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Cellphones Communications Government Handhelds Transportation

NTSB Recommends Cell Phone Ban For Drivers 938

ducomputergeek writes "According to this AP report, the National Transportation Safety Board says 'States should ban all driver use of cell phones and other portable electronic devices, except in emergencies.' 'The recommendation, unanimously agreed to by the five-member board, applies to both hands-free and hand-held phones and significantly exceeds any existing state laws restricting texting and cellphone use behind the wheel.' So what about all the cars today that come with built-in computers, navigation, internet capabilities, and cell phones?"
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NTSB Recommends Cell Phone Ban For Drivers

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  • Re:Great idea! (Score:5, Informative)

    by characterZer0 ( 138196 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:37PM (#38359236)

    Talking on the phone and talking to a passenger do not have the same impact on driver attention.

  • by SirBitBucket ( 1292924 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:40PM (#38359290)
    According to CNN here: [] the proposal would NOT ban the use of hand-free devices, or passenger cell phone usage.
  • by RobinEggs ( 1453925 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:45PM (#38359420)

    I can't get to the referenced page [] but the CNN article [] states just the opposite. The last line in CNN's article reads: "It would not apply to hand-free devices or to passengers."

    The CNN article is simply wrong. The original report and the vastly more detailed CBS article [] state clearly that the ban would cover all communications uses of electronics.

  • Re:Docked Phones? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Thagg ( 9904 ) <> on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:45PM (#38359426) Journal

    Amazingly, due in large part to efforts of the NHTSA, 2010 had the lowest number of fatalities on the road in 60 years []. So, yes, a lot positive has come out of their research and recommendations.

    And when you say "they didn't think through very much", you're off by a magnitude that you (clearly) wouldn't believe. While perhaps the results going against so-called "common sense", the amount of distraction caused by hands-free vs hand-held cellphones is similar and very high -- there have been dozens of studies over the years, and they all reach this conclusion.

  • Re:Great idea! (Score:5, Informative)

    by brainzach ( 2032950 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:49PM (#38359506)

    Studies show that talking on a hands free cell phone is about the same dangerous as holding one in your hand.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:49PM (#38359512)

    By the way, I've heard two interviews on NPR featuring Mr. LaHood. In both cases, he was aggressive, dismissive, and generally petulant whenever his position was questioned. He came to the show strictly for the purpose of delivering one message: "Two hands on the wheel, eyes on the road. Always. No exceptions"

  • Re:Great idea! (Score:2, Informative)

    by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:49PM (#38359514)

    I'm not sure that talking to a passenger doesn't have more of an impact. If someone is in my front seat, I want to turn and face them when talking.

  • Re:Great idea! (Score:4, Informative)

    by iluvcapra ( 782887 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:56PM (#38359652)

    Talking to passengers might be a problem if people actually drove with passengers with any sort of regularity, the carpool lanes on the 110 are empty all the time for a reason.

    Passengers, like airline pilots with regard to their passengers, have an incentive to survive and are unlikely to distract the driver when he needs his focus, and are able to evaluate the driver's attention span with body language and by seeing the driving conditions.

  • Re:Good! (Score:5, Informative)

    by uigrad_2000 ( 398500 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:57PM (#38359660) Homepage Journal

    Some funny old FCC thing baring them.

    Actually, that funny old law is essentially why the FRC (Federal Radio Commission) was formed in 1912, which eventually became the FCC.

    See, for you to receive radio transmissions from a tower far away, you need cooperation from all your neighbors. They have to silence any machinery that would cause interference on channels designated for radio.

    Cell phone jammers are illegal because they interfere with designated channels for radio transmission. If they were legal, then you would have no way to deal with a neighbor that runs one near your house. That neighbor would legally be able to interfere with your radio, television, wi-fi, cell phone, etc.

    I'm not completely sure whether you were being sarcastic or not, but this regulation, honestly, is very important. Without it, we'd pretty much have to rely on wired communication.

  • Re:Great idea! (Score:5, Informative)

    by characterZer0 ( 138196 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:58PM (#38359694)

    Wrong. First of all, people are not very good at identifying how distracted they are. Secondly, your brain has to devote much more attention to processing language from a very low quality source (the phone) than to a very high quality source (the person next to you), leaving the driver paying less attention to driving.

  • Re:Good! (Score:4, Informative)

    by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @04:04PM (#38359828)

    Giving the driver the opportunity to pull over and answer a call would also be unacceptable.

    The main thing I noticed after Britain introduced a cell phone ban while driivng was that the idiots who used to talk on their phone while driving now stopped wherever they were on the road in order to answer the call, even when that meant that all the cars behind them now had to pass them on a blind bend.

  • Re:Great idea! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mycroft_VIII ( 572950 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @04:12PM (#38360006) Journal
    Hands free kits do not help, it's the act of holding a conversation with someone you can't see that is the problem.
          Using a cell phone responsibly means NOT while driving.
          Every study I've heard of shows cell phone conversations while driving to be ball park as dangerous as driving intoxicated. Except of course drunks tend to get hurt less than cell users in an accident.

  • by schwit1 ( 797399 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @04:12PM (#38360012)

    The NTSB website does not say anything about a hands-free exception.

    To the 50 states and the District of Columbia:

            (1) Ban the nonemergency use of portable electronic devices (other than those designed to support the driving task) for all drivers; (2) use the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration model of high visibility enforcement to support these bans; and (3) implement targeted communication campaigns to inform motorists of the new law and enforcement, and to warn them of the dangers associated with the nonemergency use of portable electronic devices while driving. (H-11-XX)

  • Re:Great idea! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @04:22PM (#38360232)

    Um... already happened, dude. Google "cell phone accident manslaughter". First page even had on involving a cell phone and a boating accident.

  • Re:Public Transit (Score:4, Informative)

    by Necron69 ( 35644 ) <> on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @04:35PM (#38360476)

    Yep, it sucks. My recommended work commute by Denver's Regional Transportation District takes three transfers, 2.5 hours, and is followed by "walk the remaining 3 miles" (yes, really). I can drive the same route in 40 minutes most days, so I do.

    I'd love to be able to sit back and let someone else drive for me, but not at that cost.


  • Some facts (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @04:54PM (#38360832)

    OK, I'm going to insert this here, since it's always disappointing to see the delusions in threads like this one and it's about time we had some actual data.

    Here's a report (PDF) [] from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) in the UK, published a few years ago around the time we started banning handheld mobile phone use while driving. It cites numerous formal studies. Not all of them reported statistically significant results in all scenarios, but many did and the overall picture is clear. Below are some choice quotations.

    Firstly, the bottom line:

    Many studies, using a variety of different research techniques, have reached the same conclusions. Using a mobile phone while driving adversely affects driver performance in a number of different ways. It impairs:

    • Maintenance of lane position
    • Maintenance of appropriate and predictable speed
    • Maintenance of appropriate following distances from vehicles in front
    • Reaction times
    • Judgement and acceptance of safe gaps in traffic
    • General awareness of other traffic.

    Much of the research has assessed using hands-free phones and demonstrates that these still distract drivers and impair safe driving ability, even when driving automatic cars, which are arguably easier to drive than the manual transmission cars predominantly used in the UK.

    There is also evidence that using a mobile phone while driving causes greater problems for those drivers who already have a higher accident risk, namely young, novice drivers and elderly drivers.

    Next, an example on the subject of denial:

    Interviews with nine people who regularly used a hands-free mobile phone for work-related calls while driving revealed that they did not believe that using the phone affected their driving performance because they could adapt their speed or end the call if necessary. However, when they participated in simulated driving tasks of varying complexity on a computer (not a driving simulator) and had to respond to mobile phone calls, their performance was significantly worse during both simple and more complex phone conversations. So, although they did not believe using the phone affected their driving, in reality it did.

    It turns out that not all calls are equally distracting, but the difference is not huge:

    In another study, 150 subjects observed a video of driving sequences containing situations to which drivers would be expected to respond. Each situation occurred when the subjects were placing a mobile phone call, conducting a simple conversation on a mobile phone, conducting a complex conversation, tuning a radio, and with no distraction. All the distractions led to significant increases in both the number of situations to which the subjects failed to respond and the time it took to respond to them. Complex phone conversations created the greatest distraction and simple conversations the least. The likelihood of a driver failing to notice and respond to a highway-traffic situation ranged from 20% when placing a call or holding a simple phone conversation to 29% for holding a complex phone conversation. Subjects over 50 years old were significantly more likely to fail to respond than younger (17-25 years) subjects.

    So how bad is performance while distracted by using a mobile phone? Almost twice as bad as being on the legal drink-drive limit, it seems:

    Before the drives, the subjects consumed either an alcoholic drink to take them up to the UK legal drink drive limit of 80 mg/100 ml or a similar looking and tasting placebo drink. During each drive the drivers answered a standard set of questions and conversed over a mobile phone.

    On average, drivers’ reaction times were 50% slower when using a hand-held mobile phone than under normal driving conditions, and 30% slower than when under the in

  • Re:Good! (Score:4, Informative)

    by PenquinCoder ( 1431871 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @04:58PM (#38360920) Homepage
    There is actually a difference between you talking to someone next to you in the care, versus talking on the phone. While talking to the person in the car, you're still paying attention to your immediate surroundings, passively speaking to the one next/behind you. When you're talking on a cell phone, a large portion of your brain is devoted to paying attention to the 'other world' on the other side of the cell phone, and concentrating at times on that persons voice to hear or understand them on shitty cell connections. Thus, you are more REMOVED from your immediate surroundings while speaking on a cell phone, anywhere. This translate to a very dangerous situation while doing things that demand concentration and attention, such as driving safely.
  • Re:Great idea! (Score:5, Informative)

    by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @05:05PM (#38361048) Homepage Journal

    You (and the folks responding with "yeah, and...") haven't glanced at the data, have you? Talking on a cell phone is NOT like talking to a passenger or listening to the radio or thinking about food. When you're on the phone you're less aware of your surroundings than if you were shitfaced drunk (again, look at the studies).

    If you get poor cell phone reception in your office building you've seen the mindless dolts with phones to their ears walking into you, completely oblivious to everything around them. Well, they're affected even more badly when driving.

    If you're on the interstate and there's no traffic, yeah, answer your phone, say "I'm driving, what do you want?" and make it short. In town and in traffic? That call will wait; when you park, just call whoever wanted to talk back. There's no excuse for you to threaten my life because you're too god damned impatient to wait five minutes for a phone call.

    Odd how an anti-science comment like yours gets a "1, insightful" at a nerd site. The studies say you're not only wrong, but stupidly wrong.

  • Re:Good! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Belial6 ( 794905 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @05:37PM (#38361754)
    Driving your kid to Chuck E Cheese is no more valid of a risk than calling your wife on the way home from work. The people that consider driving with their kid to be an acceptable risk, but complain about cell phones are simply hypocrites that think their shade of gray is better than everyone else's shade of gray.

    Also, claiming that passengers will sit quietly if there is a danger in the road is ridiculous. As a rule passengers are not even aware of the danger before it is too late. They are also likely to make gasping noises when there is no danger that startles the driver, and has them taking their eyes off the road in front of them so that they can find the non-existent danger that they don't see.
  • Link to a Study (Score:5, Informative)

    by gknoy ( 899301 ) <> on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @05:54PM (#38362126)

    Unless you can provide a link, I haven't seen any evidence that talking to someone on a cell phone is different than in person because "your brain is devoted to paying attention to the 'other world.'" []

    They reference a study done in the UK: (PDF) []

    Here's the relevant part. It's not that talking is inherently less distracting, but that someone in the car with you will understand if you're suddenly very quietly intent on driving safely, whereas we are ingrained with a much greater sense of urgency when talking to someone on the phone.

    We suggest that during normal in-car conversation, both the driver and passenger will suppress conversation when the demands of the road become too great. However, a remote speaker on a mobile
    telephone has no access to the same visual input as the driver, and will be less likelyto pace the conversation according to roadway demands

    The results are interesting. The number of words spoken in an urban area was almost double for a phone conversation versus with someone in the car. There was also more talking on the phone while on a highway ("dual carriageway"), though by a smaller margin. When driving in an urban area, the remote conversation partner asked MANY more questions than an in-car partner. The amount of conversation was very dependent on the type of road, too, which seems (to me) to support the hypothesis that in-car passengers are aware of (and temper their conversation to reflect) driving conditions, whereas remote conversation partners do not.

  • by adolf ( 21054 ) <> on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @09:45PM (#38364820) Journal

    Since 1994:

    Common cars handle (as in: stop and turn, in that order) far better: Brakes are generally much bigger, drum brakes are far less common, OEM tire compounds have improved, and the FWD layout has grown from the pile of mush that it was into something commonly capable of going 'round a corner (or a person, or an out-of-place vehicle, or...) properly and without undue drama.

    ABS has become a normal function instead of an extra-cost item.

    Stability control systems have become very common, along with traction control.

    Airbag systems have shifted from being somewhat optional to overbearingly-complete during that time.

    Crumple zones have improved with advances in applied finite element analysis, CAD, and (I dare say) metallurgy.

    Side impact beams have become required equipment.

    So, there's lots of things that correlate well with the reduction in fatalities in the timeframe you specified. The obvious rise in cell phone usage over that same period is another data point, to be sure, but I feel that it is pretty weak compared to all that I've listed.

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