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Cellphones Transportation

US Agency Blocked Cellphone / Driving Safety Study 464

Posted by kdawson
from the no-one-wants-to-know dept.
By now you've probably seen the NY Times's long piece on distracted driving — about how most drivers and most legislators willfully ignore the evidence of the dangers of talking on a cellphone, texting, and other electronic distractions while behind the wheel. According to this article, cellphone use while driving causes over 1,000 fatalities a year in the US. Another shoe has now dropped: it seems that the US National Highway Safety Administration blocked a proposed definitive study of the risks. The NHSA now cites concerns about angering Congress. Two consumer safety groups had filed a FOIA request for documents about the aborted study, and the Times has now made the documents public — including the research behind the request for a study of 10,000 drivers.
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US Agency Blocked Cellphone / Driving Safety Study

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  • First Po (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 20, 2009 @08:31PM (#28764671)

    *SCREEEECH* *KABOOM*

  • scary thing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Monday July 20, 2009 @08:33PM (#28764675)
    The highway safety researchers estimated that cellphone use by drivers caused around 955 fatalities and 240,000 accidents over all in 2002.

    The scary thing about this is that those numbers were from 2002. Think about how many more cellphones there are out there today than there were in 2002.
    • Re:scary thing (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ImNotAtWork (1375933) on Monday July 20, 2009 @08:36PM (#28764709)
      now think about how many touch screen phones that are out now. You can easily fumble your way through a phone number on a pad... but a flat touch screen requires a bit more focus.. that should be on the road anyways.
      • Re:scary thing (Score:5, Insightful)

        by AndrewNeo (979708) on Monday July 20, 2009 @08:48PM (#28764821) Homepage

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

        • Re:scary thing (Score:5, Insightful)

          by noidentity (188756) on Monday July 20, 2009 @10:33PM (#28765597)

          I've noticed that with my new touchscreen phone, even with text prediction it's a lot harder to do it because I have to look at the screen to make sure I'm hitting the right buttons, or at all. With my previous phone, I could just feel the buttons, and I knew what the text prediction would come up with, so I could write entire texts without looking at the phnoe until it was done.

          And this is why "smart" (AKA unpredictable) computer interfaces are worse than dumb ones: you have to constantly find out what it did in response to your last input before you continue. It's essentially like a TCP connection with a very small window, preventing the sender from sending a lot at a time. Even though the "smart" interface might reduce the amount of input needed, it introduces lots of delays while you verify each step. Give me an interface I can simulate in my mind and therefore fire a lot of input at without constantly verifying that it's accepted as I expected.

          • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @08:34AM (#28768957) Journal

            Your discussion reminds me of the registers at JCPenney. The old machines were from the 1980s and they were slow as heck, but predictable so you could type 1 - scan - TOTAL - 1 - 1 - $100.00 - ENTER and just wait for the machine to catch-up (the cash drawer would pop open about 60 seconds later).

            The new 2005-era registers are "smart" and try to predict what you desire, and most of the time they guess wrong. So instead of a fast automatic interface, everything operates more slowly as the clerk has to type one key at a time, and then doublecheck to make sure the machine did the right thing.

            Instead of a fast 1-2 minute transaction, now it drags-on for 10 minutes.

        • Re:scary thing (Score:5, Insightful)

          by thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) <marc.paradise@gma i l . c om> on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @12:01PM (#28771679) Homepage Journal

          Not that it's still entirely safe, but if you're going to do it anyway..

          This is the mentality that causes accidents in the first place isn't it? Why would you be doingit anyway? I hate to break it to you, but there's very little in life that's so urgent that you simply must deal with it NOW, damn the consequences. And in the rare event where something /is/ that urgent, why wouldn't you pull over to deal with it - and give it the attention it deserves?

          Understand - I'm a crackberry addict. Can't go a day without having it attached to me - access to all of my remote servers and shells, web sites, email, etc. Nonetheless -- you won't ever see me driving down the road and typing on it. (Traffic lights are another story ;) And that's with a full qwerty that can be navigated by touch.

          Please don't contrive ridiculous corner cases to justify this -- in everyday usage, what justification is there for placing your own sense of urgency above the lives and safety of the people you share the road with?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        o kmiw jidt wjst u mesn

        This message was sent from my iPhone.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mcgrew (92797)

        It's not just the dialing, although I miss my Razr and its voice-activated dialing. The actual talking is a bigger distraction; it's almost impossible to pay attention to both the conversation and the road. It's not like talking to a passenger.

        As to distracted driving, they need to outlaw letting pretty girls walk down a roadway. I almost killed myself on my motorcycle when I was 19, because I was paying attention to two females walking down the highway when I should have been making sure the car ahed didn'

    • Re:scary thing (Score:5, Interesting)

      by icebike (68054) on Monday July 20, 2009 @08:52PM (#28764851)

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

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

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

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

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

      • Re:scary thing (Score:5, Interesting)

        by acrobg (1175095) on Monday July 20, 2009 @09:11PM (#28764991) Journal
        Out here in California, there is a law about not talking on the phone while driving without a handsfree device. The problem is that now people all the time are just using their phone as before, but spending three times the effort hiding their phone so the cop on the side of the road doesn't pull them over. So now, rather than them just talking on the phone, they're talking, trying to hide it, and driving with whatever level of brain power they have left.
        • Re:scary thing (Score:5, Insightful)

          by davester666 (731373) on Monday July 20, 2009 @09:28PM (#28765131) Journal

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

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

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

          • Re:scary thing (Score:5, Insightful)

            by hedwards (940851) on Monday July 20, 2009 @09:50PM (#28765279)
            It's not any better, I think subsequent research demonstrated that it's a questionable assertion. Really at this point, the prudent thing is to turn off all audio devices and anything that isn't really necessary so that one can more easily concentrate.

            These sorts of laws aren't terribly useful until they ban it for all drivers and make it a primary offense.
            • Re:scary thing (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Al Dimond (792444) on Monday July 20, 2009 @10:21PM (#28765515) Journal

              There are differences between cell phones and other distractions; although I'm sure there's a distraction factor from both radios and conversations with passengers, the cell phone conversation demands more from the driver than either of these for the following reasons:

              1. The driver can very easily tune out the radio. He knows that the radio doesn't care. Often when I'm driving and listening to a CD I'll realize that my favorite song played two tracks ago and I didn't even notice it go by. That might be less true of radio, especially if you're listening to a stimulating discussion, but at least you're not in the conversation and expected to reply. In long, boring stretches of freeway driving music can help keep a driver alert, while it's easy to just ignore when the situation requires it.

              2. Passengers in the car with the driver can pick up non-verbal communication from the driver that requires less effort than speaking. A passenger knows when a difficult merge is coming up, or can look at the driver's eyes to see when he needs to really concentrate. In my experience, also, people on the phone expect answers quicker than people talking in-person. A lot of the ways we stall for time when responding to people aren't verbal -- one of the big ones is just being present. Phone calls tend to be a very demanding way to have a conversation. Often passengers help drivers navigate and operate the radio and heat or AC.

        • Re:scary thing (Score:5, Informative)

          by SpaceCadets (1428823) on Monday July 20, 2009 @10:49PM (#28765695)
          Here in Australia (Victoria specifically), myself as a "P" (probationary) plater can loose my license for driving while being on the phone, handsfree or not. The initial demerit point loss was 3, and that has been doubled to six points. Given that a P plater only has 5 demerit points, they bust you once for talking on your phone, you're gone. Personally I take the view that I have voicemail for a reason, but I will glance at the caller and if it's important I'll pull over and call them back. -My 2 cents worth.
      • by msimm (580077) on Monday July 20, 2009 @09:18PM (#28765047) Homepage
        in the year 2009 the majority of earths then human population began the struggle to implement true multithreading.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by thrawn_aj (1073100)

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

        You know, I'm totally on board (and have been since I learned to drive) with the 'no cellphones while driving', to the extent that I don't even answer the phone unless I can safely pull over (usually at a street parking spot). But please, PUHLEEEEZ spare me the bromide about the distinction between cell phone conversations vs. those with passengers. That is simply a disingenuous argument - you're relying on the sensibility of people on the passenger side of the argument (to mind the road hazards) while casu

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      There were 43,005 auto accident fatalities in 2002 (source: http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Main/index.aspx [dot.gov]). So we're talking about 2.2% of these being related to cell phone usage.

      Also note that both these stats are not the number of accidents, but the number of fatalities. Looking at the number of accidents, which I think is probably a better measurement anyway, we have an estimated total of 6,316,000 and an estimated 240,000 where cell phones contributed. That gives us a higher percentage but still only 3.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 20, 2009 @08:36PM (#28764701)
    How can we expect to remain the most powerful country in the world if we turn into a bunch of big pussies, trying to stop anyone from taking any type of risk? I am much more productive if I can talk on my cellphone and respond to e-mails during my commute. Sometimes there is an accident; such is life. Eggs must be broken to make omelets. What happened to the can-do, damn-the-torpedoes attitude that got us to the moon?
  • by SethJohnson (112166) on Monday July 20, 2009 @08:37PM (#28764713) Homepage Journal


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

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

    Seth
    • by Hadlock (143607) on Monday July 20, 2009 @08:47PM (#28764811) Homepage Journal

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

      • Well I guess that's YOUR theory. heh. Just because it seems complicated, and we don't know the reason, doesn't imply that "someone else out there does know it, or they wouldn't have done it that way." :D
      • by dhaines (323241) on Monday July 20, 2009 @10:08PM (#28765401)
        In my lifeguardin' days, the policy for when and how to clear the pool in anticipation of lightning wasn't based on concern for anyone being shocked, it was based on preventing a panicked stampede.

        Electrocuting the cattle was a very minor consideration, but herding them was a huge one.
    • Undoing my flamebait mod... I found the parent post absolutely hilarious.
    • by dintlu (1171159)

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

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

      • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Monday July 20, 2009 @09:48PM (#28765259) Homepage

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

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

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          90% of human activity is just mindless babble that could just as well never happen.
          its the 10% that counts.

      • by hedwards (940851)
        And when you can put forward a suggestion as to how the deaths can be restricted to those that are making the calls in transit, then we can talk about repealing the laws.

        It never ceases to amaze me how this sort of analysis conveniently neglects the part where other, presumably, prudent people are killed by iditiotic jackasses. It also neglects to point out that perhaps we should also factor in for the additional stress, and missed days from people being injured doing something they weren't supposed to b
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by 1u3hr (530656)
        From an economic standpoint, 1000 deaths a year is a small price to pay for the productivity gains had by communicating while in transit.

        What "productivity gains"? You speak as if you have quantified it. What economic value do mobile phone calls have? The great majority are just socialising.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by noidentity (188756)

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

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

      The pool situation is differ

  • Angering Congress? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by carp3_noct3m (1185697)

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

  • stunned (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bloodhawk (813939) on Monday July 20, 2009 @08:40PM (#28764741)
    I am honestly completely stunned by this article. I had thought the majority of countries had passed laws about the use of cell phones while driving, I did not know the US was so far behind. Many studies in other countries have shown use of cell phone (even hands free) is the equivalent to driving with a mid range blood alcohol level or worse and has been banned in most western countries with hefty fines for using your cell phone while driving.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Guess what. If there's a chance that the US could be behind in something, we'll likely do our damnedest to make sure we're behind. It reminds me of this guy I work with. Whenever something like this (or poor health care, or poor education) comes up, he always responds with "But we're America. It shouldn't be like that here." And then he turns around and consistently votes against the people that try to improve public safety, education, health care. Go figure.
      • It's because being "behind" in these things always means more regulation, more laws, more taxes, more control ceded to a federal authority. There are trade-offs, trade-offs that are unfortunately skewed by the fact that the self-interest of those designing government programs in no way coincides with the interests of those whom the laws effect.

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

      • by Ihmhi (1206036)

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

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

  • Dangers of blocking (Score:5, Interesting)

    by syousef (465911) on Monday July 20, 2009 @08:42PM (#28764755) Journal

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

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

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

    • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Monday July 20, 2009 @08:58PM (#28764889)

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

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

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

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

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

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

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

        you have a really good point. at least when you're holding the phone, others can take that into account and 'work around you'. give you more room or just stay

      • by Ioldanach (88584)

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

        It is the job of the driver to make the other end of the line aware that he's driving, and may need to completely divert his attention unexpectedly for indeterminate periods of time. When I'm driving and have a reason to talk on the phone (usually to get dir

    • by bigdavex (155746) on Monday July 20, 2009 @09:06PM (#28764959)

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

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

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by blueg3 (192743)

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

        • by hedwards (940851)
          Not to mention that anybody that has to work with radios for a living knows to leave it silent as much as possible. You never know when a legitimate life or death emergency might demand the airwaves.
        • by fractoid (1076465) on Monday July 20, 2009 @11:42PM (#28765967) Homepage
          Also, while the consequences for mishap in a plane are generally more severe, flying a plane generally takes a helluva lot less attention than driving a car. If you're sitting at 100km/h on the freeway, the wrong control input for 1/10th of a second could easily kill you. If you're in the cockpit of an airliner, you have an exclusive packet of airspace that's literally kilometers wide, and unless you're in final approach you're probably at least a kilometer off the ground. Take your eyes off the controls for a few seconds and there's not going to be any huge consequence since there's nothing to hit.
    • Does your technology exclude calls to emergency services?

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

      • by corbettw (214229)
        What if you're being carjacked? Or your stalker is driving behind you? Or some asshole just cut you off then started shooting cars to the left and right and you're trying to get away from the scene? Or something simply, like an accident has just happened but there's no safe place for you to stop?

        Obviously those are all extremely unlikely scenarios for most people (none of them have ever happened to me except the last one), but any law that doesn't take them or things like them into account is a bad law.
        • Fine. Give me a ticket for calling 911 and arrest this jackhole that is about to kill me. Thanks, bye.
        • by Ioldanach (88584)

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

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

    • by immel (699491)
      IANAP (I am not a pilot), but I know a few people going for their licenses right now, and I get the impression that pilot to tower communications are all business. Each side knows what the other is going to say when he says it, kind of like a script, and it's all both relevant and necessary to the task at hand (flying the plane). It's a bit different than the highly improvisational, distant-focused conversational style employed by multitasking commuters.

      FAA regulations prohibit talking about non-flying r
    • by Pinckney (1098477)

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

      I don't think your analogy is sound. Airplanes are unmanuverable when taking off and landing, and often have a hard time spotting one another. The distances and closing speeds are all greater, and the chaotic patchwork of ground structures common around airports makes it even harder to spot another aircraft (it essentially provides disruptive camouflage). Finally, the field of view of many aircraft is restricted, particularly when on the ground (and especially in many tail-dragger configurations). Without r

    • by seifried (12921) on Monday July 20, 2009 @09:36PM (#28765195) Homepage
      We can't even teach people to signal turns and lane changes reliably. Teaching cell phone safety to the public is about as likely to happen as someone winning the lottery jackpot 37 times in a row by finding discarded tickets in the street.
    • by Falconhell (1289630) on Monday July 20, 2009 @09:40PM (#28765211) Journal

      Avaiators have a little saying that goes;

      Aviate, navigate, communicate.

      Meaning, the last priority is to communicate.

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

      What you advocate is to say the least dumb.

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

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

  • Ban cell phone conversations in cars? That'd be the only way - the "hands free" laws are as good as no laws at all, its the division of attention that causes the accidents, not the holding of the phone. The only thing the hands free law is good for is for keeping the other drivers from knowing that the reason that a person is driving like a drunk is that they're blabbing on the phone. And banning phones in cars will cause some people to turn in their phones and cancel the service, because the car is abou
    • Ban cell phone conversations in cars? That'd be the only way - the "hands free" laws are as good as no laws at all, its the division of attention that causes the accidents, not the holding of the phone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Moreover, what of the dangers of eating and driving? Of having two kids arguing in the backseat? What about dropping a cigarette (my mom was hit by someone who did that). When are we going to stop try

  • by rueger (210566) on Monday July 20, 2009 @08:59PM (#28764895) Homepage
    The NYT article is pretty specific that the study of 10,000 drivers was needed because all of the current estimates of the impact of cel use on driver accidents are based on unproven assumptions and (one might suggest) speculation.

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

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

    You can't eliminate all distractions, so how can we teach drivers to filter out non-essential stimulation, or create auto technology that will protect drivers in moments of distraction?
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

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

  • by dirk (87083) <dirk@one.net> on Monday July 20, 2009 @09:16PM (#28765033) Homepage

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

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

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

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 20, 2009 @09:50PM (#28765271)
      Maybe you should also research the change in DUI laws, automobile safety and total number of auto accidents, not just fatalities.

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

      As for the rest of the causes, yes, they are causes of accidents. No one said they should be exempt.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TubeSteak (669689)

      has actually gone down as a percentage of the population

      Sometimes you have to deal with real numbers and not percentages.
      In this case, the conclusion is correct, but does not tell the whole story:
      Deaths have remained essentially flat.

      Despite vast increases in vehicle safety, the difference between the highest and lowest deaths is ~12,000.
      Even though that is a significant fraction of the total deaths, 12,000 is almost a rounding error for a population >225 million.

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

      The real question that should be asked is:
      How come >40,000 people are still dying yearly in ca

    • by sarkeizen (106737) on Monday July 20, 2009 @10:52PM (#28765717) Journal
      Driving while distracted is (and always has been) dangerous, there's no questioning that. But my question is if cell phone usage is as huge a deal as everyone makes it out to be. There hasn't been a huge increase in car crashes since cell phone came into common usage. In fact, the number of deaths from auto accidents has actually gone down as a percentage of the population according to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_motor_vehicle_deaths_in_U.S._by_year). So the number of deaths from car accidents hasn't increased with the introduction of this huge danger.

      Perhaps it's because your statistics degree was revoked.
      I don't know who "everyone" is but for example cell phone usage can be a "huge deal" in it's contribution to someone's ability to drive successfully but still equate to a small number of deaths. I don't really see how you can't see that. Now what you are likely doing is using a special definition for "huge danger" but that's par for the course here.

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

      At least one study appeared to do a comparison to other distractions: Research also shows that drivers conversing with fellow passengers do not present the same danger, because adult riders help keep drivers alert and point out dangerous conditions and tend to talk less in heavy traffic or hazardous weather.
  • by ghostis (165022) on Monday July 20, 2009 @09:25PM (#28765105) Homepage

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

  • by Tablizer (95088) on Monday July 20, 2009 @09:42PM (#28765229) Journal

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

  • by Savior_on_a_Stick (971781) <robertfranz@gmail.com> on Monday July 20, 2009 @10:02PM (#28765365)

    It called Maintaining Control of Your Vehicle.

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

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

    What we actually need is enforcement of the above.

    Involved in an accident?

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

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

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

    I blame mandatory insurance for some of this.

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

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

  • This is easy to fix. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Therefore I am (1284262) on Monday July 20, 2009 @10:20PM (#28765501)
    The insurance companies have the whip hand here. If they refused road accident claims for drivers on the phone/texting at the moment of an accident the problem would instantly go away. . . . . . . . If you also added large fines for bosses who demand that their employees answer when driving, then that would also go a long way to help reduce accidents.
  • by fluffy99 (870997) on Monday July 20, 2009 @11:56PM (#28766053)

    The general conclusion on page 3 says it all. No difference between hands-free and non-hands-free from a "cognitive distraction" standpoint. It says nothing about visual distraction of having to look at the phone. It just points out the obvious conclusion that talking on a phone is a "cognitive distraction". Well duh! Read a little further "it is not possible to make a direct connection to crash risk". Okay, so we have the same old problem of correlation doesn't equal causation.

    This paper only cites old, semi-questionable, existing research. No quality new data was collected or presented. This was supposed to be a fresh study. Instead this thing looks like a grade-C high-school student spent a few hours on the internet digging up some previous papers, and then summarizing the conflicting data.

    Another very valid reason for trashing this crappy study (aside from shoddy research) is that the "independent research paper" was written as though it were intended to put forth suggested policies and laws. Really, go read the freaking thing. The bit about pissing off Congress, is because Congress knows full well that the Fed Govt (much less the lowly NHSTA) can not dictate how the States or Corporations write their laws. Of course nothing saying they can't bribe the states with highway funds like they did with the 55mph thing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by chrb (1083577)

      It just points out the obvious conclusion that talking on a phone is a "cognitive distraction". Well duh! Read a little further "it is not possible to make a direct connection to crash risk". Okay, so we have the same old problem of correlation doesn't equal causation.

      It says "The nature of those degradations and changes are symptomatic of potential safety-related problems"... Sounds very much like the old argument pushed by the tobacco lobby "the nature of degradations and changes are symptomatic of potential health-related problems, but it is not possible to make a direct connection between smoking and cancer"

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