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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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  • by Cutriss ( 262920 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:38PM (#38359254) Homepage
    I recognize that someone in Mr. LaHood's position needs to strongly advocate for safety, but his position borders on authoritarian. I listened to an interview with him on Fresh Air (I think) where he basically shouted down anyone who offered a counterpoint to his position and portrayed them all as idiots. The best part was when the final caller claimed to actually be driving while calling and it set him off to the point I thought he was going to ask if they could trace the call.

    Just get us self-driving cars already so that this and a number of related problems go away.
  • by mwehle ( 2491950 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:40PM (#38359282) Homepage
    From the cited article:

    Investigators also found significant problems with the brakes of both school buses involved in the accident. A third school bus sent to a hospital after the accident to pick up students crashed in the hospital parking lot when that bus' brakes failed.

    Lesson would seem to be not to text while driving, and definitely don't text while driving in front of multiple school buses with bad brakes.

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

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:40PM (#38359296) Homepage Journal

    ...or listening to the radio, needing to use the bathroom, or being an asshole in the near vicinity of a car. Of course, this -really- punishes those who have always used hands-free technologies, used their phones responsibly, and drive safely every day. They HAVE to be a problem - because the NTSB says so...

    Fines aren't high enough. Make them proportional to income, like they do in Germany. Ha! Imagine Bill Gates III going down I-5 on his phone while at the wheel and receiving a fine for $10 Billion.

  • by zifn4b ( 1040588 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:42PM (#38359332)

    How about we ban other dangerous activities while driving like:

    - Changing radio stations
    - Putting on makeup
    - Reading books or newspapers
    - Scolding children in the back seat
    - Thumbing through CD wallets looking for CD's
    - Eating

    Seriously, people have been doing things in their cars that can and have caused accidents, some of them even more utterly ridiculous than using cell phones or texting. Why is this getting so much attention?

  • by madhatter256 ( 443326 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:43PM (#38359360)

    Seriously, the technology is here to allow for fully autonomous driving. The government just needs to come up with the funding to install all of the sensors and implement regulations that require all manufacturers to include these in ALL vehicles.

    Driving is a privelege, not a right. If we want our roads to be truly safe then we should have computers do the driving for us. Again, the technology is here (straight from wikipedia):

    Autonomous cars are not in widespread use, but their introduction could produce several direct advantages:

    Fewer crashes, due to the autonomous system's increased reliability compared to human drivers[1]
    Increased roadway capacity due to reduced need of safety gaps[2] and the ability to better manage traffic flow.[1]
    Relief of vehicle occupants from driving and navigation chores.[1]
    Removal of constraints on occupant's state - it would not matter if the occupants were too young, too old or if their frame of mind were not suitable to drive a traditional car. Furthermore, disabilities would no longer matter.[3]
    Elimination of redundant passengers - humans are not required to take the car anywhere, as the robotic car can drive empty to wherever it is required.[3]
    Alleviation of parking scarcity as cars could drop off passengers, park far away where space is not scarce, and return as needed to pick up passengers.
    Indirect advantages are anticipated as well. Adoption of robotic cars could reduce the number of vehicles worldwide,[4][5] reduce the amount of space required for vehicle parking,[6] and reduce the need for traffic police and vehicle insurance.

    This will not only "eliminate" accidents, but also decrease emmissions, and save money....

  • Re:Good! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by deains ( 1726012 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:54PM (#38359604)
    And not to mention, allowing anyone within three feet of a vehicle to contact the emergency services would be simply absurd.
  • by mellon ( 7048 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:55PM (#38359628) Homepage

    Insurance companies will charge higher premiums if they can figure out a way to justify it, because you have to buy insurance. There's no downside. If you read TFA, it's quite likely that the accident that triggered this whole thing was the result of sleep deprivation. Furthermore, the article mostly talks about texting while driving, not talking while driving.

    When you talk about the rise in the coincidence of an accident happening while a person is using their cell phone, it's worth paying attention to the fact that the incidence of the use of cell phones has gone up over the same time period, and the availability of phones that are easy to text on has also gone up. So here is a pretty clear case where correlation very definitely does not imply causation.

    Doing _anything_ while driving makes driving riskier, but the degree of increase in risk is too small to justify outlawing anything you might do while driving. If mobile phone usage while driving were really making the roads more dangerous in a significant way, we'd see a distinct rise in the number of auto fatalities proportional to the increase in popularity of mobile phones. But we don't.

    I think what we have here is someone who sees an opportunity to save some lives, which this definitely is, and no cost to saving them, which there definitely isn't. To him. A more responsible NTSB head would spend some serious time looking into making the roads safer by improving the non-autonomous transportation system: trains, buses, etc. If driving were something we did only occasionally, then we might be more willing to focus totally on driving when we did do it, but since we have to do it every time we need to go somewhere, it becomes routine, and multitasking is the inevitable result.

  • Re:Good! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Belial6 ( 794905 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:58PM (#38359696)
    The thing is that drivers are distracted whether they have a cell phone or not. The studies done on these kids of things are almost always done with an agenda. A good example of this is with children and particularly babies in the back seat. All of the studies point out that in the event of an accident, children and babies are less likly to be injured if they are in the back seat. Not once did I see any of those studies look at the number of accidents that happened with the child in the back seat as compared to the same number of miles driven with the child in the front seat.

    When my son was born, I specifically went out an bought a pickup truck without a back seat. They were the only vehicles that could be purchased where you could turn off the passenger air bags. I have yet to see a parent, and that includes me, that doesn't check on their infant when the child is crying. They are even MORE likely to check on the infant when they are NOT crying. I also have yet to see any human that can safely drive while facing backwards in their car. Those with the Rube Goldberg mirror systems are even worse as they stare intently at the front mirror trying to focus across to small giggling mirrors to see if the baby is OK.

    Point being, before deciding to be an anti-social ass by trying to break other peoples things, you should consider whether you are helping the situation, or making it worse.

    Besides the fact that bored drivers (although more PC) are just as bad as distracted drivers, I can't take any calls for reduction in distracted driving seriously until they ban the car stereo.
  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @04:01PM (#38359746)

    If the NTSB is finally recognizing that driving while distracted is a problem, will they ban police from using phones and computers while driving?

    Or are police somehow immune to driving while distracted dangers?

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

    by PortHaven ( 242123 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @04:08PM (#38359896) Homepage

    Actually, most research has been very poor science geared toward unfair comparisons.

    When a claim is made that talking on a cell is as dangerous as driving drunk. You can almost immediately dismiss the study as junk science. If the premise were true, based on the giant multitude we have talking on cell phones, and the occurrence of accidents amongst drunk drivers, we should all be dead.

    When a premise is impossible, or does not live out to reality. Than the science behind it is junk.

    A few good research experiments came up with surprisingly different and surprisingly similar results. I recall reading one which had much more realistic results.

    1. Driving on a cell phone did prove to be an impairment but with great variation.

    2. Simply talking conversationaly bore a very minimal increase over talking to a passenger in the vehicle.

    3. Conversing while engaged in complex thoughts (recalling figures, date/times, etc) proved extremely distracting.

    4. The effect of phone use varied from person to person. Some found even conversational use to be distracting and have a profound negative influence. Others showed little affect beyond taking to passengers within a vehicle. But all showed profound affects when engaged in complex thought and response.

    That study, more than any other I had read, seemed to bear true to my own personal experiences.

  • Re:Good! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ironjaw33 ( 1645357 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @04:19PM (#38360170)

    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.

    The argument is that public safety trumps nonexclusive access to the medium. That's what the NTSB and other state laws intend by outlawing phone use. However, just making handhelds illegal isn't doing the job. Either the fines aren't high enough, drivers don't understand the risks, or both. Legalizing jammers on highways probably isn't a good idea either since people who live nearby or have to make emergency calls will be affected.

    Interestingly, if you do operate such a jammer and are caught by the FCC, I believe they can impose up to a $10,000 fine. If the fine for using your phone while driving was this expensive, it might cause drivers to think twice. Or, at least someone could compute an estimated cost in terms of life and property loss caused by phone-related crashes and set a fine accordingly. I'm sure it would be higher than the $20-50 in most states.

  • Re:Citation please (Score:5, Interesting)

    by onkelonkel ( 560274 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @04:46PM (#38360670)
    Never mind cell phones in cop cars, what about the mobile terminals? Every cop car around here has a midsize laptop mounted on the seat next top the driver. We banned cell phones in cars last year and to this day I have not heard exactly why I can't talk without a hands free phone, but Officer Bob can drive and type on laptop at the same time.
  • As a motorcyclist... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by OverkillTASF ( 670675 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @05:38PM (#38361780)
    Two of the superficial things that I REALLY look out for... Handicap license plates and the old people that generally accompany them... and cell phones, whether texting or at the ear. I can't explain why... but my passenger notices it too... If someone is weaving back and forth in their lane, tail-gating, changing lanes without a turn signal, stopping rapidly, turning suddenly, driving too slowly, generally driving inappropriately for the conditions, or generally not giving other drivers notice of their upcoming actions... a cell phone being used is a REALLY good bet. On a bike, all of your inputs have to be dedicated to not getting squished, so you notice these things a lot more when your life really depends on it. In my truck, I personally turn into a moron when I pick up the phone to say "Can't talk, driving." Even holding the phone while it's on speaker is a distraction. I can't say why. Using bluetooth in the truck CAN be distracting depending on the discussion, but I don't notice it so much. Having a conversation on my motorcycle helmet's bluetooth is definitely not something I do around town / on the twisties. This is enough evidence to tell me that I personally am not able to drive/ride as well when I'm on a phone, or even talking on Bluetooth. And I've seen enough to convince myself that people physically holding phones turn into total morons when driving. Or perhaps that most moron drivers just like to talk on the phone. Sure, some people think their cell phones don't impact their driving, but 95% of drivers think they're above-average drivers too. Hang up and drive. Or get a blue-tooth headset. Or a blue-tooth stereo. Whatever. That might still leave you 25% distracted, but it's way better than the simplified version of driving that cell phone users end up when holding it up to their face. "Follow car in front... follow car in front... follow car in front..."
  • Re:Public Transit (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TrumpetPower! ( 190615 ) <> on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @06:14PM (#38362466) Homepage

    Feel free to check all my figures.

    $30,000 is reported multiple places as the average new car purchase price, and ten years is the typical lifetime of a car. That's $3,000 / year.

    The average car loan is 70 months -- call it 6 years. A six-year $30,000 loan at 6% will cost you almost $6,000 in interest; that's $600 / year over the life of the car ($1000 / year during the loan, nothing after it's paid off).

    10,000 miles / year @ 30 mpg @ $3 / gallon = $1,000 / year.

    Insurance varies, but it's about $1,000 / year.

    We're at $5,600 already and I haven't added in maintenance, registration, emissions testing -- or, for that matter, the cost of real estate to park the thing.

    If anything, my $6,000 / car / year figure is probably conservative.

    Yes, it's possible to spend less -- much less. I drive a '68 VW Camper that's been paid for since before I was old enough to drive and only put a few thousand miles on it per year. I doubt I spend $1,000 / year. But if we're going to consider el cheapo anomalies like you and me, we also need to consider all those driving around in BMWs that they trade out every year -- and the carless are equally offset by those with Lamborghinis. And those who only buy used vehicles are offset by those who only buy new ones.



  • by holophrastic ( 221104 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @07:40PM (#38363664)

    I did. I fought it. I did so alone. And I lost. I still think it's better to hold the phone, than to be hands-free, and I can clearly explain why. But that's not the point here. Also not the point here is that Mario Andretti can drive just fine while talking on the radio -- remember that we already train people to drive; I don't know why we don't train people to drive while talking: it's a skill like any other.

    The point here should be that if you can't drive while talking on a dry road with perfect lighting, you shouldn't be driving in the rain at all, let a alone a blizzard with ice on the road. If you were banning talking while driving in a blizzard, I'd be fine with that. If you were saying that I can't drive without corrective lenses, adn he can't drive while talking, I'd be fine with that too. Each is skill-based. Easily taught and tested.

    But that won't be the point here either.

    The point here is that I can paint your future. In 5 years, an automated car won't be just a prototype any more. In 10 years, it'll be a standard option on many high-end cars. And it 20 years, it'll be a standard option on most cars. At some point, someone's going to calculate a statistic that the self-driving car is safer than the human-driven car. And it won't matter that the stat includes teenage drivers, and criminals, and human emergencies. And it won't matter whether or not the stat is valid at all, or reliable across geographical, weather, or cultural divides. One day, someone will lobby to require all driving to be automatic. And one day, one of those someones will win.

    And it doesn't matter how many lives are saved. Because that too isn't the point. Not driving at all would save lives too. So would being encased in a bubble, or only driving huge trucks.

    The only point here is that when that day comes, you'll have said that a safety risk is more important than a recreational freedom. Many people enjoy driving. Many people enjoy driving to work. Many people enjoy controlling the machine, repairing the machine, cleaning the machine, and playing with the machine.

    So you'll live in a city where something enjoyable is prohibited. And the irony will be that police cars will be the very last to be automated. So you'll have a human police officer trained to drive to catch a human driver to arrest them for driving. It'll be funny.

    And the best part is that you will not have removed all car collisions. Because the automated driving will still not be able to deal with all of the black ice. So you'll have removed the ability for humans to drive, and only saved a few lives. And you'll never have the stats to prove it. But you'll still have air bags, seat belts, road signs, crumple zones, automatic driving, and ejection seats.

    That's the point. And that's the problem.

You know, Callahan's is a peaceable bar, but if you ask that dog what his favorite formatter is, and he says "roff! roff!", well, I'll just have to...