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Phone and Text Bans On Drivers Shown Ineffective 406

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the can't-ban-idiocy dept.
shmG writes to share news of a recent study on the impact of laws which ban the use of cell phones while driving. There appears to be no reduction in accidents as a result of these laws. "The HLDI compared collisions of 100 insured vehicles per year in New York, Washington DC, Connecticut, and California — all states with currently enacted roadway text bans. Despite those laws, monthly fluctuations in crash rates didn't change after bans were enacted, [although] there were less people using devices while driving. An earlier study conducted by the HLDI reported that cellphone use was directly linked to four-fold increases in crash injuries. Also independent studies done by universities have shown correlation between driving while using a phone and crashes."
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Phone and Text Bans On Drivers Shown Ineffective

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  • by Kelson (129150) * on Friday January 29, 2010 @07:31PM (#30956990) Homepage Journal

    Just because a behavior is banned doesn't mean people have actually stopped doing it. California's ban has been in place for a year and a half now, and I still regularly see people driving while talking on their phones. So hand-held phone use has reduced in these areas. How much?

    The other thing to consider is that at least the California law allows you to use your cell phone while driving as long as you use a hand-free system, like an earpiece or a car system that acts as a speakerphone. I seem to recall that other studies have shown that hands-free cell phone conversations are just as distracting as conversations carried out while holding the phone. (The article spends a whopping one sentence on this.)

    • by ak_hepcat (468765) <leif@nOspam.denali.net> on Friday January 29, 2010 @07:35PM (#30957020) Homepage Journal

      Meh.

      Different people can handle different levels of distraction. This is proven.

      So, there should be tests. Depending on your score, you get to have (or not have) certain things in your vehicle,
      like radios, heaters, people, pets, phones, etc.

      Really, some folks should not be on the road, even if all they're doing is 10-and-2, eyes sweeping.

      • So, there should be tests. Depending on your score, you get to have (or not have) certain things in your vehicle,
        like radios, heaters, people, pets, phones, etc.

        Assuming those tests cost absolutely zero dollars to the state of California... well we still couldn't afford it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        So, there should be tests. Depending on your score, you get to have (or not have) certain things in your vehicle. . .

        And professional race car drivers should be able to drive 200mph (or whatever the average speed of their racing discipline) on the streets and highways. After all, they've demonstrated their ability to "handle" different levels of speed. Right?

        Some folks should not be on the road. All folks should not be diving while using phone.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          All folks should not be diving while using phone.

          This is the kind of blanket assumption that, if enacted in law, would unnecessarily restrict the freedom of fully capable professionals like Greg Louganis [wikipedia.org].

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            You chose a terrible example. Greg is physically gifted, but he's already demonstrated his ability to endanger people's lives, including his own, by stupid behavior. Namely, he contracted AIDS by having unsafe sex.

            Don't encourage people to think that their special gifts make them immune from accidents and that they can therefore take extra risks: a car can easily kill as many people as an unwrapped penis, and the people it kills are far more likely to be completely innocent of stupid behavior themselves.

      • by webdog314 (960286)
        Are they going to have a test for how much of an asshole you are as well? Because there sure seem to be a lot more assholes on the road causing accidents than people talking on their phones.
    • by al0ha (1262684)
      Yeah, the Governator's wife has been busted a couple of times, and Will Smith's wife admitted she texts while driving, if they don't obey they law who will? Cause we all know everyone looks to celebrities to lead the way! (tongue in cheek)
      • Oh hell, I had my mother saying that crap about tiger woods. Exactly how being good at sports makes you a role model is beyond me.
    • by pileated (53605)

      My reaction is the same. Philadelphia recently made it illegal and I'm constantly seeing people driving and talking. I'm not sure it's decreased at all. I'd like to see how many arrests have been made and then do some studies based on it. For example did crashes drop with 100 arrests/fines, 1000 a/f/, 10000 a/f? I have to wonder if anyone has even been arrested/fined in Philadelphia based on what I see.

      Considering all the idiots I see on their phones while driving, I don't have any doubt at all that they ma

    • by RobVB (1566105) on Friday January 29, 2010 @08:02PM (#30957368)

      California's ban has been in place for a year and a half now, and I still regularly see people driving while talking on their phones. So hand-held phone use has reduced in these areas. How much?

      Perhaps more importantly, what kind of drivers have stopped using their phones while driving? I'd assume a lot of generally responsible drivers (who may not have known about or believed in the dangers) stopped using their phones, while those "inconsiderate" drivers who don't care about other people still race across pedestrian crossings, not even aware of the "bonus points" they're raking in because they're too busy talking to whoever it is that's so important about whatever it is that just can't wait.

      • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Friday January 29, 2010 @09:53PM (#30958362)
        The bans are naturally going to be ineffective in reducing actual crashes if people are merely getting tickets and still being allowed to drive. I don't understand why this surprises everybody.

        What this reduction in cellphone use but not crashes is indicating, is that the idiots who make calls in cars (whether or not they decide a $100 ticket is costly enough to be a disincentive) are the same self-absorbed and self-important assholes who pay too much attention to shit inside the car and are the most likely to crash under any circumstance. A ban on cellphone use makes big news and we see it putting fear into a lot of people who don't want to waste money. But they're still going to remain totally unconscious of other mundane laws that have been around for years forbidding things like vehicular manslaughter.
    • by StikyPad (445176)

      The data indicated that use of cellphones decreased while crashes did not. Which just shows that bad drivers will continue to find ways to be bad drivers no matter what.

    • Just because a behavior is banned doesn't mean people have actually stopped doing it.

      .

      A most concise and accurate summary of the problem that needs to be solved.

      • by rachit (163465)

        Despite those laws, monthly fluctuations in crash rates didn't change after bans were enacted, all though there were less people using devices while driving

        I assume the article took that into account somehow, maybe not perfectly (ie. relying on a survey). Another explanation could be that people who used to be talking on the phone when driving are now using hands-free devices which don't count in their survey. Some studies have shown that using hands-free devices don't really help and equally distract the driver as him holding the phone to his head.

    • The law needs to be changed. The modified law would allow other drivers to shoot water-soluble paint balls at any vehicle in which the driver is using a cell-phone.

      I predict that cell-phone usage while driving would drop precipitously within days.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by MightyYar (622222)

        I've always thought that every car should come with exactly one missile. Since you only have one missile, you wouldn't just launch it willy-nilly. I bet the roads would get a lot safer really quickly.

    • by BitZtream (692029)

      Hell, one of the politicians that was pushing for the ban rear ended someone while texting! If the people pushing for the law don't follow its retarded to think anyone else will.

      You actually have to have an effective way of enforcing it so people stop doing it in order to notice any difference.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dfghjk (711126)

      "Just because a behavior is banned doesn't mean people have actually stopped doing it."

      It means the BAN is ineffective which is what is claimed. That much is undeniable.

  • by sethstorm (512897) * on Friday January 29, 2010 @07:32PM (#30956996) Homepage

    shmG writes to share that according to a recent study on the impact of laws banning the use of cell phones during driving, there appears to be no reduction in accidents as a result.
    "The HLDI compared collisions of 100 insured vehicles per year in New York, Washington D.C., Connecticut, and California -- all states with currently enacted roadway text bans. Despite those laws, monthly fluctuations in crash rates didn't change after bans were enacted, all though there were less people using devices while driving. An earlier study conducted by the HLDI reported that cellphone use was directly linked to four-fold increases in crash injuries. Also independent studies done by universities have shown correlation between driving while using a phone and crashes."

    On some phone platforms, crashes occur regardless of whether you're driving a car or not.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      *Runs fingers along electric keyboard to lead into a small Jazzy bit*

      Thanks for joining us everybody, we are going to have a great show tonight with your host, Sethstorm.

  • Not too surprising (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Omnifarious (11933) * <eric-slash&omnifarious,org> on Friday January 29, 2010 @07:32PM (#30957000) Homepage Journal

    This doesn't surprise me too much. One interesting fact it does indicate is that the people who very conscientiously obey the law are not strongly represented in those who are in accidents.

    Personally, I feel the only real solution is to mandate self-driving cars. Our communications technology is at a point where it's a serious waste of a human being's time to be driving, and that economic fact is going to be really hard to fight with law.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ascari (1400977)
      Or mandate the use of a chauffeur. That would create some much needed jobs as well.
      • by SomeJoel (1061138) on Friday January 29, 2010 @07:43PM (#30957126)

        Or mandate the use of a chauffeur. That would create some much needed jobs as well.

        At the very least make it illegal to pump your own gas. New Jersey and Oregon are very progressive on that front.

        • New Jersey and Oregon are very progressive on that front.

          In defense of those who live here in Oregon, it's really not a lot of fun getting out of your car to fill it in the rain. We'll let the folks in Washington do that, if they want.

      • by dgatwood (11270)

        Won't help. Chauffeurs are still people. What prevents them from wanting to use a phone while driving their socialites around?

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          Won't help. Chauffeurs are still people. What prevents them from wanting to use a phone while driving their socialites around?

          Easy! We'll just mandate that all chauffeurs be both blind and deaf!

          Oh, wait...

    • by cstdenis (1118589) on Friday January 29, 2010 @07:37PM (#30957058)

      The kind of people who crash due to texting and driving, and the same kind of people who will keep texting and driving regardless of the law.

    • by b0s0z0ku (752509)
      Fuck mandating self-driving cars - I like driving and riding motos. Fortunately, I live in NYC, so I don't have to commute by car so driving hasn't become a chore. As far as bans having no effect, we've banned many things and people still do them. Perhaps the kind of people who NEED to use their cell phones right now as opposed to glancing at a text or picking up an occasional call will ignore the ban. The casual users who'll follow the ban paid less attention to the phone and more to driving before the
    • by dgatwood (11270)

      Exactly. Cars are unsafe primarily because of the meat popsicle behind the wheel. I've been saying that for years.

      The government should mandate that:

      • all new vehicles built after 2020 have the ability to drive completely unassisted. Let the car companies scramble to figure out how to make it happen.
      • all cars contain transceivers that allow them to communicate (anonymously) with other vehicles nearby on the road. Let the car manufacturers collaborate to figure out standards for that communication.
      • basic tr
      • by Areyoukiddingme (1289470) on Friday January 29, 2010 @08:08PM (#30957426)

        It sounds good in theory, but I'll reiterate what I said when the Robocar article came around. Robocar failed to address it, and so has everybody else. For that to happen, there would have to be a major shift in the liability regime. In particular, liability would lodge with the logical actor, namely the car manufacturer. Can you imagine the howl from GM if anybody managed to seriously propose that GM be liable for car accidents involving their vehicle? ALL accidents involving their vehicle? Sure, they're liable for design flaws already, and for manufacturing flaws like "the wheels came off", but to expand that to the minute-by-minute navigation of the vehicle? The swarm of lobbyists that would descend on Washington to crush that idea would be of locust proportions. Every manufacturer would unleash the swarms, and whoever proposed it would probably die in a car accident. :P

        Maybe someday there will be some sort of widely deployed fully automated transportation. It won't look much like cars on roads though.

    • by smellsofbikes (890263) on Friday January 29, 2010 @08:13PM (#30957482) Journal

      This doesn't surprise me too much. One interesting fact it does indicate is that the people who very conscientiously obey the law are not strongly represented in those who are in accidents.

      Personally, I feel the only real solution is to mandate self-driving cars. Our communications technology is at a point where it's a serious waste of a human being's time to be driving, and that economic fact is going to be really hard to fight with law.

      I'd love for self-driving cars to happen, but I seriously doubt it ever will. Not because of technology limitations, but because of liability: the first time someone manages to provoke a wreck with a self-driving car, the companies responsible for designing its hardware and software will be sued out of business because they have deep pockets. The military will have self-driving aircraft, ships, and trucks for decades and we'll still be driving our own cars. It would take an act of Congress to change this.

      • It would take an act of Congress to change this.

        That's not an insurmountable obstacle. Write your Senator once the army gets self-driving tanks.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dintlu (1171159)

        You'll see self-driving cars within a decade of cancer being cured.

        If the only major cause of death is car accidents, people will wake up to the danger and accept automation.

    • by Frohboy (78614)

      I like to commute to work in (what is to me) a self-driving vehicle. I play on my DS while doing it.

      I call it a subway. (Though buses and trains also work.)

    • by hellfire (86129)

      Personally, I feel the only real solution is to mandate self-driving cars

      They are called trains, if you call the person driving for you part of the train.

  • ...but we all do it anyways. How is this any different?
    • by Belial6 (794905)
      Because cell phones are eeevvviiiilllll.... EVIL YOU HEAR ME?!?!?!?!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Carnildo (712617)

      Most people who speed will go the socially-acceptable 4mph over the speed limit, while almost everyone considers going 60mph in a 25mph zone to be dangerous and unacceptable. The problem right now is that driving while talking is socially considered the equivalent of going 4mph over, rather than the equivalent of going 35 over.

  • My opinion is: the governments should not ban the practice and levy punitive fees to the non-compliant. They should offer license endorsements or permits (for a fee of course) for those that can soundly pass some kind of 'mobile phone usage' test. This would generate revenue, create jobs, and give those of us with teenage daughters yet one more thing to refuse to pay for.
  • Despite those laws, monthly fluctuations in crash rates didn't change after bans were enacted, all though there were less people using devices while driving. An earlier study conducted by the HLDI reported that cellphone use was directly linked to four-fold increases in crash injuries. Also independent studies done by universities have shown correlation between driving while using a phone and crashes.

    Study 1: Cellphone use is "linked" to a four-fold increase in crash injuries.
    Study 2: There is a correlation

  • by TimHunter (174406) on Friday January 29, 2010 @07:54PM (#30957260)

    Here's a story from my local newspaper about a 20-something woman who's totaled 3 cars in the past 3 years because she was texting while driving. Apparently she learned this from her dad, who is unable to spend 2 hours just driving and must spend the time on the phone and doing his email.

    Why isn't she in jail? Why aren't we treating driving-while-texting the same way we treat driving while intoxicated? Do we have to wait until she (or her dad) kills somebody? http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local_state/story/301086.html [newsobserver.com]

    • Driving isn't a right but it's treated like one so very little is done, imo, to remove bad drivers from the road and for good if need be.

      For those that say you need a car to have a job and live all I gotta say is people, like the woman you mentioned, should have thought about that. The thing is though she doesn't have to think about it because her licence won't be taken away.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        For those that say you need a car to have a job and live all I gotta say is people, like the woman you mentioned, should have thought about that. The thing is though she doesn't have to think about it because her licence won't be taken away.

        People like this woman will keep driving even after losing a license. They "need" to for blah, blah, blah.

        There really is no rational remedy for habitual dangerous drivers in a car-centric society. We'd have to imprison them or roll out some universal means of preventing someone from driving a car without authorization (i.e. some kind of device in every car). Neither of those are practical, so we are left with moral suasion and the mayhem caused by people who are immune to it.

    • by jayveekay (735967) on Friday January 29, 2010 @08:07PM (#30957420)

      Replace the steering wheel airbag in her car with a 6 inch metal spike, and the problem will fix itself with the next totalled car. :)

    • by Belial6 (794905)
      I would agree with you if we started treating stereo use while driving or having arguing kids in the back while driving the same as driving while intoxicated. To do one and not the other would just be a case of outlawing a technology because of it's year of popularization.
    • Treat her like they treat drunk driving in one of the south american countries, the cop shoots you on the spot! Okay, they probably don't really do that, but its a great way to solve the problem.

    • by Coren22 (1625475)

      I personally feel I should ask, how is that any different from any other distracted driving, if she was looking at the radio to change the station the accident would have happened as well, why is it somehow special that it is a cell phone, not the brats in the back seat, or the person next to you. I have seen people kissing while driving...that is even worse in my mind. But this girl definitely needs to lose the phone...as she puts it, she looks at the screen and often forgets she's even driving, maybe sh

  • The key is actual enforcement.

    If companies like Redflex or ATS - photo enforcement companies - get the technology working, and there's a buck to be made, they will GLADLY start tracking cell phone usage with a combination of antennas and automated optical photo scanning.All they'd need is an antenna to detect nearby cell phone signals at a certain threshold - and then start snapping pictures of ALL cars - drivers and their license plates, of course - that go by until the signal drops again. Then you have au

  • "all though there were less people using devices while driving." [citation needed]
  • There are benefits (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tthomas48 (180798) on Friday January 29, 2010 @08:03PM (#30957378) Homepage

    There are some benefits. If a driver slams into me talking on a cellphone and there's a ban in my area, it's going to immediately move to a ticketable offense and therefore their insurance is going to pay to fix my car.

    Whereas if they're talking on a cellphone and there's no law banning it then I have to prove they couldn't drive before I get my insurance money.

    • by BitZtream (692029)

      The cell phone doesn't change fault, regardless of law. If you are the cause of the accident, its still your fault. If he was at fault, it doesn't matter if there was a phone involved.

      You don't have to prove they couldn't drive, you just have to prove they were at fault in that particular case.

      If you're concerned about 'getting your money' get comprehensive coverage so you're safe either way.

      Do you actually know how insurance works?

  • More laws? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pspahn (1175617)
    Should we continue legislation that bars all these specific acts, or should we simply have a law that says, "people doing things that obstruct their driving ability will be ticketed".
  • Could it be that bad driving causes crashes? So, eliminating cell phone usage results in people still being bad drivers? Or how about a correlation between people more likely to obey laws and those that are good drivers? Enacting a prohibition might make the better drivers less distracted, but leave the bad drivers still bad drivers and still talking on their cell phones.
  • Great, now that the bans have been proven ineffective our reasoning lawmakers will surely repeal the unnecessary bans on cell-phone use while driving, right? What? They won't?!

    Let this be a lesson to everyone who has grand new ideas for how the government can interfere with our lives: Once something has been done, it is almost impossible to undo it.

    • It seems to be escaping people that the ineffectiveness of this ban is neither here nor there. Drivers yakking on cellphones cause accidents at a 4X rate and that alone means they deserve to be fined as a punitive measure.
    • If the laws aren't being enforced, then you can't tell if they're unnecessary or not.

      • by mosb1000 (710161)

        These laws were ill-conceived from the start. I have no idea how they planned to enforce them. Moreover, shortly before they (at least the one in CA, where I live) were enacted a study came out showing that people talking on a hands-free system were just as likely to cause an accident as people holding the phone in their hand. So they should have known from the start that the ban would be ineffective.

        There is no reason to have a law that:

        1) Can not be enforced; and

        2) Would be ineffective even if you coul

    • by TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) on Friday January 29, 2010 @11:08PM (#30958864) Journal

      I can sum up your post into two words: "knee jerk". As many people have pointed out already, the study certainly has not proved that the ban is and always will be ineffective. It just shows that, right now, people are still crashing just as often, but this will probably change as people get used to the idea that they can't use their phones while driving.

      And besides, since you seem to implicitly trust studies, there was the original study(s) that said phones were dangerous while driving. Shouldn't your reaction be to find ways to make the ban more effective, rather than scrapping it?

  • I've not seen or heard of a single instance of this being enforced and have seen a few situations where law enforcement should have done something but didn't. I saw only one copy radio on the loud speaker to put the phone down.

    there is little to no compliance so who could the ban be effective?

    LoB
  • Passing a law that makes using a phone while driving is not likely to decrease the incidence of using a phone while driving,

    What it is likely to cause to happen is people will tend to lie more to say they weren't using the phone while driving. So unless they have some method of spying on drivers to see what they're really doing, rather than relying on self-reports, the HLDI has no grounds to state "such laws have reduced hand-held phone use" or to draw any conclusions based on phone use from the study in T

  • Not enforced (Score:4, Insightful)

    by v(*_*)vvvv (233078) on Friday January 29, 2010 @08:45PM (#30957822)

    No one is afraid of being caught, at least in Cali. Everyone who did, still does - have a phone in their hands, and I've never seen anyone pulled over for cell phone use. Enacting laws that are not enforced is the first step in enabling the sense of "I can get away with it". Be it jaywalking or littering, if there is a law, it should be enforced, and the fines should include the cost of enforcement. Ultimately if the required cost doesn't justify the subsequent fine, then the laws need to be changed to reflect that. If law is about order, then the laws we abide by must be enforceable.

    Also, correlation is not causation!! This cannot be emphasized enough. Regardless of whether the science is sound or not, if their results are just at the "correlation" level, then they are NOT VERY SCIENTIFIC. These are guesses with numbers, which is far far far from any proof or truth.

  • by timmarhy (659436) on Friday January 29, 2010 @08:53PM (#30957886)
    yeah right, because as soon as the law was passed people all stopped using phones in the car and they are crashing because of something else (preferably something they can't be blamed for).

    what a fucking crock of shit, i see people taking their eyes off the road to send txt messages all the time. without a hands free kit you've only got one hand on the wheel and 1/2 your focus on the road. any god damn fool can see how that will end in disaster.

    you know what would actually see a reduction in crashes? more cops on the road since that visible presence is the biggest deterent there is. if you think there's a cop around every corner that will book you for speeding/DYI/txting a lot less people will risk it.

  • Forget the "studies" that result in cute sound bites like "talking on a cell phone is like driving drunk". Let's look at some good, hard numbers: DRIVER DISTRACTIONS AND INATTENTION DATA SUMMARY [aitelephone.com]

    The key info is on page 5. From January 1, 2002 to June 30, 2002 in California, there were 491,083 accidents. Of those, cell phones were only considered a factor in 611 of them. That works out to about 0.1% of all accidents. Even if we (generously) assume such accidents are somehow under-reported by a factor of

    • by timmarhy (659436) on Friday January 29, 2010 @11:13PM (#30958900)
      your data is a total failure, because the only time people at fault in an accident will admit to anything is when they have no choice due to overwhelming proof. given the option of admitted they were talking on the phone, or claiming the other car was speeding/cut them off/did something else random, which do you think they are going to claim?

      all you have succeed in doing is proving it's difficult to CATCH people who cause accidents due to cell phone use. it's bloody obivous that to anyone with 1/2 a brain that yammering away on the phone with one hand on the wheel is dangerous, and there is NO need for it. call them back ffs.

  • by Greyfox (87712) on Friday January 29, 2010 @09:26PM (#30958154) Homepage Journal
    Just replace the airbag with a sharp metal spike. People will be MUCH more careful when driving.
  • Flawed study (Score:3, Insightful)

    by drkim (1559875) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @01:51AM (#30959758)
    OK,
    I get the impression this study is flawed. Here's how:
    It's data set is based on "Comparing insurance claims for crash damage..."
    So the crash data would be mostly self reported. Now - before the ban - someone might report, "I was talking on my phone, and I hit the tree."
    However, after the ban, they wouldn't admit doing anything illegal during the crash (since this could be a cause for non-payment) like talking on the phone, so they would be motivated not to report the phone call.

    Some of you thought that there is a 'right' to drive. That is not a right found in the constitution. However, the federal & state governments do have the ability to: protect us from others, and protect us from ourselves. Just like they can require seat belt wearing in cars, and helmets for motorcyclists, they can proscribe what they deem to be safe practices while driving like: having a license, not being drunk, and not driving while distracted.

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