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Cellphones Government Handhelds Transportation Technology

"Phone In One Hand, Ticket In the Other" 419

Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that federal regulators plan a pilot project to test 'high visibility' crackdown efforts to curb cellphone use by drivers in two cities, Hartford and Syracuse, spending $200,000 in each city, while each state would contribute $100,000 more. The Transportation Department says it wants to send the message: 'Phone in One Hand. Ticket in the Other,' and plans on ramping up enforcement on state bans of hands-free phones by motorists, advertising the campaigns and undertaking studies to see if the efforts curb behavior and attitudes. Safety advocates say that curbing the behavior requires enforcement and education, which they say has been clearly evident in past efforts with seat belts with the 'Click It or Ticket Program' (PDF) that helped increase seat belt use to 83% nationally. 'It's time for drivers to act responsibly, put their hands on the wheel and focus on the road,' says Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who last year called distracted driving an 'epidemic.'"
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"Phone In One Hand, Ticket In the Other"

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  • by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <mashiki@ g m a> on Sunday April 11, 2010 @01:40PM (#31809282) Homepage

    [quote] But there's so few Police on patrol the law just isn't being enforced. [/quote]
    That shouldn't be a surprise, despite what people think about police being everywhere. The average cop has a service per person of somewhere between 400:1 to 2200:1, you don't get solid enforcement like that. But anytime there's economic problems the first areas to get cuts are Fire/EMS/Police.

  • by dmomo ( 256005 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @01:55PM (#31809396)

    > Some people can drive and talk safely.
    Yeah. I hear this a lot. And it's true. Everyone seems to be able to use a cell phone and drive safely. Except for the ones that got into an accident. Though, up until that point, I suppose they considered themselves among that group. I personally despise cell phone drivers, but am not sure if I would go as far as a ban. I'm on the fence there. Texting though. Texting is bad. I drive about 45 miles of highway each way on my commute. It's amazing how many drivers I see looking down instead of forward. The ones doing it "safely" are going about 10 miles under the speed limit. If "safe" means it's not THEM that cause the accident, then fine.

  • by negRo_slim ( 636783 ) <> on Sunday April 11, 2010 @01:56PM (#31809404) Homepage

    But anytime there's economic problems the first areas to get cuts are Fire/EMS/Police.

    I think you mean teachers and the parks service.

  • by julesh ( 229690 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @02:24PM (#31809644)

    despite the fact you can get a bluetooth headset for £8 in the UK.

    Have you ever tried an £8 bluetooth headset? They tend to work fine while you're sitting around at home or in the office, but take them out into a noisy environment (like, say, a car) and nobody'll be able to hear a word you say.

  • by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @02:39PM (#31809810) Journal

    I hate these damn slogans too.... but for me, I think it's their authoritarian "tough guy" attitude with them that irks me the most. We already have FAR too many problems with police officers who think they're "above the law" and that the best way to handle any situation is to get up in people's faces and bark out commands. Why reinforce this police-state B.S. with radio and TV advertising?

    I live in Missouri, but being in St. Louis, I'm real close to the Illinois border, so we hear plenty of IL based commercials on our radio stations. The IL state ones were some of the most offensive, along these lines. They really hammered home that whole "We WILL give you a ticket!" and "You WILL be arrested!" thing.....

    We live in a land of "control freaks" who want to tell everyone else how to conduct their personal affairs. It's always in the name of a lofty goal like "safety!" too. But the fact is, people are unique. Studies have proven that there is a minority out there who really can effectively multitask talking on a cellphone in their hand and driving. Others realize it's an added distraction, but they're only using their phone the bare minimum essential for what they're doing. (EG. Most courier services I know communicate with their drivers via Nextel phones. It's simply not possible to do the job properly if you don't juggle your phone a little bit with your driving. You need to know if dispatch wants you to stop before you reach a destination to pick up an additional package.)

    And as others have said, we seem to just be singling out cellphones because they're everybody's favorite item to bash on right now. (Let's face it... It's easy to observe someone driving while they've got a phone held up to their ear. So many people hate cellphones anyway, because they equate them with their workplace forcing them to use one to "keep them on a leash" and so on, they've got immediate negative reactions to what they're seeing.) But who's to say people's car stereos aren't just as bad a distraction, if not worse? Oh! But wait a minute! We don't WANT to address that possibility, because most of us really LIKE listening to the radio while we drive. Never-mind the fact a person might not be able to hear the siren of an oncoming fire truck or ambulance, right? Don't bother counting all the accidents that happen when a person takes their eyes off the road at the wrong moment to change the station or adjust the radio.....

    As for driving while too tired? Yep, that's dangerous too ... but again, different people have different tolerance levels. Some people I know can do really long drives straight-through, and have proven their competence at it by doing it time after time after time, without once having an accident. Others (like myself) would have to stop after about half that distance to get some rest and give my eyes a break. Banning cellphone usage in cars is about as sensible as passing laws requiring you prove you slept a minimum of 8 to 9 hours the previous night, any time you're stopped and checked for "tiredness"!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 11, 2010 @02:57PM (#31810010)

    The UK has driving schools and Driving Tests (like most of Europe) that are 1000 times more severe that what you typically find in the US.
    State of Florida's written test used to have 20 (already known) questions from a catalog of eighty where you were allowed to have 5 errors.
    The driving test was on a little parking lot (car park) behind the building where the test was taken.
    People still had problems with this test.
    ~40,000 + people die on the roads in the USA every year, about half from drunken driving, and the rest of them drive as bad as if they were drunk.
    Happily though many jobs are created in the process, from funeral homes, ambulance chasing lawyers, new cars sales, repair shops, to name a few.
    Only ~2% of the population have a passport, so how things work elsewhere is unknown.
    Idiocy can be a virtue depending on where you live.

  • by Wilson_6500 ( 896824 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @03:30PM (#31810264)
    That shouldn't be a surprise, despite what people think about police being everywhere. The average cop has a service per person of somewhere between 400:1 to 2200:1, you don't get solid enforcement like that. But anytime there's economic problems the first areas to get cuts are Fire/EMS/Police.

    From my experience, the last thing that gets cut is rescue services, right after schools. The first thing that gets cut is the local library, citizen's programs, parks & recreation, etc. Perhaps this is different elsewhere.
  • Re:Use It, Lose It (Score:5, Informative)

    by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @03:59PM (#31810612)

    no worse than having a conversation with a passenger

    Not entirely true. Talking on a mobile phone is inherently more distracting than talking to the person next to you, for a few reasons:

    * Signal/noise. You frequently have difficulty communicating over a cellular link, especially when moving; it's normal to have to repeat yourself, ask the other party to repeat themselves, mentally diagnose communications problems, interpret garbled audio, and re-establish broken connections. Passengers are much easier to talk to.

    * Context. People on the phone are more likely to talk about subjects currently relevant to them, like what to buy at a store, how to fix a problem at work, or various off-the-wall topics; they expect your full concentration and send your attention all over the map. Since you're both in the car, passengers are (somewhat) more likely to talk about topics currently relevant to both of you and compensate for the fact that you're driving by simplifying their requests.

    * Awareness. The other party has no idea of your current state. A passenger is likely to notice dangerous conditions or notice that you are paying more attention to the road and stop distracting you. If you suddenly break off conversation during a phone call, on the other hand, the other party is more likely to try to distract you even more with inane chatter: "Hey! Hey! Did I lose you? Are you there? Speak up! Hey? Hey? I don't hear anything! Can you hear me? I guess I lost ya! If you can hear me, call me back! I'll talk to ya later! Bye!"

    Using a mobile phone while driving is more like having a few wild two-year-olds in the back seat. Which, while still not illegal, isn't a great idea.

  • by Smauler ( 915644 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @08:45PM (#31812678)

    We have passed a law about the same. But there's so few Police on patrol the law just isn't being enforced. I still see plenty of drivers hand holding a mobile, despite the fact you can get a bluetooth headset for £8 in the UK.

    The trouble with this is that using a hands free phone while driving is just as dangerous as using a normal phone. _All_ studies (not sponsored by headset manufacturors) have shown this, again and again. See here [] here [] here [] and most obviously here [] for a few examples. From that last : "Conclusions - When drivers use a mobile phone there is an increased likelihood of a crash resulting in injury. Using a hands-free phone is not any safer.". From Wikipedia [] : "Driving while using a handsfree cellular device is not safer than using a hand held cell phone, as concluded by case-crossover studies.[15][16] epidemiological,[1][2] simulation,[4] and meta-analysis[6][7]. The increased "cognitive workload" involved in holding a conversation, not the use of hands, causes the increased risk.[17][18][19] One notable exception to that conclusion is a study by headset manufacturer Plantronics.

    I can't believe this is not common knowledge yet. The law in the UK differentiates between hands free and normal phoning for _no_ reason whatsoever. Many of these studies were released prior to the introduction of the law in the UK. The cynic in me wonders whether the differentiation is due to the fact that police use hands free, and radios all the time, and making them illegal would make them sad :(. Just to conclude, the people who are tutting at mobile users while talking on their hands free are _just_ as dangerous as those they are frowning upon.

  • by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @09:12PM (#31812868) Homepage

    Well three weeks ago, mine wasn't a near miss and a distracted young driver who took off when they mistook the green light for going forward for that red arrow for turning across traffic. No car and three weeks left to go in a six week neck brace stint (fractured vertebrae, damaged anterior longitudinal ligament, nerve damage to root nerves of both arms) with a possible operation to follow, I would ere on the side of ensuring drivers place the maximum possible attention to what they are doing and the risks involved with operating a motor vehicle. Deadly business operating a motor vehicle and, whilst a lot of people do it a lot of the time, it does not diminish the significant risk it represents. It Australia there a laws that restrict billboards and roadside signs as they can also distract drivers and it only takes that one distraction at the wrong time to put another road user into hospital.

  • Re:Use It, Lose It (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mr_eX9 ( 800448 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @09:47PM (#31813048) Homepage
    Talking while driving or adjusting the radio isn't "supertasking." Do you want to ban drivers from speaking to their passengers too?
  • by SpaceCadets ( 1428823 ) on Monday April 12, 2010 @12:24AM (#31813816)
    On my phone (Samsung), it has differnt profiles (Normal, Silent, Driving, Meeting...), so if I set it to Driving, it has the voice mail "You've called SpaceCadet, I'm driving...", or if it is Meeting it is "You've called SpaceCadet, I'm in a meeting...". Same for texts, if someone texts me it sends an automatic preprogrammed reply. Maybe on your next upgrade see if you can get a phone that does the same - or even if your current phone does it. It took me a while to find the option and work out how to set it up. Once it is going though, it is a blessing. :)
  • Re:Ummmm. (Score:3, Informative)

    by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Monday April 12, 2010 @08:55AM (#31815814) Homepage

    Guess what else: every study that's been done on the subject corroborates the argument that passengers are at worst a non-factor while cell conversations are a significant distraction. That's why it's an "inevitable response": your anecdotal argument doesn't beat actual evidence.

    Your passengers don't have to be considerate, they have to value their lives. Which means that they will help if they are: (a) sober, (b) awake, and (c) more than about 8 years old. Also, even if your passengers are stupid and no help, if the passengers in 9 out of every 10 other vehicles are a help then there's still much more justification for banning hands-free and not banning speaking to passengers.

The first Rotarian was the first man to call John the Baptist "Jack." -- H.L. Mencken