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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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  • multitasking (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:04PM (#38387436)

    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.

    • 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].

    • Re:multitasking (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jdgeorge (18767) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:15PM (#38387630)

      Anonymous Coward is correct. Regardless of this particular incident, there at least two good reasons why it is bad for people to use their phones while driving: Phone use while driving slows down traffic [utah.edu], and drivers using their phones are more likely to be in an accident.

      My read is that the drama of this incident gave the NTSB the opportunity to make a recommendation that would otherwise risk political repercussions from the 10,000-text-message-per-month set.

      • Re:multitasking (Score:5, Insightful)

        by hedwards (940851) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:25PM (#38387844)

        Texting while driving is something which shouldn't be legal. It's not a matter of morality, it's dangerous enough that it should be banned. Same goes for talking on the cellphone without a handset. Eating lunch and really anything else that's distracting and requires one to take a hand off the wheel.

        Now, when it comes to talking with a handset, listening to the radio etc., there's room for debate. Personally I don't do any of those things because the last I heard they were significant risk factors for having an accident. Should those be banned, I really don't know.

        The problem ultimately is that the laws regarding motor vehicles are lax and ultimately it's not just the driver that can get killed, it's the other drivers, passengers and pedestrians that are also at risk.

        • Re:multitasking (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Skarecrow77 (1714214) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:29PM (#38387924)

          Texting while driving is something which shouldn't be legal. It's not a matter of morality, it's dangerous enough that it should be banned. Same goes for talking on the cellphone without a handset. Eating lunch and really anything else that's distracting and requires one to take a hand off the wheel.

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

          • by localman57 (1340533) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:38PM (#38388120)

            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 . Everybody would be safer if they stayed in their basement, rather than getting out. But there's a whole world out there that's worth exploring, and it's worth the risk to leave your basement. Being able to communicate with other people while traveling makes your life better. That's worth something. Listening to the car radio is worth something. Reading the newspaper while driving makes the ride more fun, and is worth something. Each of these items has risk. Some risks are worth the benefit. Others aren't.

            In the end, we're all going to die of something. The challenge is not to make every moment its best, nor to live the longest possible. It's somewhere in the product of these two.

            • by krotkruton (967718) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:46PM (#38388258)
              True. One other thing to add to that risk analysis is that people need to also look at alternative ways to reduce risk and figure out which would be more productive. Maybe here in the US, we start raising the requirements for passing driving tests and require people to re-test more often. I think that would do far more to decrease traffic accidents than banning cell phones. Or even better, let's work on our public transportation system so we don't have as many people driving.
              • by Grishnakh (216268) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:55PM (#38388420)

                Exactly: the fundamental problem is that humans shouldn't be driving themselves in most cases. We have the technology to do better, and we've had this technology for decades. We just need to design and build a Personal Rapid Transit system like SkyTran that takes you where you want to go, using far less energy than a 6000-pound car and far more safely. Obviously, this system wouldn't replace cars and trucks for every conceivable use, but installed in metro areas, it would vastly cut down on the number of miles driven by regular vehicles just by taking care of commuters. The only problem with this system is all the idiots who complain that it won't work for people living in the middle of nowhere.

                • by rkfig (1016920) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @05:24PM (#38388924)
                  Minneapolis, the 16th largest metro are in the US, regularly has temperatures around -30F in the winter, without figuring in wind chill. Getting off a bus/train/whatever and walking the last 5-10 blocks is a potentially deadly health risk to the very young and very old at that point. There are plenty more problems than just living in the country that make all those "idiots complain that it won't work."
                • by scottbomb (1290580) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @05:35PM (#38389094) Journal

                  Or when the train doesn't go anywhere near your work. We have light rail in Dallas. It worked great for me - when I worked downtown. But now they charge you to park your car in the lot at the train station (in addition to the train fare). If I were still working downtown, I'd have to do a cost analysis between gas and the fare+parking fees. Might as well drive, it costs less!

            • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:58PM (#38388462)

              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 . Everybody would be safer if they stayed in their basement, rather than getting out. But there's a whole world out there that's worth exploring, and it's worth the risk to leave your basement. Being able to communicate with other people while traveling makes your life better. That's worth something. Listening to the car radio is worth something. Reading the newspaper while driving makes the ride more fun, and is worth something. Each of these items has risk. Some risks are worth the benefit. Others aren't. In the end, we're all going to die of something. The challenge is not to make every moment its best, nor to live the longest possible. It's somewhere in the product of these two.

              Cost-benefit, shmost-benefit. This is 'Merca! If we can justify invading two countries resulting in tens of thousands of deaths, shredding the constitution, bankrupting the nation and squandering our reputation in the world community for 3000 people who died 10 years ago, we can certainly justify nuking France -- at the least -- to solve the problem of 3000 people who die every year from distracted driving.

            • 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.

            • by Anonymous Psychopath (18031) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @05:28PM (#38388988) Homepage

              This makes perfect sense to me. The same argument applies to the .08% BAC "drunk" definition. I heard a sheriff on the radio say that 25% of the people driving on a holiday are drunk. My first thought was "that's not true" and my second thought was "maybe it is, but only if we've defined 'drunk' incorrectly". Because clearly 25% of these drunks aren't so impaired to the point where they are driving dangerously. Not trying to be flamebait and I've never been popped for DWI, just don't like stupid laws created by lobbyists.

            • 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.

            • by eulernet (1132389)

              The problem is not really about the fatal accidents, which are sad, but do not cost anything to society.

              What is expensive is the fact that people are injured, or worse handicapped and still alive !

              For example, land mines are designed to injure people so that they lose one foot or one leg, because it's much more expensive to keep injured soldiers alive.

          • Re:multitasking (Score:5, Insightful)

            by characterZer0 (138196) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:52PM (#38388372)

            Shifting a manual transmission is not a distraction from driving, it is part of driving. Also, you can always abandon a shift at any point and disengage the clutch if you need to put your shifting hand on the wheel to steer. If that is not an automatic reaction, you need to more driving time.

          • No, we're banning the equivalent of holding a loaded gun pointed at people.

            Driving is a privilege, not a right, in this country.

          • Re:multitasking (Score:5, Insightful)

            by scottbomb (1290580) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @05:30PM (#38389020) Journal

            Don't forget eating, conversing with passengers, putting on makeup, looking at the baby (who's in the back seat), reading a billboard... etc...

            It all boils down to: personal responsibility. Nothing new here, just a new gadget to blame.

            For the record: I caused a car accident in 1996. I was very tired after working a double shift and I was fiddling with the radio, looking for interesting music. Better ban that too.

        • All that has been discussed at length, but usually the two sides aren't talking about the same thing. One side wants the roads to be safer while the other side doesn't want the government intruding on their lives. When you phrase it like that, I think both sides would agree that they want both things, but nobody seems to be able to sit back and look at the bigger picture.

          Regardless, cell phone use was technically illegal before there were any specific laws about it; it's called distracted driving, and
        • Re:multitasking (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ancientt (569920) * <ancientt@yahoo.com> on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:38PM (#38388126) Homepage Journal

          You made me think. Why isn't eating-while-driving a bigger issue, is it significantly safer? I did a quick search, and got the startling answer that it is much more dangerous to eat-while-driving than text-while-driving.

          You want the answer? Policy makers are not texting, but they are drinking coffee. I'm not just talking about while driving, I'm talking about generally. Ban what those reckless youth are doing, fine, but you'll get my coffee cup when you pry it out of my cold dead hands (and you'll probably need the jaws of life to get to them.) Voters will approve something to punish those youths making the roads unsafe, but you'll never get them to approve legislating cheeseburger access.

          http://www.drive-safely.net/eating-while-driving.html

          • Re:multitasking (Score:4, Interesting)

            by nitehawk214 (222219) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @05:09PM (#38388670)

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

            Now, at first I would say that I don't believe that for a second. However I suppose it depends on what you are eating/drinking. I often eat a granola bar on my way to work. The picture at your link is certainly foolish and stupid since the guy looks like he needs more than 2 hands just to eat that thing, much less hold food and drink at the same time. But eating a candy bar or drinking from a properly contained drinking vessel is perfectly fine, as long as it is done when it is safe to do so and not trying to make some sort of menuver.

            However I was standing at a corner waiting to cross the street when I saw a guy driving a car and eating breakfast. Cereal, from a bowl, with a spoon. Perhaps they are on to something here with calling for a general ban.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            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.
          • 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.

      • Re:multitasking (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:40PM (#38388160) Homepage

        Like the low IQ moron this morning texting that kissed the guard rail and then bounced across 4 lanes of traffic. and ended up against the other guard rail. The loser never put his stupid phone down as I could see the glow of the freaking screen the entire time 4 cars back.

    • Re:multitasking (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:36PM (#38388074) Homepage

      And less than 50% of the drivers can actually DRIVE SAFELY. A majority of the drivers on the road are idiots and morons that think tailgaiting is safe, speeding is safe in heavily congested areas, and they all believe they are freaking experts at driving. Most are incapable of driving and less than 30% know how to control a car in a spin or slide.

      Let's start there, make it more difficult to get your license and keep it.

      • by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:57PM (#38388460) Homepage

        I would absolutely guarantee you that 50% of all drivers are above the median in terms of safe driving skills.

      • by Grishnakh (216268)

        The problem is, if you do that, you'll utterly destroy the economy. You can't tell 70% of your workforce that they're not allowed to travel to work cheaply, and expect your economy to survive. Mass transit systems like lightrail are horrendously expensive and don't work in American metro areas because they're too spread out. Taxis are too expensive; how many people making $20k/year can afford $60 in transportation costs every day?

        There's precisely two solutions:
        1) The status quo: everyone gets their own

    • by Bucky24 (1943328)
      Occupy the Multitaskers!
  • by icebike (68054) * on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:04PM (#38387440)

    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?

    Now had the kid been on the phone (hand held or hands free) instead of texting even his accident would not have happened,
    because he would have had his eyes on the road.

    Its my contention that forcing cell phone out of the hands (some states even forbid hands free phoning) represents a cure
    worse than the disease. Too many people fear a ticket for talking, and they compensate by texting from their lap (or below
    the level of window). Texting out of sight takes your eyes off the road. Talking on the phone, while still a distraction, allows
    your eyes to be on the road.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      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 Stargoat (658863) * <stargoat@gmail.com> on Thursday December 15, 2011 @05:03PM (#38388534) Journal

        Ummm, no. China and India have some of the highest PER CAPITA traffic fatalities in the world for non-African countries. I also suspect these both countries are rather underreporting (particularly China) and with deaths per capita likely to grow as infrastructure improves.

        These are bicycle cultures where people follow bicycle rules, because in their minds they still only perceive the likelihood of bicycle damage.

        There aren't even seatbelts in many cars. Physics still applies, even in China.

    • 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.

  • Because it's easy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Audent (35893) <audent.ilovebiscuits@com> on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:06PM (#38387466) Homepage

    It's easier to say "ZOUNDS, we must BAN this THING" than it is to say "Our driver training is not up to scratch, we don't review our training at regular intervals and we don't have mandatory retests for the people we entrust our children to" because that would sound like they've not done their job.

    Sadly this isn't restricted to driving buses either.

  • by BuildMonkey (585376) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:06PM (#38387484)
    They are targeting cell phone users because when something bad happens constituents expect a government response. While it is impossible to legislate (or enact regulations) to "be a good driver", it is possible to legislate or regulate cell phone usage. Just another regulation that will be arbitrarily enforced...
  • Not to take sides (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anubis350 (772791) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:07PM (#38387498)
    'cause i'm not sure how I fall on the issue of banning phone use entirely at the moment (particularly since I use the tom tom app on my phone as my gps) but..

    Why is the NTSB targeting gadgets instead of bad drivers?

    Because using cellphones statistically seems to downgrade everyone a bit, so an excellent driver becomes a good driver, a good driver an ok driver, an ok driver a bad driver, and... a bad "barely got my license" driver a motor powered angry bird

    • by Gen-GNU (36980) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:37PM (#38388090)

      While this is true, it misses the larger issue. There are a number of factors that change driving performance. Eating while driving has a similar effect to talking on a cell phone, much like applying makeup, shaving, etc. In contrast, having a second person (or more) seems to improve driving performance. A young child who is sleeping in the back seat can greatly improve performance, while a small child who is screaming and crying has a negative effect.

      If we want to use the logic "it hurts performance", we should ban all electronic devices, and have the radios in cars have 1 big button that can turn on or off road information messages. We should ban all eating while driving. We should require any children that are in cars to be drugged and remain unconscious, and it should be illegal to drive without a second person in the car. That would, statistically, increase driving performance across the board.

      Banning cell phones simply because they can be shown to have a negative performance is singling out a single cause because we don't like it. Instead, as usual, the problem is larger and more problematic to fix. Personally, it comes down to how much risk we, as a society, are willing to accept. The current rates of traffic accidents and fatalities are lower than they have been in previous years[* [bts.gov]]. Personally, I am comfortable with the current level of risk when I step into a vehicle, either to drive or to ride as a passenger. If society, in general, would like to make changes to improve those numbers, we should have a realistic discussion about what would changes would help, how much each change would help, and what cost would be associated with each change. Simply pointing out one cause, and removing it, without addressing any other issues, is simply punishing a behavior based on personal bias.

  • by FlavaFlavivirus (2021178) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:08PM (#38387522)
    As a motorcycist, I would encourage people to not talk or text on their phones while driving. Whenever someone tries to kill me, it's always the same: a woman fiddling with her phone. However, I'm sure this ban would be enforced sporadically, with no reduction in traffic accidents caused by distracted driving...it will just become another excuse for the cops to pull you over and smell your breath.
    • by dbc (135354)

      As someone who sometimes drives a van, please be aware of vehicle blind spots. Do not cruise in them. It astounds me how many times a motorcycle will pull up on my right hand side, just behind the rear, or even just *ahead* of my rear bumper, and cruise there. The best rule for vans and motorcycles: stay behind on the left, or get the hell past quickly on the left. Anything else is a death wish.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bezultek (1109675)

      As a motorcyclist since the 80s, let me assure you there was no shortage of people trying to kill us motorcyclists before the advent of cell phones.

      Look, this is pretty straight forward. Show me a graph of car accidents as a function of year, then superimpose the percent population with cell phones as a function of year over it. If you see the number of accidents increase at the same rate as the percent population with cell phones, I'll buy that cell phones are the hazard people claim. But even thoug

    • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:52PM (#38388354) Homepage

      MY solution to that has been two 140db airhorns on my bike. Twice I have scared the crap out of a lady texting so badly that her phone went out the window.

  • 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 bcrowell (177657) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:11PM (#38387564) Homepage

    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.

    This particular accident is not the reason why the NTSB is proposing this. The NTSB is proposing this because there is a huge amount of incontrovertible evidence that when people talk on their cell phones while driving (regardless of whether the phone is hands-free), the become distracted and drive badly.

    Why is the NTSB targeting gadgets instead of bad drivers?

    The NTSB isn't targeting gadges. The NTSB is targeting bad drivers. You can put your cell phone in your car while driving, and nobody will target it. But if you talk on your cell phone while driving, you are a bad driver, and you should be targeted.

    • You can put your cell phone in your car while driving, and nobody will target it. But if you talk on your cell phone while driving, you are a bad driver,

      *drives for 12 years without an accident*

      *drives on flat straight country road in the middle of nowhere*

      *picks up cellphone while driving, presses talk button twice*

      "Hi honey. Yeah, I'm on my way, I've got an ETA of about 6 pm. Love you too. Bye."

      *hangs up*

      *has magically transformed into a bad driver that put innocent schoolchildren at risk*

  • Busy work (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kimvette (919543) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:11PM (#38387576) Homepage Journal

    It's easy. Politicians love to look busy by passing new laws rather than prodding the executive branch into enforcing laws already on the books. If any of the following were to be enforced regularly, the problem would solve itself by either teaching inattentive drivers to change their ways, or remove them from the roads:

      * reckless driving
      * Driving below minimum legal speed (usually 10mph below speed limit)
      * hindering the flow of traffic
      * improper lane changes
      * failure to use indicators when required
      * failure to yield the right of way
      * failure to maintain control of the vehicle
      * following too closely
      * driving left of center
      * traveling in the passing lane
      * failure to obey traffic signals

    . . . and so on

    • by Imagix (695350)
      We have a law coving this directly: "Driving without due care and attention". The trouble is attempting to prove it in court so that it will stick. Banning things like handheld devices lowers the "proving it" requirement. Not that I think a new law is required. Part of the problem is the attitude of people who will challenge every driving ticket they get in the hopes of getting off (and resultantly overburdening the courts). I'm all for challenging tickets where you honestly figure there's been a prob
  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:13PM (#38387594)

    Listen, most of the people who you talk to think they're one of the "good drivers," who can talk on a cell phone and drive at the same time. It's not like this argument hasn't been used before. I'm sure most of the people you would ask would also respond that they're "smarter than the average person" or "better at X than the average person." NO ONE wants to think of themselves as deficient or average in any manner.

    I work at a driving simulator. We've done quite a few studies on distracted driving (including two studies specifically targeting cell phones). These studies have sampled a few hundred different drivers, from all age ranges, technical abilities, genders, etc. ALL of them show (VERY clearly) that EVERYONE is bad at driving while being congnitively distracted. Hands-on, hands-free, whatever--the facts show that if you're concentrating on something other than the task at hand, EVERYONE has problems.

    Am I concerned about not legally being able to talk while I drive? Hell no. It's about time.

  • by mothlos (832302) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:13PM (#38387610)

    Do people honestly have doubt that distracted driving such as operating cell phones is not a risk to traffic safety? Seriously? Sure, every accident has a multitude of factors involved and how they count the number of accidents where something is 'a factor' is shameful (if you get in an accident and a bottle of wine in your trunk breaks, suddenly your accident was 'alcohol related'), but come on people, having a conversation with someone not in the vehicle is not something a significant proportion of the population should be attempting to do. Trying to type and read off of a screen is a liability to yourself and others in your vicinity. I know we are all above average drivers, but they aren't and we sure as hell don't trust them.

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:16PM (#38387648) Homepage Journal

    Yes, those examples cite bad driving while on a cellphone, not just driving while on a cellphone, as the cause of the collisions. But driving while talking on a cellphone doesn't reduce the rate at which people do the bad driving. In fact it seems obvious that distraction by the phone makes it more likely to do more bad driving.

    Just talking on the phone isn't colliding with someone. But talking on the phone doesn't make anyone a better driver. It's obvious to everyone on the road how very often it makes many people worse drivers.

    Handsfree phones should be required; anything else should be prohibited. And any collision or moving violation should cause subpoena of the phone records (phone#s redacted) to see whether the driver was on the phone at the time. If so, they should be found guilty of distracted driving (and perhaps negligent homicide, if they killed someone). And their insurance policy shouldn't cover the event.

  • by brainzach (2032950) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:16PM (#38387668)

    Following too closely will result in a ticket.

    Also cell phones are linked to more than one accident. There is plenty of evidence that cell phones are a major cause of driver inattentiveness and accidents.

    The proposal against banning all cell phones could be excessive, but there are plenty of reasons to be concerned about the issue.

  • theater (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ephemeriis (315124) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:17PM (#38387676)

    Why is the NTSB targeting gadgets instead of bad drivers?

    Because it is always easier to come up with a technological solution (even if it doesn't work) than it is to address the real (usually human) problem.

    even hands-free phones

    This really illustrates the absurdity of the claim that phones are to blame for the problem.

    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.

    • Re:theater (Score:5, Insightful)

      by OzPeter (195038) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:31PM (#38387964)

      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.

      I think that the consensus is that a conversation with a passenger is different from that with some one on the phone - as the passenger is aware of the same environment and you both automatically adjust the tone/pace of the conversation depending on the current conditions. I.E. the passenger will generally keep quiet when you are performing a complex maneuver. That is not to say that passengers can not be a distraction, just that in general a phone conversation is a worse distraction that most passengers.

    • 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 Ogive17 (691899) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:25PM (#38387850)
    I'm for a ban against texting while driving and talking on a cell phone while driving unless a hands free device is being used. Even using a hands free device is still a distraction to driving. My car has it built in and I can admit that when I'm talking to someone it does take away some attention to the road. It's not nearly as bad as holding the phone to my ear.

    Too many times have I almost been in an accident due to a person talking on their phone not paying full attention to the road. On the highway it's not a big issue, driving through town while going through stop signs, lights, watching for pedestrians, making turns.. it's just too much to do with one hand occupied by a phone.

    I'm only 32 but I can remember a time before everyone had cell phones when a person could drive 10 minutes without having to make/receive a call.
  • by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @04:32PM (#38387996) Homepage
    Rather than single out one thing let's punish people who do stupid shit. People who do things like play on their phone and don't pay attention should just lose their licence for a few years same if you rather eat food than pay attention to the road. Too many people treat driving as if its a right and the government rather let you drive and take your money but instead they should be taking bad drivers off the road.
  • Texting while driving is obviously a serious killer.

    Legislation might not be the answer: I favor a technical solution. Say, devices automatically disconnect at a certain speed from IM/ voice, except for 911, something like that.

    But to suggest that texting while driving is not a problem, even if this SPECIFIC story might have unclear details, is ignorant and dangerous FUD. Yes, this specific story's details might not directly support the idea that texting kills, but texting obviously kills, and to suggest that, since this ONE story doesn't support the specifics, then therefore, let's not worry about texting... that is irresponsible and ignorant.

    Horrible story summary.

  • by dskoll (99328) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @05:36PM (#38389122)

    Gadgets (especially cellphones) are a menace. Plenty of studies show that drivers who drive while using cellphones are impaired to a similar extent as legally-intoxicated drunk drivers.

    See this [utah.edu] and this [cmu.edu] and this [utah.edu].

  • 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.

  • by Ardeaem (625311) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @07:01PM (#38390652)
    People love science until it tells them that something they like doing has extremely negative consequences.

    Why is the NTSB targeting gadgets instead of bad drivers?

    Let's ask a similarly stupid question: "Why are we targeting drunk drivers instead of bad drivers?" When you can answer that question, you should be able to form a pretty good answer to the question above.

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