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Why Cell Phone Bans Don't Work

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the keep-your-eyes-on-the-road dept.

Cellphones 335

sciencehabit writes "You can take the driver away from the cell phone, but you can't take the risky behavior away from the driver. That's the conclusion of a new study, which finds that people who talk on their phones while driving may already be unsafe drivers who are nearly as prone to crash with or without the device. The findings may explain why laws banning cell phone use in motor vehicles have had little impact on accident rates."

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Mounting evidence - of hype. (5, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088423)

This is the second major study calling into question the idea that talking on the phone while driving is vastly more dangerous, as dangerous as drunk driving.

In the other study, A Wayne State study [esciencenews.com] by Richard Young, Ph.D, found that procedural errors in the seminal research vastly over estimated the risk.

The actual risk of talking while driving was 1/4 of what the earlier studies found, putting it right in line with just simply driving.

Indeed, according to Wayne State, "Five other recent real-world studies concur with his conclusion that the crash risk from cellular conversations is not greater than that of driving with no conversation.". "Tasks that take a driver's eyes off the road or hands off the steering wheel are what increase crash risk," said Young. "Texting, emailing, manual dialing and so forth -- not conversation -- are what increase the risk of crashes while driving."

While texting poses serious risks, simply talking on the phone appears to pose no more risk than simply driving. The present study found that:

"Cell phone bans have reduced cell phone use by drivers, but the perplexing thing is that they haven't reduced crashes,"

.

In spite of this, in a fit of political correctness, the author feels compelled in the last paragraph of the story to print a quote from someone who has done no specific research on phoning while driving, but he still fees competent to weigh in suggesting bans be followed by stiffer enforcement.

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41088487)

I don't think it makes sense that it is mechanical part of using hands, instead of shifting focus. That makes very little sense -- mechanical parts are very much automated, and can be shifted quickly; whereas mental focus on doing things other than paying attention to surroundings, other traffic is much more expensive to redirect.

Of course empiric studies are the golden standard, but claims that "just use hands-off device" would help are pre-mature as well.

Also: just because risk is not same as with DUI isn't much of reason for joy -- current DUI limits are so high that one feels suicidal to be walking anywhere near bars on friday nights. Drivers are much MUCH more impaired than they think, even when staying within US legal limits.
Other countries use stricter limits: Sweden's 0.2 is actually technically close to good one (that's where changes occur); but most other countries at least use 0.5 (as opposed to use 0.8 or higher).

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (5, Informative)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088567)

Other countries use stricter limits: Sweden's 0.2 is actually technically close to good one (that's where changes occur); but most other countries at least use 0.5 (as opposed to use 0.8 or higher).

It's possible you have your decimal off, but the US's legal limits are only 0.08, which is a damn sight lower than 0.2 (or 0.5)....

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (5, Informative)

KiloByte (825081) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088675)

Most countries count alcohol content in blood in permilles, not percents.

Level of risk (4, Insightful)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088901)

While I dunno what's the level of risk of talking on cellphone while driving while compared to those who drive drunk, but I know one thing for sure ...

I've been in couple of my friends' vehicles and they really scare the shit out of me

Inside their car are new added distractions - from GPS map finder LCD screen to mini LCD/MP3 movie player, surrounding the driver seat

The already cluttered atmosphere of where the driver does the driving, because of these added gadgets, become even more cluttered

Please do not tell me that the combined effect from the LCD screens (GPS map finder, movie/MP3 player, cellphone, and so on, surrounding the vehicle driver, does not represent added distractions
 

Re:Level of risk (4, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089111)

I think it depends on the particular controls and how they're all designed.

GPS helps you drive less; it guides you directly to your destination, so you don't drive around in circles looking for it, you don't have to constantly pull over and look at a map, or worse with some people, it keeps them from having a paper map unfolded over their steering wheel where they're trying to look at the unwieldy paper map and drive at the same time (not a common sight these days, but it used to be >10 years ago). The main problem with GPS is people who try to program them while they're driving, and cellphone GPSes which aren't affixed to the dash and aren't that easy to use. I use my cellphone's GPS, and it's much handier than paper maps of course, but it has problems; it has to sit on my leg as I drive, every time I take a corner I have to use one hand to keep it from sliding onto the floor and then getting confused as to which direction we're going, and if I need to change anything as I drive, well obviously that's no different than texting and driving. It doesn't help that the built-in GPS units that come with cars are generally condemned as horrible and obsolete (they never update them, they just expect you to buy a new car every year or two), so they're no better. Some of the built-in ones I've tried on high-end brands like $90k Audis have had absolutely abominable UIs.

Built-in screens aren't supposed to play movies (unless they're in the back seat, out of the driver's view). I'm pretty sure there's a law about that.

The built-in MP3 players in theory shouldn't be any more distracting than any other car radio/CD player. The main problem is the sheer volume of music that can be stored in one, so selecting something may be more distracting than just picking one of a handful of CDs out of your storage bin like in the olden days. But the one big problem I see with some cars is that they're trying to replace all the dashboard functions (stereo, HVAC, etc.) with a single touchscreen with a shitty UI. So instead of using a knob to adjust the fan speed like before, you're expected to navigate menus on a touchscreen to do this. Even if you didn't need to navigate menus, there's no tactile feedback here, so you have to fully concentrate on the touchscreen. It should be pretty obvious how horrible this idea is, but apparently it's not so obvious to Ford, Lincoln, and BMW, who are all pushing systems like this hard. Ford in particular went from a very high position on some "initial quality" surveys to very close to the bottom in a short span of time, all because they started pushing their "MyFordTouch" (by Microsoft) system. I guess a bunch of customers got suckered into it at the dealership, and then after living with it for a few months realized how horrible it is. Also, Ford tries hard to push this system by making it non-optional in the higher trim levels; I was looking at a few models a while ago, and the only way to avoid the MFT system was to get the lower models, but then you lose out on all the nice extras like the upgraded suspension, sunroof, etc.

Re:Level of risk (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41089533)

Why don't you get the directions beforehand and memorize the route? Have people really become so lazy and mentally dull that they can't do this any more?

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (3, Informative)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088669)

If you could text while driving by never touching the device, and not having to look at it, it may well prove that it isn't that dangerous.
Those systems are just now coming into common manufacture and usage, as Voice Recognition technology is just now becoming up to the task.
Even initiating a voice recognition text message on modern cell phones requires at least one hand, and both eyes. Some in-dash systems in cars
can send a text strictly with voice input, often not even requiring looking at the in-dash display.

So the jury is out on that.

The present studies all are based on manual manipulation of a hand held device which requires both hand and eye be focused on the device in order to send a text message. Touch screens almost necessarily require two hands and two eyes to send a text message.

Mental focus shifts in milliseconds. In fact people can do more than on thing at a time. Often concentration and performance is improved by having a mostly autonomous background task [sagepub.com] happening at the same time. So I don't agree with your assertion that mental focus is harder to shift. The research doesn't support that fact.

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (4, Insightful)

Jaktar (975138) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089047)

If you're generous and assume that people can shift their focus in 5ms, you'll still be increasing stopping length by just over 4 ft at 60 mph. That's more than enough to shove your front end up someones bumper.

Realistically, let's assume that these distracted drivers take their eyes off the road for a mere 3 seconds. That's an additional 88 ft at 60mph before their action occurs.

Yes, other things can be nearly as distracting as cell phones. The difference is the frequency with which your eyes are going to leave the road.

It doesn't matter how good you are at multitasking.

Also, from TFA:
"based on insurance claim rates in states with and without the laws."
It's not as if someone would lie about their distractions when reporting accidents, right?

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089177)

Regardless of you back of the napkin calculations, the other studies I quoted show that this is not happening.
Driving while talking is simply not proving more dangerous than simply driving.

I suspect you are mixing focus shift times typical for texting with those typical for talking.

As for lying, cell records are used in some of these studies to take that possibility away.
A quick glance at your call log and text log pretty much settles the issue.

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (4, Insightful)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089253)

If 4 ft will "shove your front end up someones bumper" then you're following too close.

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089515)

Yeah, the 4 foot difference in stopping distance from mentally shifting focus is DEFINITELY on par with the 88 foot difference from looking at your phone for a few seconds.

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (3, Insightful)

markdavis (642305) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088695)

Blood alcohol limits are pretty much nonsense. There are TONS of factors that will affect how intoxicated or not a driver is under the influence of the drug: How quickly they drank, what they ate, how accustomed to the drug are they, how much they weigh, genetics, mental state, what other chemicals have they ingested and how much/when, how tired they are, etc.

It is just crazy to think that anyone can draw a line in the sand and declare that some magic value separates "intoxicated" from "non-intoxicated". It really shouldn't matter WHAT substance was ingested, or how much, or even if anything was. What matters is mental ability, reaction time, motor control, etc. Those can also be tested (and even objectively) and will reveal a whole lot more about how fit someone is to be driving.

Example- which would you rather be surrounded by on the road: some 300 pound males who drink daily for years and have a blood alcohol of 0.8 but is otherwise well rested, generally a good driver, and taking no other drugs or medications -or- some a group of people that were already poor drivers, have colds, are extremely tired, and have taken a bunch of cough meds and antihistamines?

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (5, Insightful)

scot4875 (542869) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088759)

and have taken a bunch of cough meds and antihistamines?

You mean the kind that have warning labels that say, "do not drive when taking this medication"?

But your false dichotomy is irrelevant anyway: I'd rather have neither group on the road with me.

--Jeremy

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (3, Interesting)

Stormthirst (66538) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088793)

I don't know about the States, but cough medicine can get you into just as much trouble as alcohol. It's still a DUI.

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (1)

locopuyo (1433631) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089061)

It may vary by state, but where I'm from any kind of drug can get you a DUI.

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089127)

That's because most cough medicine contains alcohol. The breathalyzers and blood tests don't differentiate artificial cherry flavor vs. the flavorful byproducts of fermented grapes or hops.

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (4, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088805)

Its not nonsense. It's the most reasonably way to do it. You can't have a special number for everyone.
Don't get me wrong, you will always be a number 2 to me~

As for you're example..neither,. The 300 pound man with a .08 is just as dangerous. Something that has been shown over an over again.

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41088881)

But my mommy said I was special!

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (0)

markdavis (642305) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088883)

You don't NEED a special number for everyone, you just need to test mental/physical function, not blood alcohol. For example, I have seen portable machines that can measure reaction time. With proper studies, you can determine a reasonable reaction time threshold for what is not dangerous and use THAT instead.

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (5, Insightful)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089195)

No, there is very little that shows .08 between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. is any less safe than 0.00. What has been shown is that in uncontrolled statistics, people with 0.08 crash more than people with 0.00. And that people with 0.08 have measurable deficiencies. This lead to assertions without proof that the alcohol alone, with the decreased reaction, was sufficient to explain the crashes.

What can't be determined from the same data (as it was scrubbed by the government to prove a point, not to improve safety) is whether 0.08 after 10 p.m. results in an increased tendency to fall asleep at the wheel if alone, or take increased risks if not (both have been proven true alone, but never integrated with the actual crash data for real world risk analysis, as that could jeopardize the party line that alcohol is evil).

Alcohol research stopped when MADD came on the scene with a non-safety-related goal of Prohibition. Alcohol is evil, and anyone looking at the causes too closely is killing children by supporting drunks killing babies. At least that's how it's been for the past 20 years as I've looked into this.

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089571)

So you stipulate that having a high blood alcohol level has been shown to cause people to have an increased tendency to fall asleep if alone and take increased risks if not? There's also plenty of evidence to show that reaction time is slower when you've got a high BAC.

So besides disliking the politics of MADD, what's your position? That we should just let drunk drivers, who are more prone to fall asleep, take increased risks, and have slowed reaction times, drive around anyway?

I was at a beer festival recently. Leaving, I was tipsy enough that there was no way I'd consider driving. I'm sure I could have done it, and it probably wouldn't have been a problem even, but I knew I was noticeably intoxicated and the risk was unacceptable. At the door they had a booth with breathalyzer tests. I was curious, so I did one. 0.04. I can't imagine driving at 0.08.

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (1)

ColdSam (884768) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089337)

It may not be practical to have a different limit for everyone, but that doesn't mean that different people don't have different tolerances and other risk behaviors. You choose not to answer the hypothetical question, which is a common copout. Some drivers at .10 are safer than others at .05. The overall weight is irrelevant, however, unless the metric you're using is number of drinks.

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (2)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088903)

You're average severe drunk drives to work at about .08 on most Monday mornings. It's leftovers from the previous evenings bender. Monday early is one of the most dangerous times to drive, still drunk plus hungover plus lack of sleep plus late to work.

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (0)

nighthawk243 (2557486) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089643)

Your average severe drunk is still drinking when going to work.

I know a guy who gets up, drinks vodka. Drives to work (drunk); drinks during work with a water bottle of vodka, refilled throughout the day (he is a cook); then after work, he sits at the bar where he works and gets a ton of strong Long Islands; then drives home and drinks more.

I once had to fix a computer that he built for my friend since he was so hammered that he completely forgot to screw down the heat sink on the Q6600, causing it to spike to 90C. The CD Drive bay cover also was inside the case and there were many screws missing.

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (4, Insightful)

willy_me (212994) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088957)

how accustomed to the drug are they

You're so very wrong - at least in regards to alcohol. It is true that people can become accustomed to alcohol but they only appear sober. Their reaction times will be just as bad as someone who rarely drinks. This is why drinking and driving is so dangerous - those who do it really believe it does not impact their driving. And they are right, so long as nothing out of the ordinary happens. The problem is it severely limits what one perceives and how one reacts in an emergency situation.

Try having a few beer and then playing your favourite fps. Think of it as a science experiment - and a good excuse to have a few beer. Now compare your scores with and without alcohol and report your findings...

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (2)

locopuyo (1433631) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089075)

Have someone else take your score. Drunk people always think they are better than they are. I have a lot of experience with this and FPSs.

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (3, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089095)

Ok, now exactly how do you create a useful set of rules for your scenario? Basically, you can't. So you create rules that can be adjudicated in the real world and err on the side of safety.

It's not crazy. It's the real world. Sucks to have to live in it but such is life.

Original sin and all that....

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41089381)

Blood alcohol limits are pretty much nonsense. There are TONS of factors that will affect how intoxicated or not a driver is under the influence of the drug: How quickly they drank, what they ate, how accustomed to the drug are they, how much they weigh, genetics, mental state, what other chemicals have they ingested and how much/when, how tired they are, etc.

I've said for years that they need to go after BAD DRIVERS, rather than drivers that perform a specific action that may (or may not) increase the possibility of them being bad drivers.

Drinking and driving = illegal (even though the roads are empty, you're barely above the limit, and you have a high tolerance for alcohol)
Driving while holding a cell phone = illegal (in some places)

Driving while tired = legal
Driving while talking on the (speaker) phone = legal
Driving while fiddling with radio/GPS/etc = legal
Driving while chatting with passenger = legal
Driving while sick/on medication = legal

How does that make sense??

Punish people who drive badly (whatever the reason), and leave the drivers who drive well alone (even if they are technically drunk or whatever).

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089605)

Are there no dangerous driving laws where you live? Around here you can get a charged for impaired driving (drugs, alcohol, excessive tiredness) or dangerous driving because you were just being an idiot for no apparent reason.

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (0)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088819)

You must be on crack, a baptist or both. Science put's intoxicated at .15

.08 is already all about revenue. When you look at the levels of drunkness and actual accident rate, .15 jumps off the graph. Beyond that your judgement is fucked, you think you're the Stig. Up to that your reflexes are slowed a little (like being older).

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (4, Insightful)

SwedishPenguin (1035756) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089187)

A single beer is enough to get you in trouble while driving in Sweden so we tend to stay away from driving after having had as little as one beer. Driving to the pub is very rare here because of it, and if you do you'll have to take the bus or a cab home.

IMO it's a good thing, it discourages people from driving to the drinking establishment thinking they will only have a single beer. One beer so easily turns into two, two turns into three and all of the sudden you really are completely unfit to drive, but you still have that car outside and your judgement is impaired. Better if everyone just takes the bus/subway/taxi to and from the pub.

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089479)

I think the point is that the danger lies in activities that take your eyes off the road. That's pretty easy to believe. If you're not looking you might crash into things. The whole "shifting mental focus" thing is a lot more tenuous. It might be true, it might not.

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41089509)

I'm glad I live in a country where there is a zero alcohol tolerance while driving and the penalties are very harsh if you do drive under the influence. Most of the drunk people end up taking cabs, the Metro or just walk.

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088671)

This is the second major study calling into question the idea that talking on the phone while driving is vastly more dangerous, as dangerous as drunk driving.

It was drop dead obvious that talking on the phone isn't vastly more dangerous than not doing so. It's so prevalent that a "vast" difference in danger would have been clearly reflected in the overall accident statistics.... and it hasn't been. Not that this stopped anyone in the mainstream from hyping the studies.

One of the earlier studies determined if someone was on the cell phone by comparing cell phone billing records with police records of the accident time. Cell phone time data is GPS based and accurate to fractions of a second. Police records are based on when the officer looked at his watch.

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088825)

And the most cited 'study' just said, well there were 12000 deaths, so about 25% of that was cell phone related. They just pulled the number out of the air.

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (2)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089155)

This shows why using cell phone billing records is totally bogus. Every judge knows that a police officer's word is irrefutable and his judgment accurate beyond compare. If a cop testifies that you were driving too fast, based on nothing more than his visual observation, that's proof positive that you were guilty of speeding.

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (0)

knigitz (714500) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088795)

Some people can drive perfectly fine while using a cellphone. Some people can not drive perfectly fine under any circumstance. On a side-note, anyone seen a Romney bumper sticker on anything other than a 4W pickup intent on stealing your right away?

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (-1, Offtopic)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089171)

A bumper sticker advocating either Romney or Obama is an indicator that the driver of that car is a complete moron.

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (1, Flamebait)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089197)

Now watch my prior statement get modded down into oblivion. I have no way to prove this, but I'd be willing to bet that all the people who mod me down are Obama fans. Romney fans are idiots too, but it seems to be the Obama fans that get really upset about any criticism of their hero. A very irrational bunch there.

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (0)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089555)

a 4W pickup intent on stealing your right of way?

FTFY.
What you said didn't even make sense.

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (4, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088907)

This is the second major study calling into question the idea that talking on the phone while driving is vastly more dangerous, as dangerous as drunk driving.

This study does no such thing. What this study shows is that talking on the phone being dangerous *is not disproven* by accident rates remaining the same after a ban. It does this by suggesting that people most affected by the ban are such (to use a scientific) boneheads that when you take away their cell phone they just find other ways to cause accidents. Another possibility is that these people ignore the ban, the way they ignore the prohibitions on tailgating and weaving.

The big question is that given that cell phone bans don't make much statistical difference in accident rates, should we have them? But to be fair, the same could be said of bans against weaving and tailgating. It's seems plausible that people who don't drive like idiots do so *because they're not idiots*. But as another researcher quoted in the article suggests, perhaps the problem is that we don't enforce laws against aggressive driving enough.

Oh, yes, and one more thing... (5, Informative)

hey! (33014) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088973)

In spite of this, in a fit of political correctness, the author feels compelled in the last paragraph of the story to print a quote from someone who has done no specific research on phoning while driving, but he still fees competent to weigh in suggesting bans be followed by stiffer enforcement.

The person being quoted is D. L. Strayer, who a quick google scholar search reveals has done a proverbial shitload [google.com] of distracted driving research, much of it focused on phone use.

Re:Oh, yes, and one more thing... (2)

trikes57 (2442722) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089107)

His work is mostly speculative, and artificial in nature, and his assertions haven't been born out on the road.
This is the key part here. All his doom-saying about talking while driving has not been born out by the facts on the ground.

In fact his studies are some of the exact ones proven to have defects that icebike mentioned in his first linked article.

Re:Oh, yes, and one more thing... (4, Informative)

hey! (33014) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089459)

His work is mostly speculative, and artificial in nature, and his assertions haven't been born out on the road.

Citations?

In fact his studies are some of the exact ones proven to have defects that icebike mentioned in his first linked article.

As far as I can see none of DL Strayer's papers are cited by Dr. Young's paper (doi: 10.1097/EDE.0b013e31823b5efc -- perhaps I've got the wrong one), referred to in the link above.

First there was icebike's claim that DL Strayer has never done any distracted driving studies. That about as wrong as wrong can be. Then there is your claim that the paper linked to by icebike specifically debunks several of DL Strayer's papers. I thought this was curious. If that were so, then why would icebike think that DL Strayer hasn't done any distracted driving studies? So I checked, and apparently Dr. Young's paper doesn't cite any of DL Strayer's publications. If that is so, then you must be mistaken.

I'll assume for now you guys mixed different studies up and simply didn't bother to check, but you can see how it would be forgivable for someone to come away with the impression you guys are just making stuff up.

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (1)

similar_name (1164087) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089229)

When I read this in the summary ...

finds that people who talk on their phones while driving may already be unsafe drivers

I took it as safe drivers don't talk on their cell phone and unsafe drivers do. In other words, the kind of person that doesn't think driving deserves their full attention will be an unsafe driver and it doesn't matter whether that attention is diverted by cell phones, the radio, eating, bill boards etc.

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (3, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089423)

When I read this in the summary ...

finds that people who talk on their phones while driving may already be unsafe drivers

I took it as safe drivers don't talk on their cell phone and unsafe drivers do. In other words, the kind of person that doesn't think driving deserves their full attention will be an unsafe driver and it doesn't matter whether that attention is diverted by cell phones, the radio, eating, bill boards etc.

I believe you have the gist of it.

The interesting thing is that the bans have not resulted in fewer accidents, which suggests these people are also scofflaws, or they are just as accident prone while NOT on the phone. Its also possible the study made no distinction between talking vs texting.

But other studies have tended to show that talking while driving has not proven more dangerous with the population as a whole, without making distinctions for people easily distracted or prone to take risks.

I tend to suspect that talking, especially hands free, is not that much more of a risk, once you get past the dialing portion of an outgoing call, and driving behavior does not deteriorate during a call. Drivers don't drive faster, start changing lanes, follow too close just because they are on the phone, and in fact they may actually do fewer of these things while talking.

I also believe that those willing to take their hands and eyes off the wheel to text, or even read an incoming text are the major source of the problem. Actual call records seem to support this.

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41089635)

"The interesting thing is that the bans have not resulted in fewer accidents"

To be clear that is not a conclusion from this study. It is a conclusion from comparing crash data in states with and without the ban. I think we are a long way from having conclusive proof of this. What we know is that people who are talking on the phone are as likely to have an accident as people who are dead drunk.

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41089607)

You missed this one huh?

"It's clear [from the scientific literature] that cell phones in and of themselves impair the ability to manage the demands of driving," Reimer (the leader of the study) says"

Re:Mounting evidence - of hype. (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089637)

From the literature.
Yet not evidenced on the ground.

In short, the literature hasn't proven a reliable predictor of actual facts on the road.

Bull fucking shit! (2, Insightful)

suso (153703) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088461)

The reason why cell phone bans don't work is the same reason other bans don't work, because they aren't enforced enough or at all (from what I've seen). Good people give into temptation because other people are doing it and feel they can get away with it. Take that feeling away, people would stop. Granted, I agree there would always be offenders, but not nearly as many.

Re:Bull fucking shit! (1)

jaca44 (2557600) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088559)

Couldn't agree more old chap! :)

Re:Bull fucking shit! (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41088575)

They tried to ban masturbating at my public library, but it didn't stop me. Why else would they have all those National Geographics there if they didn't expect a little knob floggin' now and then?

Re:Bull fucking shit! (5, Insightful)

eepok (545733) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088617)

Indeed. If there were days of "shock enforcement" where 100% of available traffic officers specifically sought out to enforce cell phone driving laws instead of other non-immediately-deadly traffic infractions, people would respond QUICKLY.

Why do people continue to talk on their cell phones when it's against the law? Because they think they can get away with it. How do you change that? Ticket SO MANY PEOPLE that they talk and whine and bitch about it... that way the risk is genuine.

Do this once a month for three months without announcing the plan to anyone an watch things change QUICKLY.

PS -- Use unmarked cars and cameras, too.

Re:Bull fucking shit! (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089069)

Indeed. If there were days of "shock enforcement" where 100% of available traffic officers specifically sought out to enforce cell phone driving laws instead of other non-immediately-deadly traffic infractions, people would respond QUICKLY.

Um... they basically did that in California. And nonstop news stories. And....

Re:Bull fucking shit! (2)

asylumx (881307) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089551)

Right... but speeding also leads to more crashes (or at least that's according to what the scary letter I got when I landed my first speeding ticket said). Speeding is another of those that people do because they can get away with it. Also, it's a hell of a lot easier to enforce speed limits where what the car is doing can be measured by observing from a distance than it is to try to enforce what the driver is (or isn't) doing inside the car. So, given that, I wouldn't be convinced that the law enforcement agencies could better enforce a law like a cell phone ban.

Re:Bull fucking shit! (2, Insightful)

jmichaelg (148257) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088761)

Enforcement, traffic laws, safety systems don't matter. What matters is the number of people and number of registered cars.

As hard as that may be to believe, Smeed's Law [wikipedia.org] has held up since the 1940's when Smeed first proposed it.

Every advance in safety is offset by people engaging in riskier behavior.

Re:Bull fucking shit! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41088797)

TFA disagrees with you.

"Cell phone bans have reduced cell phone use by drivers, but the perplexing thing is that they haven't reduced crashes,"

(Emphasis mine)

Re:Bull fucking shit! (1)

suso (153703) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089133)

TFA is about a scientific experiment having to do with the dangers of driving with distracting technology in the way, so they test this theory by hooking up a bunch of distracting technology to people while they drive around in their cars and conclude that the same people who are distracted by technology are also distracted by technology. They also tested them by taking away their "hand held drug" and were amazed that they acted more agreesively.

By the way. This study was conducted by MIT in the Boston area, where there is no ban on handheld talking on the phone while driving according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety [iihs.org] .

Re:Bull fucking shit! (3, Interesting)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088813)

The reason why cell phone bans don't work is the same reason other bans don't work, because they aren't enforced enough or at all

Enforcement is the problem. When texting is banned, people put the phones down in their lap to text so that the cops can't see the phones up on top of the steering wheel while they're texting and watching the road.

OK, I guess thinking that government laws can solve this problem is really the root cause.

How about this - rescind the laws that prevent automatic car trials from happening on your State's roads instead? Nevada seems to be doing just fine.

People have made it clear that they'd rather surf than drive, so everything that stands in the way of letting that happen safely is a problem. Or just fight human nature - whatever works.

Re:Bull fucking shit! (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088869)

If only there was actual scientific evidence that its a problem.
Here is some emperical evidence that it is not a problem:

http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s1103.pdf [census.gov]

We would expect to see an increase in accidents, but we see a decrease since 1990

Smart Phones are Awesome (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41088479)

I mean, when I can check Slashdot while driving, what could go wr

Re:Smart Phones are Awesome (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088647)

Sweet. Glad to hear you got into the mobile alpha group too!

Re:Smart Phones are Awesome (1)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089199)

OT, I know, but I got that email, too. It didn't seem to have anything about GETTING the alpha. Is that still forthcoming or did my browser block something?

Re:Smart Phones are Awesome (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089289)

I know, they said they would send us another email when our group is up.

Need to check and see if my other account got one of those ... the 4 digit one.

Re:Smart Phones are Awesome (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41088733)

Apparently, you can hit submit too early.

Re:Smart Phones are Awesome (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41088991)

Apparently, it's no more dangerous than mentioning Candlejack, so I wou

Auto V Manual (2)

R0UTE (807673) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088505)

The article (and in fact most similar articles I have read) seem to take nothing into account regarding automatic and manual gearboxes. There is a massive difference between talking on a phone whilst changing gear and whilst driving an automatic car. It would be an interesting comparison and it is certainly far more dangerous in general to speak on a phone whilst driving a manual. Having to change gear whilst keeping a phone to your cheek (generally with your other hand) is magnitudes more dangerous than plodding along in an automatic...

Re:Auto V Manual (2)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088619)

There is a massive difference between talking on a phone whilst changing gear and whilst driving an automatic car.

Only if you hold the phone to your ear with one hand.

Personally, I prefer a bluetooth headset with the phone set to autoanswer - all I have to do when someone calls me while I'm driving is say "hello" when the earbug chirps at me....

Re:Auto V Manual (3, Insightful)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088831)

I have a handsfree phone kit in my van, and I also have a handsfree radio setup - there's a boom microphone mounted on the sun visor and a remote push-to-talk button on the gearstick. I still think it's safer to avoid using either when traffic conditions get a bit tricky.

Incidentally, people in the US seem to make a lot of noise about automatic gearboxes being safer because the driver is not "distracted" by changing gear. It's pretty simple - if you have to think consciously about changing gear after your second or third driving lesson, you lack the mental capacity to drive a car.

Re:Auto V Manual (0)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089215)

I think you might be missing the conclusion from your statement: people in the US are generally lacking the mental capacity to drive a car safely.

Re:Auto V Manual (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41088821)

Yeah, um, no. If you have a functioning neck and a shoulder, you can pinch a cellphone there for the half-second it takes to bang out a gear.

Or you could just use the speaker phone.

Re:Auto V Manual (1, Insightful)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088941)

A confounding factor is that people who drive automatics can't drive and certainly don't focus.

Re:Auto V Manual (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089205)

I take it you've never heard of a Bluetooth headset?

The basic question no one has asked is... (2, Interesting)

Targon (17348) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088507)

Is there more risk of an accident if there is a passenger in the car, or someone who is talking on a hands free calling device? The person in the passenger seat can actually be more of a distraction than someone on the phone, so what will we do, limit vehicles to not have any passenger seats?

Re:The basic question no one has asked is... (2)

PeanutButterBreath (1224570) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088563)

The person in the passenger seat can actually be more of a distraction than someone on the phone, so what will we do, limit vehicles to not have any passenger seats?

The person in the passenger seat can also recognize dicey driving situations and hazards that the driver may not see. So we only need to make it illegal to drive with passengers who don't know when to shut up (hint: when someone is driving).

the person in the car can see the environment (1)

Chirs (87576) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088635)

and shut up if the driver needs to concentrate

Re:the person in the car can see the environment (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41089217)

the person in the car can see the environment

Far from a given, especially since they aren't necessarily paying attention to the environment. Doubly so if they're in the back seat.

and shut up if the driver needs to concentrate

So can the person on the other end of the phone. For that matter, the driver can force them to by putting down the phone.

sponGe (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41088515)

rooting cor4se [goat.cx]

The problem is distractions of any kind. (4, Interesting)

PeanutButterBreath (1224570) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088543)

Focusing on cell phones because they are otherwise topical is a mistake because nay-sayers will always be able to argue that talking on a cell phone is no more dangerous than putting on makeup or leaning over to smack your kid in the back seat. Which is true. There are a million stupid and dangerous things that people do while driving.

However, in the push to make driving a consumption-heavy lifestyle and cars yet another arena for consuming various products and advertisements for even more products, the ship has pretty much sailed on acknowledging the fact that driving is inherently dangerous and that danger increases with every gadget and chatty passenger that you add to the equation.

Re:The problem is distractions of any kind. (5, Insightful)

richg74 (650636) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089247)

There are a million stupid and dangerous things that people do while driving.

Absolutely. Actually, I'm pretty well convinced that a big part of the problem is the thing that many drivers don't do: focus their attention on driving, which, as you say, is inherently dangerous.

I was a training ride leader for the Boston->New York AIDS Ride back in the mid-1990s, and I wrote this as part of a safety introduction for novice cyclists:

The best safety rule is this: don't crash. The best way to avoid crashing is to focus 100 percent of your attention 100 percent of the time on riding safely. If you are thinking about the cute guy or girl that you saw at lunch, or a problem at work, or otherwise watching a movie inside your head, sooner or later you will encounter a dangerous situation, and will get acquainted, up close and personal, with the pavement.

Change 'riding' to 'driving' and I think it still works pretty well.

Re:The problem is distractions of any kind. (2)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089407)

I drove for a short while but quit because it was just too boring. Yes focusing all of your attention is important, but how can you focus on something that 90% of the time is not worthy of any notable percentage of attention?
I can hand you a blank piece of paper and tell you to spend 100% of your attention focusing on it for hours, but I do not see how that would be possible for a human being to do.

Not terribly surprising (4, Informative)

markdavis (642305) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088569)

>"new study, which finds that people who talk on their phones while driving may already be unsafe drivers who are nearly as prone to crash with or without the device."

That partially doesn't surprise me. Typically, the same people that would allow themselves to be distracted by a phone or texting are going to be the same people that will allow themselves to be distracted by the radio, GPS, passenger, makeup, food, random thoughts, whatever. Conversely, there are people who tend to not allow distractions or are better able to ignore or cope with them. They might RELUCTANTLY use a phone while driving but don't allow the phone to be the primary focus and are FAR less distracted than others.

Just my observation, but it certainly looks like younger generations are growing up with less and less ability to focus, almost like ADD is rampant. Could be a side effect of having instant everything in their life and have no tolerance for having to work at something, concentrate on something, or be "disconnected" from others.

All that aside, I am not sure the methodology of the cited study is very scientific. For example- just ASKING people how often they use a phone while driving- yeah, that will be accurate. Anyway, there is no simple solution to the problem of distracted driving. Just banning phone use is not the answer. I don't know what the answer is, or if there is one... but it is certainly not going to be one thing.

Re:Not terribly surprising (1)

jaca44 (2557600) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089477)

Forget about people using cell phones; what about drivers who have to look at the passenger they are talking to??

[PSA] Helios Project Founder needs our help! (-1, Offtopic)

Synchis (191050) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088577)

From his blog at http://linuxlock.blogspot.com/2012/08/this-is-where-we-are.html [blogspot.com]

Ken's cancer has just recently begun to spread to his right lymph node but his Oncologist has assured us that this is 80 percent curative if he gets the needed surgery in time.

Unfortunately, his 1100 dollar a month SSI disability disqualifies him for Medicaid care and the local county low-income insurance he was receiving. This leaves us with about 2 weeks to either raise enough money for at least the OR for the surgery (we are hopeful of finding a surgeon to do the work pro bono) or raise enough money for the entire procedure. We've spent hours upon hours researching and contacting the links some of you have provided but they are so limited in scope that 90 percent of them are not helpful at all.

We are looking at two weeks, maybe three before the cancer spreads past the point of surgery being an option. After that, we've been told just to make him as comfortable as possible until he passes. I'm not ready to accept that.

I have a blog post up here as well:

http://thomasaknight.com/blog.php?id=71 [thomasaknight.com]

and there is an indieGoGO campaign going on here:

http://indiegogo.com/helios [indiegogo.com]

Re:[PSA] Helios Project Founder needs our help! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41089261)

So he's a criminal for not buying health insurance, mandated by law, and we should help him? He should have contacted his representatives and demanded a single payer heath care system, and he'd have had the surgery by now without cost to him. Thankfully the Republicans are around to make sure someone on welfare can't get mutlitple types (he got cash, so why didn't he buy insurance with that?).

Or, as is more likely (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088637)

Or, instead of what you are purporting to observe, it is more likely that there are few if any real penalties for driving while talking on a cell phone, and thus, as in the early days of seat belt laws, and driving while drunk laws - where it was more of a caution and nobody except minorities got busted for it - behavior has not yet changed.

As I recall, and I'm so old I used to tune my floppy drives with an oscilliscope and solder my own S-100 boards, it took almost ten years before strict seat belt license enforcement and penalties cause most drivers to change their behavior.

Ask not what they say the survey says, but instead what exactly is the survey measuring. Here endeth the lesson.

Cause and effect (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088655)

One needs to get it in the right order.

Re:Cause and effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41088909)

but I'm a lefty you insensitive clod!

Correllations and their correlation to causation (1)

Bovius (1243040) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088687)

This feels like a victory for the "correlation is not causation" camp, and it also helps me feel superior to more aggressive drivers in general. Two points for things I agree with! Definitely don't need to investigate the research any further.

Just spell it out without the fancy mumbo jumbo (0)

fustakrakich (1673220) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088729)

Drivers are idiots. The only hope now to make a dent in the accident statistics is the self driving car. Look how well automation is working for the airlines. The safety record in recent years is unprecedented just by keeping the pilot away from the controls.

Re:Just spell it out without the fancy mumbo jumbo (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089287)

Look how well automation is working for the airlines. The safety record in recent years is unprecedented just by keeping the pilot away from the controls.

No, pilots still fly the planes. Most takeoffs and landings are done by real, live, meatspace pilots. Autopilots are used mid flight and have been for, oh, the last 40 years or so.

Punish fault not risks. (0)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088823)

It's amazing. We pass things like no fault car insurance so people aren't responsible for out actions. Then we are surpised people do risky things with that immunity.
The solution is easy. Get rid of no fault insurance. Let insurance companies write policies that don't cover at fault losses if you ate on the phone. The difference between the rates that cover or don't cover those losses will be the real risk.

Re:Punish fault not risks. (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089225)

What does eating on the phone have to do anything? And how would you do that anyway, especially while driving?

About multi-tasking/distractions (4, Funny)

SternisheFan (2529412) | more than 2 years ago | (#41088833)

The brain can multi-task 4 things at one time, driving a vehicle uses most of them. Add one or two distractions...BOOM!...accident. I've seen people using hands-free devices almost have an accident because the CONVERSATION was what was distracting them. They were taking their eyes off the road to stare at the phone while they were making their point. Lastly, insurance companies have found that, on average, an accident happens within 2 seconds of looking away from the road (fumbling for a dropped CD was the number one reason.).

Re:About multi-tasking/distractions (2)

asylumx (881307) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089583)

fumbling for a dropped CD was the number one reason

Surely this study was not done within the last decade.

The other reason why they don't work... (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089487)

... is because they are almost hopeless to enforce. Almost every state has banned text messaging while driving (with good reason because it is fucking dangerous to read and/or write messages while driving) yet it is seldom enforced. Drivers get away with it all the time because the chance of getting caught is quite nearly zero. Talking on the phone without handsfree - in states where it is required to use handsfree - is much easier to spot, though still not fined often.

/= 'texting while driving' (1)

globaljustin (574257) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089539)

I can think of several fundamental flaws with these kinds of studies...primarily the **complete lack of context or consistency**

List of factors that logically should be compared in a means test to 'texting while driving' in relation to cause of accidents:

> Applying make-up while driving
> Eating while driving
> Using [x device] while driving (some examples: car stereo, ipod, navigation system)
> Reaching for something
> Mental distraction (some people call these daydreams)
> Interpersonal distraction (some people call these passengers)...especially intense conversation of any kind

For the rest of time, any study that doesn't **start** with defining and comparing factors like this to existing data is **absolutely worthless**

Seriously...pseudoscience alert

Bad driver will always be bad drivers (1)

amiller2571 (2571883) | more than 2 years ago | (#41089591)

Never would have guess a bad driver is still a bad driver
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