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Why the NTSB Is Wrong About Cellphones 1003

Posted by timothy
from the illusion-of-perfect-safety dept.
YIAAL writes "After a multi-car pileup involving two school buses, the NTSB is urging states to ban all cellphones and personal electronic devices in cars, even hands-free phones. But on looking at the NTSB report, it appears that the big problem was a school bus driver who was following too closely, and another school bus driver who wasn't watching the road. Why is the NTSB targeting gadgets instead of bad drivers?"
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Why the NTSB Is Wrong About Cellphones

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:11PM (#38387562)

    When you are distracted while driving you are not using your full attention to focus on the task at hand [fnal.gov], which is guiding about a ton or so at high speed where merely the errant twitch can kill or permanently injure someone.

    There are many, many studies in cognitive science [apa.org] that have shown that any distraction while driving reduces your ability to react, your reaction time, and the quality of your judgement. Your brain has a finite amount of resources and you are expending them on paying attention to the phone. In any case, cell phones are currently one of the most avoidable distractions out there. It stands to reason they'd be the first targeted for "banning."

    Turn your phone off while driving. It could save a life.

  • by prgrmr (568806) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:12PM (#38387590) Journal
    from TFA:

    4. The absence of a timely brake application, the cellular provider records indicating frequent texting while driving, the temporal proximity of the last incoming text message to the collision, and the witness statement regarding the driver's actions indicate that the GMC pickup driver was most likely distracted from the driving task by a text messaging conversation at or near the time of the accident.

    9 The GMC pickup driver was fatigued at the time of the accident due to cumulative sleep debt and acute sleep loss, which could have resulted in impaired cognitive processing or other performance decrements.


    And that's why texting while driving is bad, boys and girls. And not getting enough sleep will, apparently, make you stupid enough to do it.
  • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:14PM (#38387622) Journal

    About 1% of the population is capable of multitasking. Only they can focus on their gadget and the road. The rest should stay as far away from that as possible.

    According to published studies [bbc.co.uk], those who are actually good at multitasking generally consider themselves bad at it, and tend to avoid it. On the other hand, those who consider themselves good at multitasking are rather bad at it. Yet another manifestation of the Dunning-Kruger effect [wikipedia.org].

  • by InsightIn140Bytes (2522112) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:15PM (#38387634)
    I think western people have it too easy too. If you have ever been to Asia you know how chaotic the traffic and driving can be. Yet it's an organized chaotism, and works out just fine. Most of the times when people hit something it's a dog, and that just leaves bruises on your legs and arms. Now, I don't really want to drive there and that's why I take tuktuks or go on back of my gf's scooter. But out of necessity they're much better drivers than you see in west. Stuff like this [andamanadventures.com] isn't uncommon either.
  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:18PM (#38387718) Journal

    This is exactly what I thought when I saw pictures. The buses ran over the kid who was texting. Not one but two of them. How did he cause that?

    Well from the article:

    A 19-year-old pickup driver rear-ended a truck, and then was rear-ended by two school buses. Two people, including the pickup driver, were killed, and 38 were injured. Although there’s no evidence as to whether the pickup driver was texting at the moment of the crash, he had sent or received 11 texts in the previous 11 minutes.

    You conveniently neglected to mention that the 19-year old 'kid' (he should be treated as an adult in my book) was irresponsible and caused the initial accident which then caused the pile up. Was it the bus drivers' fault for following too closely? You bet. But if that initial accident from the cell phone hadn't happened, that whole pile up probably wouldn't have happened either. People follow closely in rush hour traffic and it's bad driving. But maybe if that 'kid' had even put his break lights on, the buses would have also and the collision would have been just a rear ending. You concentrate on the car in front of you and if you are too close, you depend on them to give you some warning. If there's no warning, you both fail.

  • Re:Not to take sides (Score:5, Informative)

    by NilesDonegan (136760) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:24PM (#38387822)

    FWIW, Mythbusters tested it.
    Episode 33: Killer Brace Position and Cellphones vs Drunk Driving

    The brace position on airlines increases chance of death: mythbusted

    Talking on a cellphone while driving is as dangerous as drunk driving: confirmed

    http://kwc.org/mythbusters/2005/06/mythbusters_killer_brace_posit.html [kwc.org]

  • Re:theater (Score:5, Informative)

    by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:34PM (#38388034) Homepage

    If you're using a hands-free device, you're just basically having a conversation with someone who isn't actually in the car. It's not going to be any more inherently distracting than having a conversation with somebody who is in the car. So if hands-free phones are a problem... So is talking to a passenger.

    It most definitely is more distracting than having a conversation with someone in the car: 2008 study [utah.edu].

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:50PM (#38388316)

    Did you just seriously say that talking on the phone is better than risking dying?

    BTW, it's more than 5,000 deaths per year, and 500,000 injuries. That changes the ratio quite a bit.

    The risk is always perceived that it's 'not you'. I don't care if you die, but I do care if I die. So you shouldn't EVER be on your phone, not paying attention and killing me.

  • Re:Not to take sides (Score:5, Informative)

    by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:54PM (#38388402) Homepage Journal

    Talking on a cellphone while driving is as dangerous as drunk driving: confirmed

    And yet, a study done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety indicates that states with cellphone bans have seen no real decrease in accident rates. [iihs.org]

    Hmm, who to believe, a well vetted institute dedicated to real driving safety statistics, or a television program dedicated to sensational entertainment... ?

  • by quantaman (517394) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @05:14PM (#38388740)

    So we're banning smoking in cars, manual transmissions, and the handicapped now?

    I think that's the mentality that's missing from this whole argument. A risk / benefit analysis. I think LaHood said that 3000 people a year die due to distracted driving. Out of 300 million. Or around 1 in 100,000 .

    Not quite, 300 million people aren't distracted driving, 300 million people aren't even driving.

    Lemme take some real ballpark guesstimates here. Maybe 200 million driving on a regular basis, and if 20% of those drive distracted on a regular basis (total guess) about 40 million

    Now from here [census.gov] every year there's about 11 million accidents (~5%), ~35000 fatalities (~3.5% of accidents).

    So if about 10% of accidents are from distracted driving (actually sounds pretty low). Being in that 40 million group means you have about a 1/40 chance of an accident per year, and a 1/10000 chance of a fatality.

    Sure it's not horrible odds, but my cost/benefit still suggests I'd want to minimize distractions.

  • Re:multitasking (Score:3, Informative)

    by Thexare Blademoon (1010891) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @05:18PM (#38388818)
    I'm having an issue with the math in that link. It says eating while driving is a bigger risk, and increases the odds of crashing by 80% - or, in decimal terms, 1.8 times as likely. Yet it also says in the linked article about texting while driving, and I quote, "You are 23 times more likely to have an accident while texting and driving. That's not a typo, 23 times more likely to crash!"

    Now, I didn't go to college, or take any math past Algebra in high school, but I'm pretty sure 23 > 1.8.
  • by Synerg1y (2169962) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @05:28PM (#38388996)

    I'd also argue that maybe we need to level out our system of drivers, there's a reason a regular driver can't get in a semi and drive it legally. The same can be said here, "are you a good enough driver to talk on the phone while driving?" in a test form. I trust myself to do it and actually pay more attention cause I know the risk when driving, but after having been almost taken out by a couple of soccer mom vans over the years cause that fine dog wasn't paying attention while chatting to whoever on the phone and merging almost right into me. Still I'm not too comfortable w texts, red lights are ok for those at best, but driving is definitely a nono even if you type super fast, it requires too much motor skill focus. But just like making a DUI a felony didn't end drunk driving, not even close, banning or not banning texting won't keep people from doing it.

  • Re:multitasking (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 15, 2011 @05:50PM (#38389364)

    ... it is much more dangerous to eat-while-driving than text-while-driving

    Parent apparently did not read the linked page.

    1) "talking... on a hand-held device...30% increase in the odds of being involved in a crash or near-crash" http://www.drive-safely.net/cell-phone-driving.html [drive-safely.net]

    2) "those who eat and drive increase the odds of an accident by 80%" http://www.drive-safely.net/eating-while-driving.html [drive-safely.net]

    3) "You are 23 times more likely to have an accident while texting and driving." http://www.drive-safely.net/texting-while-driving.html [drive-safely.net] Note: this is 2300%!

    So eating is more dangerous than talking on the phone, but texting is far far more dangerous.

  • by gordguide (307383) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @06:26PM (#38390088)

    Can't comment on this particular accident.

    However, we do have data in Canadian provinces regarding hand-held devices (cellphones, texting behaviour, etc) and driving.

    In Saskatchewan (pop 1 million) fatal accidents known to have contributing factors of the driver either taking on a cellphone or texting while driving were 60 in 2010 (the last year data was available), with 8500 non-fatal accidents.

    This compares to 69 fatalities attributed to impaired driving, with 760 injuries and only 1400 collisions.

    Since impaired driving as a cause can be made with much more certainty (blood alcohol readings are taken from drivers either by breath analysis or blood tests at the hospital or by the coroner when road accidents are involved) it remains a possibility that talking/texting while driving has surpassed impaired driving (about 20%) as the major cause of road fatalities in that jurisdiction.

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