you stopped or not.

I really really hate stop signs and wish they would get with the times and put in more roundabouts or at least 'give way/yield' signage, but I have to live with them for now. I just don't see how not stopping at an empty stop intersection is in the least bit dangerous.

Re:Same As the NTSB (2)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#40282215)

I can think of one danger vector

The car / pedestrian you didn't see, gets hit at 5 or so MPH instead of 35 MPH.

Re:Same As the NTSB (2)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 2 years ago | (#40282333)

My wife is in this category, and now has bone problems in her wrist. If she weren't a rugby player at the time and followed her instinct to stiff-arm her vehicular opponent, she'd have likely ended up in a wheelchair for a few months.

The driver just didn't see her. It was nighttime, in a pretty empty part of a small town, and my wife was wearing dark green on the far side of an intersection at the bottom of a hill. The driver rolled through the stop and accelerated immediately, right into my wife.

Re:Same As the NTSB (3, Insightful)

CubicleView (910143) | about 2 years ago | (#40282337)

I've wondered about that myself. Assuming the traffic light system remains unchanged, 2 reasons I can think of against allowing any flexibility in running red lights are

1. Force of habit, if John Doe is used to running red lights since the junctions nearby are always empty he might plough into someone absentmindedly when at an unfamiliar junction.

2. Ambiguity, a red light is a red light, a “clear junction” is open to interpretation

I’m sure there are plenty of other reasons against the idea, but the above two seemed enough to me.

Re:Same As the NTSB (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40282687)

My mom and dad were coming home this weekend (separately, on their own motorcycles) when someone drove through a stop sign. My dad was barely able to avoid being hit, however my mom was not so lucky. Stop signs exist for a reason, don't be the fucking asshole who almost killed my mom this weekend. She survived, but her motorcycle is ruined and she's going to be in a world of pain for the next month (2 transverse vertebrae fractures).

Re:Same As the NTSB (2)

Bert64 (520050) | about 2 years ago | (#40282249)

Some stop signs make sense, many do not (ie you have perfect visibility of the road and no reason to come to a stop which just wastes time and fuel)...

And no, mild fines for disobeying traffic laws doesn't seem to do anything, people still disobey laws on a regular basis. Having fines which are the same for everyone just penalises the poor... Do you really think a guy driving a $500k supercar is going to care about a $50 fine? That's just a trivial addition to the cost of driving for him, on top of the huge sums he already pays for insurance and gas.

On the other hand, someone who can barely afford a car but needs one for work might consider a $50 fine very painful.

Re:Same As the NTSB (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40282727)

And what would you call it when cops ticket people for running a stop sign? Isn't that an attempt to "nanny bad drivers"?

No, because it's after the fact for starters.
A better analogy would be the cop seeing you coming a few blocks away, pulling you over, and saying "Hey, see that stop sign up ahead? Make sure you stop."

I mean, in both situations you're doing something careless and endangering people.

No, because my wife in the passenger's seat changing the GPS destination has nothing to do with my driving ability.

And most states now consider texting while driving a violation of traffic laws

Nobody is talking about texting except you,.

So are you arguing that mild fines for disobeying traffic laws isn't going to stop bad drivers from sucking?

Well, no I wasn't and neither was the parent. But I'll bite- yes, minor fines for breaking traffic laws does nothing to make people any better at driving.

Re:Same As the NTSB (4, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#40282057)

My car has a nanny for the built-in GPS map. You can't do anything while you're driving. even at 2 MPH which means you have to pull over just to select a different destination.

Of course, someone hacked the somnabitch and normal usage is re-enabled. I don't see a point to trying to nanny bad drivers. They suck no matter what you do.

This is my number one reason not to waste money on a built in GPS system in my car. I'm old enough that my wife used to use "paper maps" like ink on cellulose, then we used a hand held GPS, and now android phone with google navigation app. If I had a built in GPS system, I would not be able to use it, and my wife would have to go back to paper maps. So I'm paying thousands of dollars for an option that does ... nothing. They could make more profit by shipping a paver brick.

The number two reason is I can afford it but I'm too stubborn to pay thousands for a factory option when I can buy a handheld GPS for a hundred with 48 hours of battery, or just use my phone for a couple hours until the battery dies (at which point I need to plug it in)

A speed cut-out for a GPS is a technology destroyer. It would be simpler for everyone for the FCC to stop granting a license to import. Which is too bad, GPS is kind of handy.

The other thing I've never understood is if 10 people get killed by people Fing around with a GPS, that is a national call to action. But if 100 people get killed by people Fing around with paper maps, eh, thats just business, thats how it goes, too bad so sad. I'm not sure destroying GPS as a usable technology is worth killing 90 additional people or nine-tupling the "navigational death toll", but it seems almost inevitable at this point.

Re:Same As the NTSB (1)

Bert64 (520050) | about 2 years ago | (#40282197)

Easy, just use my patented DPUTFP method.

Don't Pick Up The Fucking Phone.

But being patented, we dare not use it for fear of being sued!

And those built in GPS maps are usually located in the center console, where the passenger could use them too... When i have passengers i typically ask them to program the GPS if we need to make changes mid route anyway.

And any system that tries to detect motion is going to be a pain in the ass for anyone who is a passenger in any vehicle...

Re:Same As the NTSB (2)

residieu (577863) | about 2 years ago | (#40282401)

We had one of these in a rental car once (a standalone one, not a built-in). It was annoying because even though my wife was the one trying to set our destination and I was driving, it wouldn't let her change anything while we were moving.

Re:My solution! (2)

issicus (2031176) | about 2 years ago | (#40282011)

bluetooth dongle on the car turns off phone ring, problem solved.

Re:My solution! (3)

hattig (47930) | about 2 years ago | (#40282063)

In addition to turning off the ring tone, once you set the phone to "I am driving" mode, the phone auto-answers phone calls with a message you have pre-recorded, and answers texts with a preset text message.

Communication achieved, no driver interaction.

This should be a standard feature on phones, I can't see the difficulty in implementing it. Car bluetooth can activate driving mode, or you can do it in the same way that you set Airplane Mode.

Re:My solution! (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 2 years ago | (#40282525)

That works only if you regularly get people texting you and not automatic texts from market updates or sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Re:My solution! (1)

History's Coming To (1059484) | about 2 years ago | (#40282355)

My phone has a button that does that, and another that turns it off completely. I realise this isn't possible on flashy new iPhones and the like.

GPS? (1, Funny)

dskoll (99328) | about 2 years ago | (#40281853)

Most smartphones have a built-in GPS, so have it shut off the phone if it detects that it's moving at more than 20km/h or so.

Yes, this means that passengers, people on trains, etc. won't be able to use their smartphones. Gee, what a tragedy. A few hours of inconvenience is so awful to give up in return for reduced road carnage.

Re:GPS? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40281885)

...and then they can just turn off that feature.

If they are that inconsiderate of their own and others safety that they are willing text and drive, I am sure they will have no hesitation turning off the GPS.

Re:GPS? (1)

dskoll (99328) | about 2 years ago | (#40281945)

Not if the FCC in the US and comparable bodies in other countries mandate that the feature can't be disabled. Just refuse to license cellphones that lack the feature or have a way to turn it off.

Re:GPS? (2)

Zerth (26112) | about 2 years ago | (#40282187)

If people will jailbreak phones so they can remove the carrier crapware, why wouldn't they just remove that feature as well?

Re:GPS? (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 2 years ago | (#40282549)

And me (and thousands of others) will work to develop software to prevent the crippling of features.

Have you ever had a car with a built in GPS? Anytime it detects you are moving faster than 2 MPH it shuts off to where you can't do anything with it, set a destination, etc. even if you are a passenger in the car! So anytime the destination has changed (such as needing to go to a gas station rather than your final destination first) you have to come to a complete stop, reset your GPS and then you can go again. It's worse than useless.

Re:GPS? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40281895)

Unacceptable. You obviously don't value your time (or others) much. I, on the other hand, cannot afford to block off large chunks of time where I am effectively unreachable. Find another solution.

Re:GPS? (1, Insightful)

dskoll (99328) | about 2 years ago | (#40281955)

On the contrary, I value my time very much, which is why I like it when random callers can't interrupt my train of thought.

Re:GPS? (5, Insightful)

Gideon Wells (1412675) | about 2 years ago | (#40281967)

Yes, this would have worked oh so well when that time my editor, myself, and third reporter were rushing home to get an immediate article out. We even snagged a designated driver. Our sole source of wi-fi in this remote area where Amish were a majority population was my hot spot enabled smart phone and the satellite trucks the big boys sent in.

Look, if you are reaching this point of trying to not-distract people then you might as well take the next steps:
* No cup holders to encourage drinking while driving. Drinking/eating anything is also a distraction.
* No radios or other music devices. Distractions are distractions.
* Maybe even a ban on talking while in a vehicle. How different, when you get down to it, is talking on a phone and talking to a person next to you. One sideways glance to see their reaction at the wrong moment, blammo, road carnage.

Re:GPS? (2)

Omegawar (1314051) | about 2 years ago | (#40282111)

And no kids. A screaming 1 year old is a major distraction.

Re:GPS? (1)

dkf (304284) | about 2 years ago | (#40282669)

And no kids. A screaming 1 year old is a major distraction.

Nothing that a quick pistol whipping won't sort out.

But seriously, a screaming 1 year old would indeed be a major distraction (and a really good reason to stop and do something about it) yet not all all 1 year olds are screaming terrors. Some really are good as gold; my niece would always go to sleep after about 20 minutes and a sleeping infant is no problem at all.

Re:GPS? (4, Insightful)

hattig (47930) | about 2 years ago | (#40282127)

When you are doing a manoeuvre that requires some attention, you can:

1) Not choose to pick up your drink at this time
2) Zone out of the radio - this is why talk radio is popular, it's mostly a drone that you can zone into when you need something to keep your brain awake, and zone out of when driving is requiring some braining.
3) Tell other people to shut up, or they will also see that you need to concentrate and will shut up.
4) You will be looking at the road and mirrors.

However it appears that people on the phone when driving don't say "I'm driving". I don't know why. The person on the other end doesn't know you are about to do something that requires your full attention. You are compelled to pay attention to their words because you think the call is important (for whatever reason, be it your boss, or your other half nagging). And accidents happen because of this.

Re:GPS? (2)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 2 years ago | (#40282597)

...And there are people who will do the exact same thing with phones.

What we simply need to do is hold people responsible for their own actions regardless of what it was that caused them to have an accident unless it was something with no fault of their own (heart attack, stroke, etc.). No one has ever died because of a drunk driver, high driver or distracted driver, they died because of a reckless driver. If someone is driving recklessly that is a problem no matter what the cause. So let's let adults be adults and know their own limitations. There are some people who shouldn't eat or drink soda when they drive, there are others who could probably do college calculus coursework as they were driving and still be safe.

Re:GPS? (1)

Bert64 (520050) | about 2 years ago | (#40282321)

Talking to a person in the car is arguably worse, if you look over to see their expression etc... You can't do that on a phone so you won't even try.

Re:GPS? (2)

volmtech (769154) | about 2 years ago | (#40282475)

If we can't see someone we experience more distraction trying to visualize what their expressions are. I find myself concentrating more on what the person I am talking to is saying because I can't get any visual clues, and less on what is happening outside my car.

Re:GPS? (3, Insightful)

MrTree (188626) | about 2 years ago | (#40282343)

* No cup holders to encourage drinking while driving. Drinking/eating anything is also a distraction.

Eating and drinker are both distracting behaviors, although not as much as talking on a cell phone.

* No radios or other music devices. Distractions are distractions.

The kind of audio distraction caused by radios does little to affect driving attention.

* Maybe even a ban on talking while in a vehicle. How different, when you get down to it, is talking on a phone and talking to a person next to you. One sideways glance to see their reaction at the wrong moment, blammo, road carnage.

Passengers tend to share the driver's situational awareness, so they are significantly safer to hold a conversation with than someone on the far end of a cell phone. A sideways glance is no problem - the driver's gaze is often off the road to check, for example, speed.

See this paper for a good overview of distracted driving behavior:

http://www.nhtsa.gov/DOT/NHTSA/NRD/Multimedia/PDFs/Crash%20Avoidance/2008/810787.pdf [nhtsa.gov]

Re:GPS? (4, Insightful)

itsdapead (734413) | about 2 years ago | (#40282349)

Look, if you are reaching this point of trying to not-distract people then you might as well take the next steps:

True, but texting on a mobile phone, or dialling on a handset, really is in a moronic league of its own c.f. talking to a passenger, popping an M&M into your mouth or even using a hands-free. Most people are incapable of walking in a straight line while texting.

However, there shouldn't be any need for new legislation - in the UK there's always been "driving without due care and attention", and I'm sure other jurisdictions have similar concepts. The cell-phone ban was just so that politicians could be seen to be doing something about the Sunday headlines, and had the unfortunate side-effect of legitimising hands-free kits. What's needed are less cameras and more actual, adequately trained, police eyeballs looking for real dangerous driving rather than petty speeding (e.g. doing something about the bloody Audi or white van driving 2' behind you because you have the audacity to only be doing 10mph above the limit).

Re:GPS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40282765)

"What's needed are less cameras and more actual, adequately trained, police eyeballs looking for real dangerous driving"

This x1,000

Re:GPS? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40282693)

The phone is different than all the above because it takes your mind *out of the car*.

When you are talking to someone next to you, you are both in the car, and passengers are at least remotely aware of the surroundings - they largely share situation awareness with the driver. Changing a CD, grabbing a french fry, etc are all momentary and do not require anything beyond momentary attention.

I think the confusion comes in because a lot of the mechanics of driving can be done without any real thought or attention. This doesn't mean you are driving well (e.g. keeping a consistent speed) and certainly doesn't mean you are at your best reactiveness to your surroundings.

Try this: Next time you are driving and talking on the phone, either focus on driving or the conversation. If you do the former, you are going to annoy the person you are talking to because you aren't paying attention. Do the latter and when you hang up, you'll likely be a bit surprised at how far along your drive you've actually gone.

Re:GPS? (5, Insightful)

foniksonik (573572) | about 2 years ago | (#40281977)

This is the latest hyped up excuse for poor driving. Driving is about making decisions, at 50mph. Teach people to make good decisions and the problem is solved.

Sending a txt while going 5mph in a traffic jam is not going to kill anyone. Likewise while stopped at a red light. Ditto for holding up a map on a phone, depending on speed and congestion.

There are many scenarios where using a smartphone while driving is no more riskier than driving in general.

So judge the risk and put the phone, burger, drink, paper map, etc down if there is too much to be safe.

Some teens/people are horrible at this. These same teens/people will likely have something else that causes their accident if not texting.

Re:GPS? (4, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#40282091)

These same teens/people will likely have something else that causes their accident if not texting.

However it won't be an easily tracked metric. Public outrage is directly proportional to ease of reporting numbers, not actual danger or risk.

From personal experience children in a car seat are by far the most distracting thing you can have in a car. Even "girlfriend in a skimpy outfit" is not as distracting.

Another automotive killer is travel. Simply make it illegal to operate a motor vehicle more than 50 miles from county of registration and that alone will cut accident rates by a considerable amount.

Re:GPS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40282135)

Sending a txt while going 5mph in a traffic jam is not going to kill anyone. Likewise while stopped at a red light.

Traffic jams are deceptive. You think being in a traffic jam is easy, but your chance of rear-ending someone is actually quite high, especially if you further distract yourself. I don't think not killing someone in that kind of accident is sufficient justification for texting in a traffic jam. We don't allow drunks to drive if they go really slow and we shouldn't allow people to text if they go really slow either.

Being stopped at a red light is no excuse for texting either, because a) you're not going to be done when the lights turn green and b) it increases your chance of misjudging the situation (oh, green, go, crash, oops, wrong light).

You'd think that teaching people to make good decisions would be enough, but you are another example that people just don't grasp what piloting a ton of steel means. Pull over or keep your hands off the mobile.

Re:GPS? (1)

19thNervousBreakdown (768619) | about 2 years ago | (#40282623)

Being stopped at a red light is no excuse for texting either, because a) you're not going to be done when the lights turn green and b) it increases your chance of misjudging the situation (oh, green, go, crash, oops, wrong light).

I agree wholeheartedly about texting while moving slowly, but the above is an incredibly stupid argument. People make false starts constantly. I see it every day. You know what happens? They lurch a few feet forward, stop abruptly, and blush. Having touched a phone in the last 5 seconds doesn't negate your ability to realize you're going at the wrong time, and if you don't have that ability to begin with, nothing's going to change that. I challenge you to cite a single case where somebody caused an accident by running a red light from a full stop at the wrong time because they were texting when a different light went green.

A trick, by the way, for anyone who does text at reds but doesn't like being the asshole that makes everybody sit for a whole second--only do it when you can see the opposing yellow. That way, you know when it's time to pay attention and get ready to go, and that way you don't ... I guess, plow through an intersection due to anxiety over making people sit for oh god an entire second.

Re:GPS? (1)

epine (68316) | about 2 years ago | (#40282271)

Sending a txt while going 5mph in a traffic jam is not going to kill anyone.

You're putting an awful lot of faith in car doors engineered to prevent children from rolling out at low speeds. I did that once as a child while the car was moving at a slow speed turning onto an on-ramp to a major highway. If there was a button or lever and I was bored, sooner or later I pushed or pulled it. Wasn't hurt at all but it must have freaked my parents right out.

I've also seen a lot of people from the social underclass weaving through low-speed traffic jams on route for smokes or rotgut.

Glad to know your low-speed use-case analysis draws a safe box around all members of society who are valuable and competent.

Re:GPS? (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 2 years ago | (#40282361)

"Daddy? Why didn't they used to let people use their phones while driving?"

"That was only for a few years, son. Some politicians wanted to feel important, but then robot cars went into production."

Re:GPS? (1)

19thNervousBreakdown (768619) | about 2 years ago | (#40282487)

Sending a txt while going 5mph in a traffic jam is not going to kill anyone. Likewise while stopped at a red light. Ditto for holding up a map on a phone, depending on speed and congestion.

This is my biggest issue with regulation--I text while driving. Well, when stopped at a red light. And not the (incredibly annoying) slow roll people do at lights--full 0mph only. I don't want to have any accident at all, and fender-benders are accidents too. I don't have the dents and scratches you see on so many cars for a reason.

But if I got into an accident two, or probably even ten minutes later, my fault or not, you can bet I'd be charged with texting while driving. Even though I won't so much as read a text while rolling, all the attempts by people who do text and drive to get out of trouble by muddying every fact as much as possible means that the precision of timekeeping is in so much question that there's no way to really defend myself. For that reason alone, I'm considering not even doing that. The only thing that keeps me doing it is sheer stubbornness--I'm not doing anything wrong!--but the numbers in the equation of risk vs. reward just aren't adding up. It's not worth risking jail time for reassuring someone for the 5th time, "yes, I'm on the way", no matter how insane it is as a possible consequence.

Oh really. (4, Insightful)

gr8_phk (621180) | about 2 years ago | (#40282671)

This is the latest hyped up excuse for poor driving. Driving is about making decisions, at 50mph. Teach people to make good decisions and the problem is solved. Sending a txt while going 5mph in a traffic jam is not going to kill anyone.

So I was in a 3 lane traffic jam at a stop ending a call - I was in the center lane. I looked down to press the button to end my call. The was a bang, I looked up and it took me a good while to figure out what was happening. The car in front (or 2 in front I dunno 'cause I was looking down) of me had left a gap for someone coming out of a parking lot to cross all the lanes to get to a U-turn lane in the median (a 4th lane). The 3rd lane (left of me) had cleared quite a bit, so someone in a truck pulling a trailer was going rather quickly past all the stopped cars in the other 2 lanes. The SUV pulled through my lane into the 3rd lane just in time to get T-boned and pushed sideways a good 70 feet which involved going over the curb and part way around the U-turn before coming to a stop. As traffic started and I passed them I could see the vehicle quite caved in right at the B pillar (closing point of driver door). The entire picture of what had happened did not become clear to me until I drove past, where it would have all been clear from the start had I not been looking down at the critical moment. Let me rephrase this - someone may have died 20 feet in front of me and I didn't even see it or know what happened until I had a chance to piece it all together after the fact. This lapse was due to simply pressing the red button to end a call.

Now from my imagination: Imagine you're stopped at a red light sending a text. Just as you hit send someone honks loudly from behind you. You look up, the light is green and the car in front of you is already through the intersection. What is your reaction? Most people (you can claim to be special, but most people) will hit the gas to get moving while neglecting to take a few seconds to assess the overall situation (pedestrians, bikes, cross traffic, etc...). That loss of context can be very hazardous. Driving is about knowing what's happening so you can make decisions while sitting in the driver seat - not just at 50mph.

Re:GPS? (2)

PhotoJim (813785) | about 2 years ago | (#40282029)

So people on trains shouldn't be able to access the Internet either?

(Yes, some trains have WiFi but the train I was on last week from Philadelphia to New York had really painful WiFi. I had much better connectivity on T-Mobile.)

The solution is really simple: high penalties. Here in Saskatchewan, where I live, it's about a $120 fine if you get caught using your phone while driving (handsfree use is fine but you are not allowed to touch more than one button to initiate or answer calls). Frankly, the fine should be higher. Teens would be scared to death if they could get a three-month driving suspension and a $500 fine if they got caught texting while driving, and I suspect most adults would be too. It's a behaviour so easy to avoid that the penalty is not a problem for lawful people.

Re:GPS? (1)

sdnoob (917382) | about 2 years ago | (#40282505)

agreed.

drivers distracted by electronics should be found negligent automatically in an accident or other incident involving personal injury or property damage. give high fines, loss of license for repeat offenders, and jail time for the worst.. along with higher insurance premiums just like drunks, habitual speeders and accident-prone drivers.

here, seat belt fines exist only because the feds made the states pass seat belt laws or lose funding.. and they're only like $10... i.e. no teeth. 'no texting/calls' laws need to have some bite. jack up the fines to $250+ for a first offense, triple if also guilty of a moving violation. the local traffic cops would *love* that bit here. they run traps all the time on the interstate.. from the phone/gps/ipad use i've seen on roads here, i'd guess that at least half the stops would involve 'triple' fines.

i wouldn't go so far as to have red light cameras take pictures of every car for later examination for electronic device use by drivers.. but it should be ticket-able by itself (not only in conjunction with another violation that was the trigger for the traffic stop in the first place) when witnessed in person.

Re:GPS? (1)

Reibisch (1261448) | about 2 years ago | (#40282049)

What about all the identity theft that happens? Or online bullying? Wouldn't it be easier just to ban tech devices entirely? Would that satisfy your odd urge for knee-jerk regulation?

Re:GPS? (1)

Reality Master 301 (1462839) | about 2 years ago | (#40282183)

Yes, 911? I'm in the trunk of a car, I was kidnapped at gunpoint! I think we're heading towards... HELLO?? HELLO?!! [phone function turned off, you appear to be driving, have a nice day!]

Re:GPS? (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 2 years ago | (#40282199)

Yes, this means that passengers, people on trains, etc. won't be able to use their smartphones. Gee, what a tragedy. A few hours of inconvenience is so awful to give up in return for reduced road carnage.

Except it won't work like that. People will just hack it. The market for work-arounds will be a thousand times larger than for jailbreaks because so many more people will be inconvenienced.

Trying to disable distracting functionality is doomed to failure because it is yet another attempt to fight human nature which is always, always a losing proposition and usually very expensive to boot. If the goal is to reduce accidents (rather than moralize) then we need solutions that channel human nature instead of pushing back on it.

We should be looking for tech that helps people do what they want to do, but do it more safely. For example - Heads-Up displays or text-to-speech for reading text messages and steering-wheel controls (chording keyboards perhaps), speech recognition or even eye-tracking HUD keyboards for composing messages. Maybe have the system watch the driver's eyes and if they leave the road for too long the car itself reacts with an audio cue or even a literal poke in the ass to remind the driver to look in front of them.

No option is going to be 100% effective, but we make risk-reward trade-offs all the time, driving itself is inherently risky but as a society we've decided that we really like to travel about at high rates of speed so we accept those risks in exchange for the benefits. Communicating while driving is similar, all around the globe people are dealing with the exact same issue of tech-distracted driving, so it is pretty clearly something that lots and lots of people want to do regardless of culture. So trying to simply forbid it, either legally or technically, is only going to result in lots of tax dollars spent on half-assed enforcement and lots of private dollars spent on circumventing technical restrictions.

Re:GPS? (1)

Bert64 (520050) | about 2 years ago | (#40282307)

Then those of us who want to use modern phones would face inconvenience whenever we're a passenger in a vehicle...
While those who want to use their mobile while driving would either acquire a crack for the system, or simply use an older phone.

Net effect, inconvenience all round, but more of it for the law abiding... No less carnage on the roads.

And just how dangerous is using a GPS vs using a map while driving? Both of them distract you, but i would argue a GPS less so because it generally has spoken instructions so you don't need to take your eyes off the road.
Similarly, a hands free phone is not really any more dangerous than talking to a passenger.

Might as well ban smartphones at that point (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#40282471)

Yes, this means that passengers, people on trains, etc. won't be able to use their smartphones. Gee, what a tragedy.

If a smartphone won't work as advertised on the bus commute to and from the office, or on a Greyhound bus trip two states away, I might as well go back to a $5 per month dumbphone plan from Virgin Mobile and just carry a netbook for use with Wi-Fi. So why not ban smartphones entirely?

Google car? (3, Insightful)

k(wi)r(kipedia) (2648849) | about 2 years ago | (#40281873)

You'll just have to wait a few more years for it [wikipedia.org] though. Until Google rolls out a beta.

Re:Google car? (3, Interesting)

WaywardGeek (1480513) | about 2 years ago | (#40281943)

Seriously. The answer to tech distracting drivers is tech replacing drivers.

Arthur C Clarke got there first (1)

SomethingOrOther (521702) | about 2 years ago | (#40282203)


Arthur C Clarke predicted this first.

In Profiles of the Future [guardian.co.uk], he pointed out that within my lifetime, it would become a serious offence to drive a car yourself on a public road..... and not have a computer drive for you.

Of course, racetracks would still exist for Freudian reasons :-)
However, operating a car manually on public roads will undoubtedly become an offence equivalent to drunk driving. Whether you agree or disagree with Dr Clarkes time-line, you have to agree, that this IS what will happen in years to come.

Re:Google car? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40282105)

Yea 'cause after giving them my email to profile, my web surfing habits, my cellular phone habits, I want google to know where I'm driving too!

Your privacy isn't worth too much I take it?

Re:Google car? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40282125)

Driverless cars are the only solution for this. But ideally as one car in a network of communicating cars, not as a standalone Google-car solution. And warning signs and manual take-over options to keep us humans feeling like we have some sort of control.

Or learn to do both (4, Funny)

C0R1D4N (970153) | about 2 years ago | (#40281903)

Posted from my tab while doing 70 down the garden state parkway.

Re:Or learn to do both (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40282413)

Fuck you.

Less Speed Traps (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | about 2 years ago | (#40281923)

Less speed traps, more bad driving enforcement. I know I could meet my monthly quota (that doesn't exist, wink wink) in traffic violations just by watching the drivers around me in my morning commute. Seriously, why can't a cop just drive around and ticket the same people I see? In many cases, the improper lane changer, and the distracted texter are doing so right in front of the cop who is next to me. I guess cops only know how to give tickets when they are setup in a speed trap. Why not make texting traps?

Re:Less Speed Traps (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40282007)

We're still at a point in the life cycle of this issue where tough enforcement creates a strong backlash. DUI enforcement gets positive support, largely because we've figured out what a hideously bad safety risk it presents. Driving while on the phone has been shown to have the same safety impact as DUI, but society hasn't yet caught on to that detail; we're still surrounded by people who think they can do it safely and only other people are the problem.

I live in NY State, where handheld device usage is illegal, but you wouldn't know it. You can't drive more than a mile in normal traffic without seeing at least one person using a handheld phone while driving. A local community even tried using an unmarked police car dedicated to giving out tickets for this one violation, and they gave out buckets of them -- right up until people complained and then the project was mysteriously cancelled.

Phone use while driving will be a problem as long as we collectively tolerate it.

Technical solutions to social problems (1)

Zoxed (676559) | about 2 years ago | (#40281927)

Aren't all technical solutions to social problems doomed to fail in the end ?
My question is: why do so many people think so little of their fellow human's lives that there risk them for so little ? (also applies to drink/drive, RLJing, speeding, ...)

Broken red light (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#40282511)

RLJing

If a red light has stayed red for over six minutes despite my having been parked directly on the sensor, what am I supposed to do?

Insanity (1, Funny)

undulato (2146486) | about 2 years ago | (#40281935)

I was shocked when I first saw a GPS system stuck on the windscreen of a car - not least the first time I came to use one in conjunction with the other countless beeping proximity devices and seatbelt chimes and other distractions in modern automobiles. Add on a reversing camera and I simply don't know where to look at any one time.

How these devices came to be there and are still somehow legal I'll probably never know.

Worse than tech... (4, Insightful)

csumpi (2258986) | about 2 years ago | (#40281941)

...are toddlers. I have two of them. They fight, drop their toys, want milk, spill milk, scream, open window, throw things out of the window, get out of their seats... and all these issues have to be mitigated while doing 65 on the interstate.
 

Re:Worse than tech... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40282173)

Spilled milk has to mitigated as in a deer coming in through the wind sheild at at 65 mpg antlers first?

That tends to do the trick.

Re:Worse than tech... (1, Insightful)

ZankerH (1401751) | about 2 years ago | (#40282269)

I can't get my own children to sit down and shut up when being driven

You are the reason people want to restrict breeding rights.

Personal responsibility! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40281949)

Screw the government and big brother style tech solutions for simple problems. The problem: people crash. The solution: hold them personally accountable.

Car accidents happened before cell phones and they will happen after cell phones. The sad thing is some people are perfectly fine making a phone call while driving or sending a text at a traffic light. Others can't be trusted with any distraction and will still be a shitty driver with no distractions.

This idea that there is 'only one driver per car' is total and complete shit. My Jeep prevented me and the passenger from entering a new address into gps until I was going 5 mph or slower until I disabled that shit.

Increased penalties and stigmatization (3, Insightful)

dskoll (99328) | about 2 years ago | (#40281983)

IMO, driving while texting should be treated the same as driving with blood alcohol over the limit. First offence should get you a three-month license suspension. Second should get you six months. Third should be a lifetime driving ban.

And that's if no-one is killed or injured. If someone is killed and you were texting or your blood alcohol was over the limit, that's second-degree murder in my book. If society doesn't take these things seriously, we'll continue to kill thousands of people a year.

Re:Increased penalties and stigmatization (1, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#40282167)

driving while texting should be treated the same as driving with blood alcohol over the limit

Bad idea, read below:

Red light turns green. Cellphone goes in pocket, or in my case, dropped into convenient cupholder, until next red light. I use my phone all the time "while driving" for some strange definition of "driving" with no impact on my driving skills, perfectly safe for the general public. At 0 MPH the driving workload on a driver is really quite low.

Red light turns green. My blood alcohol content was 0.3% when the light was red, now that its green, its 0.3%. This results in a huge danger to public.

Another interesting comparison is you can only ticket people for texting (aka voicemail, or gps, or anything else) at a red light because otherwise its too hard to catch them doing it. But drunks can mostly only be detected while the car is moving, unless they're vomiting out the window or something. So the only texters who will ever get punished are the safe ones, in comparison to the drunks who get punished are the dangerous ones.

I've had weirdos yell at me about "my texting is going to kill people" for checking my phone's GPS and voicemails while waiting at a red light. People with strong opinions about this make no sense at all.

Re:Increased penalties and stigmatization (1)

LocalH (28506) | about 2 years ago | (#40282367)

As long as it's limited to actual driving and not "sitting at a red light while texting" which I'm afraid would get caught up in this.

Re:Increased penalties and stigmatization (1)

MrTree (188626) | about 2 years ago | (#40282381)

IMO, driving while texting should be treated the same as driving with blood alcohol over the limit.

To my mind, these are quite different things.
Driving while intoxicated required some premeditation, whereas texting may be a spontaneous choice.
Further, the driver is intoxicated for the entire duration of their journey, whereas texting is distracting (although perhaps dangerously so) for shorter periods.
I think you'll find drunk drivers are a lot more dangerous than texting drivers, and should be treated as such.

Yes there is (4, Insightful)

JWW (79176) | about 2 years ago | (#40282005)

There sure is a tech panacea for distracted driving.

SELF DRIVING CARS

There. Solved, Q.E.D.

I want my self driving car and I want it very soon.

What frustrates me most of all is that the biggest hurdle stopping self driving cars is the damn lawyers who are salivating at suing the first self driving car manufacture who has a problem, even though technology like this would virtually eliminate distracted driving completely.

Re:Yes there is (1)

KozmoStevnNaut (630146) | about 2 years ago | (#40282155)

I like to do things myself, I don't want self-driving cars or self-anything most things, actually.

I've worked in IT for years in various functions. I do not trust computers to drive my car for me.

Re:Yes there is (3, Insightful)

epine (68316) | about 2 years ago | (#40282179)

I've worked in IT for years in various functions. I do not trust computers to drive my car for me.

Fly much?

Re:Yes there is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40282477)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gimli_glider [wikipedia.org]

When somebody programs a car with enough smarts to be able to creatively solve a problem like those human pilots did, to adapt to conditions as gracefully as that, then I still won't want a car that drives itself, but I at least won't have a particularly good rational reason.

Also, planes don't fly themselves. 90% of landings are hand-flown and although it's common to let the FMS handle the rest of the flight it's not universal.

Re:Yes there is (1)

KozmoStevnNaut (630146) | about 2 years ago | (#40282535)

Not if I can help it.

Either way, planes have highly-skilled and trained pilots on board in case of emergencies. Self-driving cars will have Suzy Q. Soccermom and Brian J. Roadrage, who will be so busy twittering and playing angry birds that they probably wouldn't even notice the alarm.

Re:Yes there is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40282207)

And I'm sure you would have held on to your trusty horse and buggy while everybody else was riding around in their newfangled auto mobiles.

Re:Yes there is (1)

KozmoStevnNaut (630146) | about 2 years ago | (#40282579)

Oh yes, because completely giving up manual control of where you're going is obviously the same thing as going to different form of transport where the driver is still given manual control of the vehicle.

I'll let you in on a secret, being in a vehicle you're not controlling yourself is uncomfortable and feels off. You don't anticipate bumps, corners etc. the same way. People will obviously have to learn to deal with this someday, but while I still have a choice, I choose to be in control myself. I trust my abilities to handle my vehicle in a competent manner.

Re:Yes there is (1)

dkf (304284) | about 2 years ago | (#40282713)

I've worked in IT for years in various functions. I do not trust computers to drive my car for me.

I've seen how bad many people seem to drive without computer assistance, and I also work in IT. I'm looking forward to the self-driving car.

Re:Yes there is (2)

SirGarlon (845873) | about 2 years ago | (#40282171)

I want my self driving car and I want it very soon.

As a frequent pedestrian and occasional driver, I can say: as much as you want a self-driving car for yourself, I want it more for others.

Re:Yes there is (1)

royallthefourth (1564389) | about 2 years ago | (#40282305)

How about a functioning public transit system? No more drunk driving, no more hellish parking lots, no more gas stations, no more repairs or insurance to pay for.

Re:Yes there is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40282359)

Fuck you and your self-driving car.

Illegal? (1)

clickclickdrone (964164) | about 2 years ago | (#40282017)

In the UK it's illegal to use a phone whilst driving. Doesn't seem to stop people happily jabber on the phone whilst swerving their monster 4WD through traffic though.

Re:Illegal? (1)

residieu (577863) | about 2 years ago | (#40282533)

In many US states it's also illegal, unless you use a headset or other hands-free device.

Charging people to turn their phone off for them seems silly, but I guess it might be attractive to parents of teenagers. Put it on their phones and keep them from talking and driving. That assumes, of course, that it's not easy to remove, or it sends reports to someone when it is uninstalled.

feature override features (1)

satuon (1822492) | about 2 years ago | (#40282037)

feature override features

Am I the only one who needed to read that 4 times before I got the meaning correctly?

Not a tech problem (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | about 2 years ago | (#40282051)

Once again we are trying to find a technological fix to a human problem. People are the problem, not the technology.

Except in extreme circumstances, there is absolutely no need to check your phone every 20 seconds or send texts every five while walking down the street or ghetto driving your vehicle.

The unfortunate part is that in this case, evolution won't weed out the stupid because when these people have accidents, it's generally the other person who pays the price.

There is one way to make a dent but everyone would throw up their arms in terror. Since there are cameras in police cars, every time, not just whenever they feel like it, but everytime someone is talking on their phone while driving, they should be ticketed. The camera can provide proof of the deed and unless the person can prove they were in an emergency situation (house on fire, family member died, etc), they get to pay the fine.

Or course this will never happen because people will whine about their "rights" being violated despite the fact they are endangering the people around them. Apparently those people don't have the right not be run over or plowed into while you talk about your latest marital problems or the wench in the office who wears short skirts (true conversations I've heard).

Sure, there will always be those who will continue to talk, but once enough people get ticketed for talking/texting while driving, things will improve.

Re:Not a tech problem (2)

KozmoStevnNaut (630146) | about 2 years ago | (#40282273)

I agree 100%, it's an attitude problem and people need to grow up and realize that piloting 2+ tons of steel and rubber at legal road speeds is not something to be taken lightly, no matter how easy it is these days.

Which is precisely why I don't use a bluetooth headset and why my phone doesn't leave my pocket as long as the engine is running. It's also the reason why I buckle my seat belt etc. before I even turn the key.

I don't care how important people think they are, 99,9% of all phone calls and 100% of all text messages and emails can wait until the destination is reached and the car is stopped. Make it illegal to use any kind of phone (even with a headset), tv, microwave, GPS etc. while the car is moving, and give out special permits to people like doctors who genuinely need to be available 24/7.

Stock traders and other businessmen can suck it. If they're really that important (they aren't), they probably already have a chauffeur.

Even better. Somehow make distracted driving looked down upon in society and you'll only need to fine the assholes who already drive drunk.

Re:Not a tech problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40282415)

You state it's a human problem yet you take the position that banning the technology is the solution.

I disagree. The source of the human problem is that some people do not give focus on driving the appropriate priority - hence the distraction. If driving were your primary focus and everything else secondary, we may not have the problems associated with it today. There are many times when I've talked on the phone while driving and have had to ask the person to repeat something they said because I stopped listening to focus on something happening on the road around me.

On the opposite end (extreme example, but true), a few years ago there was an accident in front of my house in which a driver hit a parked car because they dropped a pack of cigarettes and leaned down to retrieve them. Taking the stance of many arguments on here, we should ban smoking in cars!

In my opinion, people found at fault in accidents due to distracted conditions should: 1) be ticketed, obviously, and 2) be required to take driving courses. This wouldn't prevent most first occurrences, but it also wouldn't restrict people who give driving the priority it needs.

Aviate, Navigate, Communicate (3, Interesting)

drerwk (695572) | about 2 years ago | (#40282095)

Drivers could learn from pilots - 1 fly the plane, 2 fly the plane where you need to go, 3 talk to the people you need to talk to.

One time I was driving I-5 to LA in the passing lane, which had traffic going above the posted limit. I looked in my rearview and an officer was right on my tail. I expected to get pulled over for speeding at that point, signaled and switched to the slow lane. The officer pulled right up on the tail of the next car which did the same as me. Two more cars followed likewise. The fifth driver did not notice the officer right behind him and in about 30 seconds on came the lights. He probably got a ticket for speeding, but his crime was failure at situational awareness. If that officer was looking to fill a quota any one of us would have done, but I was glad to see the unsafe driver get the ticket.

Re:Aviate, Navigate, Communicate (2)

characterZer0 (138196) | about 2 years ago | (#40282757)

The officer pulled right up on the tail of the next car

I was glad to see the unsafe driver get the ticket.

Wait, the tailgating pig gave himself a ticket?

Tech Behind the Wheel KILLS (2)

EmagGeek (574360) | about 2 years ago | (#40282157)

Except, of course, if it's integrated into the car, and the manufacturer of that car has spent millions bribing Congress to adopt the paradigm that any amount of tech in a vehicle is perfectly safe so long as it is integrated and the manufacturer got to profit from it.

and this is why you need government and regulation (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 2 years ago | (#40282209)

the government merely needs to mandate to cell providers, phone makers, and car makers, a comprehensive set of standards of how these devices interact

your car starts, suddenly you can only do voice activation on your phone, for example. they already sense passengers for air bag activation, so passenger cells can be excluded

this being slashdot, some idiot will concoct some scenario about why it won't work "what if you want to call 911! (so 911 calls are always enabled, genius)" or how government is pure evil and can do no good (no witty comeback for that, just roll your eyes)

Wheel 2.0 alpha (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40282265)

While it may be heresy, I humbly suggest the solution to tech-distracted driving is to turn off said technology and focus on the task at hand. As one bumper sticker so eloquently commanded: "Shut up and drive."

"So, Miss Lindsay Lohan . . . " (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 2 years ago | (#40282287)

"The truck driver cut you off . . . while your breaks failed . . . while you were texting . . . "

"Yes, that was definitely a tech problem. It wasn't your fault."

My simple solution (1)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | about 2 years ago | (#40282313)

I have an iPhone charger/radio transmitter that I plug my phone in to on the way back & forth to work. If I leave the phone active, it interferes with the radio signal, so I have to put it into airplane mode if I want to listen to music. No worries about receiving calls or text messages.

Experiment (1)

supertall (1163993) | about 2 years ago | (#40282555)

Just as a time passer on the bus last week I counted up cars whose drivers were using their phone. Not with scientific rigor or anything (though it would be interesting to do so). Out of about 20 cars, 6-7 were texting, 4-5 were talking on the phone, and one person was kicking it old school and reading a paperback. On I-5. In rush hour traffic.

Problems with technology & testosterone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40282743)

I have never had a problem reading the map on my phone or typing out a message in a traffic jam.

However I have rear-ended someone because of a cute girl walking her dog, and have had several near rear-ending events due to cute girls. How do we address my poor decisions? Mandating all women cover up completely, or can't go outside if they might be attractive to someone like me? Blaming the cute girls is just as asinine as blaming the phone.

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