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Would Cellphone Ban Secure Car Safety?

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Beth Stackpole
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Creative human interface design the key
Beth Stackpole   1/6/2012 6:55:49 AM
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I couldn't agree more wholeheartedly that driver distraction is a huge, huge problem for safety, but as much I know cell phones and tablets are the root cause of the distraction, I could never support a ban on cell phones and tablets in the car. It's just not realistic. Human nature is such that you can't give someone a capability that they enthusiastically embrace and then take it away. They're just going to do it any way. Therefore, the onus (and the opportunity) is really on the automotive and electronics engineering communities to dig deep and come up with some totally creative and innovative human interface technologies that allow us always-connected zealots to have our cake and eat it too.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Creative human interface design the key
Rob Spiegel   1/6/2012 12:50:47 PM
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 Good topic, good article, Chuck.

I live in a city that has banned cellphone use except for hands-free devices. I think it's a good idea. But I'm not convinced that hands-free means the driver is less distracted. I don't think it's the hand holding the phone that's the problem. I believe my driving is just as safe when I'm drinking a cup of coffee. I think it's the conversation while driving that causes the problem.

That has always made me wonder why a conversation with a passenger is not districting, yet a conversation on a cellphone is. I suspect it has to do with the fact that the driver and the passenger are both watching the road and the conversation naturally pauses when the driver has to execute a move through traffic.

When radios were first introduced in cars, there was outcry about driver attention.


Beth Stackpole
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Re: Creative human interface design the key
Beth Stackpole   1/6/2012 2:48:02 PM
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I totally agree Rob. The hand manipulation is a distraction, but the conversation is definitely worse. But there is no way with today's always-on society that people will settle for anything less than full connectivity in their vehicles.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Creative human interface design the key
Rob Spiegel   1/6/2012 2:52:54 PM
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I agree about people not giving up their mobile communications in the car. Before Albuquerque passed the no hands-on cellphone law, I used to count the number of drivers on the phone at my nearest intersection. It was about 10 percent. Once the law was passed, it went down to probably 5 percent. Part of that, of course, was that the law was only enforced when illegal cellphone use was accompanied by another traffic infraction such as running a red light or speeding. Drivers quickly figured out they were safe to break the law as long as they were following all the other traffic laws.

Charles Murray
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Re: Creative human interface design the key
Charles Murray   1/6/2012 5:25:45 PM
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Rob: Here's a look at some statistics that are consistent with yours. A NHTSA survey says 5% report being willing to make calls on all driving trips, 10% on most driving trips, and 26% on some driving trips. The majority of respondents (66%) answer and drive, 12% answer and call back, 9% answer and pull over, 3% say they pull over and then answer.

naperlou
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Re: Creative human interface design the key
naperlou   1/6/2012 3:37:19 PM
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Once again, the government agencies lump things together into a category.  I am not really interested in "distraction" related events.  There are lots of distractions besides cell phones.  I really want to know how many are cell phone related.  I say this becuase most of the time i see someone do somthing stupid or annoying  in traffic, I notice they are on a cell phone.  I have not, fortunately, noticed that these are involved in accidents.  That is not to say that they are not, I just have not seen any. 

Cell phones are different from tablets.  They are also different from other distractions, such as food, the radio or children.  In the Chicago area, where I live, the City of Chicago has a hands free requirement, but not the collar counties.  I support the city stand, and would not have a problem if it was extended.  On the other hand, I have not seen any data that would support that. 

Just an interesting observation about those screens on the center console.  Many years ago I was in Germany, in a Japanese car with an Indian driver.  We needed to change the destination on the GPS.  The system would not let him as long as the car was moving.  At the time, I thoght it was silly.  Now, I am not so sure.

Charles Murray
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Re: Creative human interface design the key
Charles Murray   1/6/2012 5:02:54 PM
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Good points, Rob. regarding your question about whether a conversation with a front seat occupant is any more distracting than cell phone conversation: experts tell me it isn't (this will appear in a subsequent article). Researchers break distractions down to cognitive and visual. Cognitively, a front seat conversation is no different than a cell phone conversation. Visually, however, the cell phone conversation becomes more distracting, particularly if the driver has to search, reach or dial. That's why we have Bluetooth head sets.

Charles Murray
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Re: Creative human interface design the key
Charles Murray   1/6/2012 5:18:40 PM
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You're right, Beth, the onus is on the automakers, but I doubt they will do anything about it as long as there's a big market for electronics. On the flip side, municipalities that have tried to legislate it and some are making matters worse. In Lake Forest, IL, for example, it's been reported that the city council is looking at two ordinances -- one aimed at cellphone use and another aimed at distracted driving. According to the Chicago Tribune, the distraction ordinance could address adjusting the radio or eating, among other things.

Semipro
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No Design SolutionWill Ever Exist
Semipro   1/9/2012 9:37:39 AM
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In 1992 I took a graduate level mind cognition course in which the professor demonstrated unequivocally the human brain's inability to drive and carry on a conversation without significant distraction.  It should be noted, this was at the advent of cellular communication and he predicted that we as a world faced grave consequences when driving and cell phone use became widespread. Studies on this issue have existed for the past 15 years but it has never been addressed. The additional concentration of texting causes even more problems than a conversation just as the guy who used to read a book or newspaper cruising in the next lane was an accident waiting to happen.  The reality is that many more than 30K lives were lost last year due to distracted driving.  Cell phone use and additional entertainment options within vehicles are only exacerbating a problem that has existed since motorized transportation existed.

Having said that, the genie is out of the bottle and I am unsure of how it ever gets back.  Bluetooth helps but hands free is not the problem.  The brain has its limits in these situations and any conversation is a problem. 

 

Ratsky
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The answer is 'NO!"
Ratsky   1/6/2012 2:40:15 PM
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As usual, the bureaucratic response to a real problem is a complicated "solution" that won't help at all!  Let's just try acting like engineers for a change, and analyze the problem before looking for a solution!  The real problem is the vast number of poorly (or more commonly) un-trained licensed drivers.  In most states, the "driving test" doesn't ensure the ability to perform even the most basic of driving tasks.  In my area, at least 35% of drivers can't drive more than 500 feet without straying from their lane.  Back in ancient times, when I was in my MANDATORY (in those days) high-school driver ed classes, they started with 20 hours or so of classroom work before we could even apply for our permits and get behind the wheel.  Lesson #1 was to ALWAYS be fully aware of what was going on around you, in all directions.  You had to keep your eyes constantly moving to do that.  You couldn't POSSIBLY be involved with anything else (like talking on the phone, tuning the radio, shaving, putting on makeup, etc.) and comply with that directive! It has served me well, and both my sons who I trained the same way (starting ONLY after they had completed a formal driver-ed course and gotten their "licenses" which for me only meant they could now begin the REAL training!).  My last charged accident was in 1964, well over a million miles ago.  Oh, I've been hit several times, always by drivers who weren't paying attention to what was going on around them; neither I nor my insurance company has laid out one penny (except for the one claim after I was hit by an uninsured driver).  I don't recall one word in our Constitution (or even the Declaration of Independence, which some confuse with the former) that grants an "imalienable right" to a driver's license.  Get the inept off the roads!  That also would proably save more fossil fuel than 100 million EVs!

Charles Murray
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Re: The answer is 'NO!"
Charles Murray   1/6/2012 5:08:53 PM
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Ratsky, you raise some good points about young drivers. The experts I've spoken to (after filing this article) say that there's a big difference between teens and adults, some of whom have been driving for many years. Cognitively, a cell phone -- even one with a Bluetooth headset -- can be distraction for teens. In other words, the conversation itself is a distraction for them, let alone the process of dialing. Teens, it seems, tend to want to look at their passengers when they talk to them, whereas longtime drivers have generally cultivated the habit of looking straight ahead while they talk.

Ratsky
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Re: The answer is 'NO!"
Ratsky   1/6/2012 5:19:29 PM
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I'm very surprised that nobody yet has brought up the advantages of the new natural-language voice-recognition HMIs!  Many of the new systems require only a tap on the voice-recog trigger button (many cars have them on the steering wheel); from there on, it's all done by voice.  That wouldn't help much with teens, though.  It's pretty well established they'd rather thumb/type than talk.

Cosmapa
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The answer is: More electronics.
Cosmapa   1/9/2012 9:46:24 AM
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If history is any guide, there will be more - not less - driver distraction in the future. Add to this demographics that point to more, ever ageing drivers. The solution cannot be - and will not be - regulatory. The only way around this is electronics to assist the driver: obstacle warnig, collision avoidance, automated traffic control, etc. Design news, please have your journalist visit the automotive labs and report on the amazing technologies which are surely being developed.

JamesPDX
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Additional Licensing for Paripherals
JamesPDX   1/9/2012 2:43:40 AM
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I agree with Ratsky, in that automobile drivers need to be trained and licensed better for what they are driving.  In the very early days of cars there was less of a need for such training, but that was well before radios were ever installed.  I remember a fellow high school student installing a 45 record changer and payer in his new 58 Impala and another classmate who installed an FM tuner in the trunk of his 51 Ford Coupe.  I would imagine that many of us might come up with similar stories as what Ratsky shared.

It seems that any training and licensing from the beginning was primarily for one's ability to control a car under basic simple conditions on surface streets with little or no traffic.  The only deviation was to include some rules of the road in their training and license test.  That has not changed much over the decades of major technology changes, and might I venture to say over the past hundred years?  Today, it is disappointing that few people follow those rules.

This should open that proverbial can of worms.  Should drivers only be allowed to operate the available peripheral devices that they have been licensed for using?  Who would decide on the level of training and testing, and for what devices?  In general, the technology of today might warrant a mandatory training schedule for anyone operating vehicles on the public roads today, just as there are for various licenses for race car drivers.  After all, many of the drivers on public roads of today are operating their vehicles in a similar manner.

 


Alexander Wolfe
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Mandate Bluetooth
Alexander Wolfe   1/6/2012 5:21:23 PM
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Let's face it-- people are NOT going to stop using cellphones in their cars. I can't count the number of idiots (sorry, drivers) who have their hands cupped against one ear, meaning their talking on their phone while driving without using Bluetooth. That's a dangerous distraction, whereas talking via Bluetooth is a safer, albeit still somewhat distracted, way of doing it.  Therefore, we should recognize reality and make the real-world use case as safe as possible. Answer: Mandate that all cars include bluetooth support so that drivers can talk hands free. I know, it's another "government mandate," but there's so much electronic crap in cars anyway, I can't see how this would add cost. These things are part of the ecosystem now anyway.

Charles Murray
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Re: Mandate Bluetooth
Charles Murray   1/6/2012 5:30:02 PM
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The Bluetooth solution is the obvious answer and most likely to succeed. In Chicago, five suburbs recently passed Bluetooth laws, and two more are pending.

JamesPDX
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Distracting Devices
JamesPDX   1/7/2012 9:03:00 PM
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It is not appropriate in this arena to reference to people as idiots or the like.  Many of the people that you are apparently referring to, do not consider the consequences of their actions or the safety of others who may be riding with them or driving near them.  However, there are times when it would be unsafe impossible or unable to stop or pull over in a safe manner, but need to address an incoming call.  That is not to say the driver should indulge in much of a conversation, but should inform the caller that they are aware of the call, driving at the moment, and will return the call at the next opportunity.  Unless it is an immediate emergency, they must hang up or otherwise disconnect the call.

While it may help to provide some level of safety to anyone in a situation near the user of such a device, I do not think it would be possible to control the usage.  I do not believe that it is necessary for governmental intervention, but do believe that there should be stiff penalties for utilizing a distracting device while operating a moving vehicle that could otherwise endanger the lives of others.  If it were necessary, then the government should have stepped in long ago when radios were first installed in vehicles.  Radios and other entertainment devices are no different and the use of cell phone and GPS devices should be treated with little difference.  Each device has the ability to distract the driver (controller) and have caused serious situations and accidents.

Should the driver be isolated from the rest of the passengers while driving?  Would conversations or other distracting events within the vehicle be necessarily isolated from the driver?  Who or what would serve as the navigator for the driver?  Should the driver be tested on their knowledge of locations or be a professional?  Given that you knew everything, where would you draw the lines?

It is not appropriate in this arena to reference to people as idiots or the like.  Many of the people that you are apparently referring to, do not consider the consequences of their actions or the safety of others who may be riding with them or driving near them.  However, there are times when it would be unsafe impossible or unable to stop or pull over in a safe manner, but need to address an incoming call.  That is not to say the driver should indulge in much of a conversation, but should inform the caller that they are aware of the call, driving at the moment, and will return the call at the next opportunity.  Unless it is an immediate emergency, they must hang up or otherwise disconnect the call.

While it may help to provide some level of safety to anyone in a situation near the user of such a device, I do not think it would be possible to control the usage.  I do not believe that it is necessary for governmental intervention, but do believe that there should be stiff penalties for utilizing a distracting device while operating a moving vehicle that could otherwise endanger the lives of others.  If it were necessary, then the government should have stepped in long ago when radios were first installed in vehicles.  Radios and other entertainment devices are no different and the use of cell phone and GPS devices should be treated with little difference.  Each device has the ability to distract the driver (controller) and have caused serious situations and accidents.

Should the driver be isolated from the rest of the passengers while driving?  Would conversations or other distracting events within the vehicle be necessarily isolated from the driver?  Who or what would serve as the navigator for the driver?  Should the driver be tested on their knowledge of locations or be a professional?  Given that you knew everything, where would you draw the lines?


JamesPDX
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Re: Distracting Devices
JamesPDX   1/8/2012 11:47:54 AM
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Aside from the known typing issues of my last: caps were not held and words were run together.  A Microsoft issue: resolved.

Drivers need to understand the purpose of their trip, and Plan, Organize, Staff, Direct, and Control their travel plans and driving tasks before doing so.  Does this sound familiar (it should be to cognizant individuals)?  It is true that pans often change and must be flexible, and therefore should have alternatives to considered, before the trip.

There are many other situations where by the driver can be distracted from the tasks at hand: DRIVING in a safe and prudent manner.  If drivers are in a hurry, then they should start their processes earlier (wake up, hygiene concerns, diet, transporting passengers, picking up items, etc.), well before their taking control of a moving vehicle.  Consider other types of vehicles that might be relevant: air, land, sea, mass transit, Earth movement, drilling for tunnels, gas & oil, military operations, laying subsea cables, pipes, offshore drilling platforms, etc..  All of these tasks require undivided attention and concentration.

Walt
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Re: Distracting Devices
Walt   1/9/2012 9:53:10 AM
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Yes, let's require an audio feed in all cars that let's the government know if the driver is talking to a passenger and a camera to watch the drivers pupils to tell the government whether they look at their HVAC settings or instrumentation too often.  Then if the driver talks to a passenger, or looks too much at their dash or any other items, the government can send them an automatic citation.  Oh, I forgot that passenger conversations are a distraction to the driver.  We'd better cite any adult passenger that speaks at over 60dB.  We'll need to require retinal scanners for passenger ID.

(Please do not take this seriously - this is intentionally ridiculous to demonstrate the direction we're headed.)

John
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Another government ban the answer?
John   1/9/2012 9:49:18 AM
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If we ban cell phones then why don't we ban CB radios, pagers, and maybe even FM/AM radios?  All of them require a button to be pushed, things to be read to operate and talking... talking... talking...  Let's just hope people don't become too engrossed in there favorite radio program or song and overlook road hazards.  Ban cell phones and spend even more money enforcing it and then what's next?  Why doesn't anyone ever talk about a campaign to make people more aware of when it is appropriate to open up that cell phone instead of having the government take it away.

Ratsky
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Another modest proposal
Ratsky   1/9/2012 9:54:40 AM
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I think most folks here have agreed that there really isn't an effective way for the government bureaucracies to address this critical issue. How about a true "free-market" solution that could actually work?  Insurance companies could offer an option: in return for a substantial premium reduction, there would be a clause added that would severely limit (5%? $10K?) or even eliminate the amount of liability payment coverage in the event that the insured is found guilty of "distracted driving" or equivalent in relation to an accident.

 

Unlike the original "modest proposal" (Google it) or my favorite alternartive (make attempted suicide a capital offense), this one is totally serious!

fatmanonabicycle
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Mobile Electronic Devices
fatmanonabicycle   1/9/2012 9:57:00 AM
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Simple really, the task is for the lawmakers. Ask the question- "would you use any form of mobile communications device or watch a movie while in control of any form of mechanical transport ."

Those that do not immediately answer "No"; ban them for life.

Doesn't get easier.

Lou_C1357
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Really??
Lou_C1357   1/9/2012 9:57:04 AM
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While I understand the need to be totally aware of your surroundings while driving, Does the government really need to step in?

Lets face it, every drive is faced with numerous "distractions" while driving a car these days.  Ther are the verly complicated radio systems, heater controls, head light systems, warning bells, indicators, guages.  Look at the dash on a car today compared to one 20-30 years ago.  Radios used to have two knobs and 5 memory presets.  Now we have 20+ preset stations, knobs for volume, tuning, eqquilzer contol, AM, FM, Satillite, CD, MP3.  Heater controls have gone from a lever to control air flow, a lever to control air temperature, and a 3 speed fan control, to complex "automatic" systems with digital readouts, multiple buttons to push to direct the air where I want it to, driver/passenger temperatures, touchscreens, GPS systems, DVD players... etc.. I can go on all day...

I remember when I could tune a radio station in with out looking at the controls, or adjust the hear/air conditioning the same way.  Now I am constantly looking at the controls first. 

How is talking on a cell phone either in the hand or via bluetooth worse than haveing a conversation with the person sitting next to you??  How is holding a phone in the hand worse that having to reach to shift a manual transmisstion??

Couple all of this with the increased speed driven today and what do you get, more accidents.  Buy can one really pinpoint the cause??  Statistics can shead some light, but statistics can really show anything if you adjust the parameters to fit your desired outcome.

alexatradio
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Re: Really??
alexatradio   1/9/2012 10:50:25 AM
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yes you ae right,but don't forget where we are, here in the US, and here  it is customary to toss out he child with the badwater.

But don't worry if the phone companies will se deminishing business they will loby and we could have phone again

 

Ggarnier
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No stomach for enforcement
Ggarnier   1/9/2012 11:11:34 AM
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(For some reason my browser or the site would not let me Post a Comment, but I could Reply - this is not meant to be a specific reply to Lou's post.)

Here in California hand-held phoning while driving has been illegal for about three years, and texting about two, as I recall. My observation has been that law enforcement has made no specific commitment to developing enforcement methods. As a result, in my small hometown, I can stand on the main drag and it won't take more than five minutes to spot someone with the phone to their ear - usually their left ear (I guess to keep the right hand free to play with the iDrive knob in their BMW). Often the vehicle is a convertible with the top down! So there appears to be no conscious fear of being ticketed. All it would take would be a couple of officers, one on the sidewalk and one stationed in a spot where the offender could be waved over, to help drivers internalize the message that the law is real and the penalties are substantial.

Stand at the exit to a Home Depot or an elementary school, and see how many SUVs roll onto streets with the driver having just initiated a cell call. Again, a pair of officers on foot could have a great effect on reducing this offense. But I have never seen any such measures taken.

Likewise with texting on the road. I can't take a ten-mile trip on a freeway without seeing a neighboring driver's head bent down into their lap, with only an occasional quick glance up through the windshield before returning to the task of keying in a message. An unmarked van or pickup with an officer as observer riding shotgun could put the fear of God into people who indulge in this irresponsible practice. For that matter, given the oblivious state most of these offenders operate in, the vehicle could be in full CHP livery with little effect.

In order to clamp down on drunk driving, spot traffic stops (called DUI checkpoints here) have been successful in significantly reducing that hazard. In order to have a measurable impact on cellphone-related violations, similar modalities need to be developed.

David12345
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Re: Distracted Driving
David12345   1/9/2012 12:09:12 PM
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It ultimately boils down to the driver.  Are some drivers more experienced, some more responsible, some healthier, some more skilled, some more able to focus on the task at hand and shut-out lower priority distractions? Yes, the answer will always be yes.  In this country we try to minimize restrictions on freedom; however, where you draw the line when it puts others at greater risk always becomes a debate.

Nascar race drivers talk on the radio to their pit crews.  Drivers without cell phones may talk to passenger, use a GPS, listen to the radio, change a CD, sip a cup of coffee, or switch MP3 songs. Ultimately, driving is the responsibility of the driver.  I am not in favor or restricting conversation on cell phones.  I am in favor of restricting looking down to read newspapers, look at magazines, read texts, type texts, read electronic tablets/ipads, read touch screen controls, or punch in GPS data while moving.  Can that be regulated?  Probably not, but if it is illegal and has a significant fine, blatant violations clearly leading to an accident can certainly be enforced.

Regulation may sort out the worst drivers, but distractions cannot be totally regulated away.  That being said, I wish drivers would be supported by all cars having touch identifiable controls so that eyes would not have to go from the road to adjust ANYTHING. Many older cars did. Motorcycle controls have been much more standardized since the late 1970's. Most newer radios are much more difficult that way and less standardized.  I wish cars/music players standardized the controls, and any control that required reading would not work when the car was moving. 

Eventually, cars will have electronic chauffers (akin to the movie "Sleeper" and many others depicting the future since then).  As that technology gets perfected, we will all be passengers in our own car and we can be as distracted as we want.

Charles Murray
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Re: Really??
Charles Murray   1/9/2012 10:22:50 PM
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It certainly is not necessary for the government to step in. The Secretary of Transportation has rejected the idea.

TommyH
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Re: Really??
TommyH   11/29/2012 9:59:08 AM
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Even before cell phones their were distractions. Ive seen drivers reading the paper, eating, putting on makeup and once I saw a driver making out while driving.  All those are aside from the battery of controls that distract the driver from his/her primary job of driving the car.  Adding another layer of distraction isn't a good thing. Perhaps voice activated controls and true hands free commmunications are all we can hope for, but it won't keep silly people from doing silly things while driving.

joejoe111
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cell phone ban
joejoe111   1/9/2012 11:04:23 AM
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A partial solution to the problem of distracted drivers might be requiring cell phone manuf.'s to remove the built in speakers in the phone thereby necessitating the use of some type of earpiece.

APG3 inventer
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Not another Mother -May I law - mudders me
APG3 inventer   1/9/2012 12:22:01 PM
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This is just yet another 'Mothering' bill.   No intent to infer that it is bad to mother ones kids, or be a mother, but we have lost so many rights (bill of rights) and common abilities from over protective agencies I must just say it.

States that forbid drivers to have phones have not reported any change in distraction accidents.  And why just now ?  Nothing else to do in Washington ?

How about a budget ?  Trimming fat, etc.  Laws upon the voters won't work well in the future. And the future is upon us.

Martin

bob from maine
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Distracted Driving
bob from maine   1/9/2012 1:17:45 PM
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Police need cellphones, multi channel radios, and computers while responsing to emergencies; sometimes they use all 3 at once while driving in extremely stressful conditons.

Firefighters use radios and often computers and internal communications while responding to fires to do size-up and coordinate equipment deployment. Desirably there is someone available int he cab to do some of these things, but not always. 

Aircraft pilots have far greater opportunities for distraction than most of the rest of us, yet for the most part they recognize their primary purpose for occupying the seat is to fly the airplane.

None of these occupations have extraordinary training or abilities beyond normal defensive driving and the recognition that while operating a moving vehicle their primary responsiblity is the safe operation of that vehicle.

It isn't the cell phone, GPS, coffee cup, newspaper, or passenger that causes accidents; it's the operator. Let's outlaw them! Sure would cut down on traffic congestion. We really need to stop making laws that solve nothing except the apparent overwhelming need to do something, even if it's wrong.

David12345
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Re: Distracted Driving
David12345   1/9/2012 2:52:39 PM
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Good points "Bob from Maine".

I still think "user friendly" controls that do not REQUIRE looking down and reading to operate would be an asset for the driver.  Pilots have "heads-up" displays for that very reason.

A glance down is no big deal, but if you need to focus attention away from the road, it can be a problem. I think our police and firefighters do an amazing job with all the multitasking they do under stressful conditions.  I think their intent focus and responsible effort to keep in touch with "the big picture" is the only reason that it doesn't create more problems.

Unfortunately, I do not see the average or below average driver maintaining that standard.  Should we do nothing and let "natural selection" take its course, or at least try to make the operational environment as user friendly as possible?

bdcst
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Re: Distracted Driving
bdcst   1/9/2012 3:26:27 PM
And don't forget amateur radio enthusiasts who can gab for hours while commuting without getting into accidents.  Some if it is practice.  Some of it is common sense.  If you ever listen to 2 meter amateur radio repeaters you'll hear lots hams talking while driving.  But if they get into heavy traffic they'll typically say 73 and hang up their microphone until traffic lightens up.

CB'ers do the same but often without the good sense to hang it up.  Yet they too are rarely involved in accidents, though they are often warning fellow denizens of 27 MHz about accidents up ahead.

That said, any distraction from the main task of driving is a problem.  But attacking cell phones as the main culprit is silly.  How about the driver who is busy combing their hair using those sunvisor mirrors.  Shouldn't they be banned?

What about the crying child in the passenger seat or the fighting children in the rear?  Should we ban transport of children in cars with only one adult onboard?

Thinking_J
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distracted driving...
Thinking_J   1/9/2012 3:13:35 PM
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Driving distracted .. everyone agrees is bad  and should be minimized.

But making laws to ban Cell phone usage has several issues/limitations:

- 3K accidents/ year? out of 30-40K car related deaths / year.. (approximately 10%). Is this where the focus should be?

- of this 10%.. what percentage is distraction from cell usage? further reducing the significance of cell phone usage.

- What about other distractions? As stated by others, there are many and most are impossible to do anything about. Examples: conversations with passengers, eating, drinking coffee, SMOKING (a fire in your hand!), blowing your nose, etc..

- We ban drinking and driving... does the act of making it illegal stop it from happening? obviously not. It has a modest effect. Education / liability costs on the subject have a much bigger impact.

We (in the US) are driving more miles than ever before and with more distracted lives.. yet our fatality rate (accidents/mile driven) has been on the decline for a long time.

accident / fatality figures are very misleading.

accident / fatiality RATES are much more meaningful.

see: http://www.motorists.org/other/crash-data

 

 

 

Harpo-54
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Don't eve consider a ban...
Harpo-54   1/9/2012 5:41:36 PM
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See a post by Walter Williams...

http://townhall.com/columnists/walterewilliams/2011/12/28/gullible_americans/page/full/

I cannot write it better myself...

William K.
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Cellphones and driving safety?
William K.   1/9/2012 6:04:28 PM
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There are a few errors and several differences relative to who is using what while driving. For firemen, it is not the driver looking at the computer, for the police, they mostly use the computer while stopped, either before chasing or after stopping somebody. And for HAMs and CB operators, those radios are push-to-talk, release to listen, instead of full-duplex like a cell phone or a real phone. THat makes a HUGE difference in the degree of concentration required.

Of course there will never be a valid law against talking on the cell phone while driving, or even just against using the cell phone while driving, because the celular industry has way more money to spend than the tobacco industry ever had, and look at how long it took to determine that smoking might be hazardous. So the money will make the laws and there is probably not much that anyone can do about it, no matter how many hundreds are killed. REally big money does get it's way.

JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
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Banning Electronics? It will become a moot point
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   1/10/2012 12:07:11 AM
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Wow 35 posts and counting – Obviously a Hot topic.  Yes, consumers want more and more electronics and responsible mature drivers will be able to handle them all.

But I think there is a bigger issue looming that will make all of this moot.   I believe we are in a transitional time in the electronics and automotive industries where, over the next few years, the autonomy of the vehicle will overcome the risk of distracted driving, and smart cars will intelligently behave more like trains, allowing the passengers – and drivers – the luxury of electronic distractions without the risk of accidental collisions. 

Refer back to a recent article that covered this topic well:  "Ready to Be Chauffeured by Your Car?"  Nov 21, 2011 (also by Charles Murray) which also had a whopping 37 comments, one of which was: 'Autonomy of the Auto; has a nice ring to it." Describing the hopeful future of smooth sensory operation of the autonomous auto and the related safety aspects.

JamesPDX
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New Innovation in Electronics to Solve the Problem - NOT YET
JamesPDX   1/10/2012 2:29:24 AM
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1 saves
I agree that distractions will continue to munt with time until we deploy the automated driver assist methodologies that have been mentioned and then some.  Freightliner (now Daimler Trucks, Portland, Oregon) has been working on these technologies for the past 12 years that I am personally aware of.  Those technologies have been out there among many of the transportation vehicle designers for quite some time, and are being tested constantly.  Universities have been testing their concept auto-driver modules for decades.  They have their own numerous issues.  I do not believe that this issue is moot as you say, because of the advances in EE designs and technology.  We have a very long way to go before we are stepping into a "Fifth Element" vehicle with Bruce Willis.  This topic/issue is current and it will be a long time before all vehicles are of that futuristic type.

The enforcement of the specific law herein is not possible in today's environments where there are far more pressing concerns for the PDs of whatever city you're in, and "check points" fall into this area.  It is obvious as any of us can bear witness to that many drivers are in violation of the cell phone laws.  Yester year, that was not the case and you might see several patrol cars while traveling.  They were mostly seen as a reminder of the laws, but did in fact give tickets.  Today, you might never see an officer of the law for several days or weeks while traveling.

The vehicle controls do not necessarily need our undivided attention to operate.  They are mostly used in a second nature application.  It is the not specific vehicle controls that are distracting the drivers.  We have been trained to yield all of our attention to the person that we are in conversation with.  That includes the person or persons in the vehicle with the driver. 

Going back to the idea that drivers of automobiles need or should be licensed more rigorously, public transportation drivers must be licensed for the vehicles that they are to operating.  They are disallowed from taking part in any conversation while the vehicle that they are operating in moving.  There are notices near those drivers that state the passengers are not allowed to talk with the driver when the vehicle is in motion.  Governing the licensing would be a horrendous task to take on and please everyone.  And who would monitor drivers for violations?  As was pointed out, it is not a legal issue but an enforcement issue.

Reference was made to the older generation or geriatric (ever-aging) drivers as being a cause of the problem.  I do not agree with that assessment.  It is the lesser experienced driver, young, old, or in their mid-life crises, who are in the cell phone user boat.  Most anyone with enough experience or training will reframe from the use of cell phones while driving, whether they are in traffic or on a winding country road.  They will either ignore the call or find a way to pull over safely to have a conversation.  They might answer the call, but only to inform the caller that they are driving and will return the call shortly or continue when the have safely stopped the vehicle.

Yes, and if we ban communications devices al together, then when would the various emergency groups have permission to use them?

I remember my Human Factors class with Dr. William Farrell at U of AZ some years back, where we tested our reflexes with a Telex Model-33 for responses under various distracting conditions.  The results were similar to Semipro's (below).  This topic is one of concern to all of us who wish to be safe on the roads and streets.

Lou_C1357
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Re: New Innovation in Electronics to Solve the Problem - NOT YET
Lou_C1357   1/10/2012 11:07:05 AM
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Do we really need to have automobiles do the driving for us?  Have we as a society reached the point were taking ownership of the task of drive is beneath us?  In all honesty, driving is not the only area where we suffer from lack of attention, and have become too dependent on machine to do our bidding.  Gone are the days of the skilled craftsman, just look at the home building industry.  Everything is becoming more automated.  While sure it improve efficiency, I think we are suffering from the lack of creativity, and appreciation for the things we have.  In today's disposable society that technological advancements have brought about, where has the innovation gone. Is a faster computer/cellphone, or different UI innovative?

I have gone off topic, but in all actuality, do we really need yet more government regulation telling us how to behave, when all we need to do is use common sense. 

 

JamesPDX
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This Topic Must be Expanded to Include Other Distractions
JamesPDX   1/10/2012 3:34:04 PM
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I do not think that we have gone off target because these distractions are real and causing serious concerns for us all.  The principal topic here is a question as to whether or not the government should ban cell phones, which is cause for further discussion under the topic "which government should take on the responsibility for banning cell phones?"  The implication of including only the cell phones in this discussion is short sighted, and as such the topic of this thread should be expanded to include exactly what we have, to date, included by us all, below.  We are not off topic in my opinion.

I did mention emergency service use of cell phones without an in-depth discussion.  That should be a part of a discussion towards another concern for the legislators (law makers) to debate over.  Legislators need to listen to these discussions before swinging their pendulum too far in a wrong direction, and then again before needing to recant their laws with a swing too far in another direction.  After all, laws alone are a trial-and-error process in an effort to understand how things work (on their end and from their point of view).  Lawyers typically do not have the technical background of experience for making such decisions without relying on those individuals who do possess that knowledge.  We have a rather in depth knowledge set of educated engineers and technicians within this community who can and are offering their points of view on this greater topic.

Hopefully, it will be a long time before the casual consumer will be allowed to utilize an auto pilot system without proper licensing (thinking of the rigid FAA regulations).  I'm sure that the automotive industry will lobby very hard to get their neat features past the point of requiring any licensing from the government(s) (my "greed factor" topic for the past ~30 years).

dougspair
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Re: New Innovation in Electronics to Solve the Problem - NOT YET
dougspair   1/10/2012 8:59:23 PM
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...I didn't read your presentation completely, but I DO agree that the real problem with the cellphones and such gadgets...whether hand-held or not...you're mind is just somewhere else.

  Telex-33...yes, I worked with those in 1967-70 at the Telephone Company, then later to program (by making the punched tape) the early Numerical Control Machinery, before the Microprocessors..

 

 I'm seeing ads now for self-parking cars...but in 1963, when I received my first license...you had to actually parallel park...twice...

JamesPDX
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Re: New Innovation in Electronics to Solve the Problem - NOT YET
JamesPDX   1/10/2012 9:33:33 PM
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Great response.  My first license after taking high school driver's ed, was in Whittier, CA (1959). 

Anyone with an auto pilot installed and in use, might just wakeup shortly thereafter, at St Peter's gate along with several drivers who were in his/her way.  Hopefully, those devises will not be seen in consumer use for quite some time.  Heaven forbid at that time, that drivers might not need to be licensed to use them...

JamesPDX
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Would Cellphone Ban Secure Car Safety?
JamesPDX   1/11/2012 2:51:25 PM
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In short, NO: not cell phones alone.  Governmental intervension in this regad is not the cure.  Much more thought on the part of law makers, must go into that option before any action is taken.

The long, what does 'secure car safety' mean?  Will the engine fall out?  I've seen that happen in the middle of an intersection, to a Corvair, and they did not have cell phones, CBs, texting devices, etc. in those days.  There was however, a fellow paqssenger who may have distracted the driver/mechnic who may have been in the process of attaching the engine to the transmission, and did not do it properly.


Watashi
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Don't take mine until you give up yours
Watashi   1/10/2012 10:16:09 AM
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Last year I was run out of my lane by a VA state trooper on I-95.  He was playing on his computer, driving 5-10 mph UNDER the speed limit in the fast lane, and weaving everywhere. My horn was all that averted an accident (or perhaps it was my special hand gesture).  If the "authorities" would like to start removing electronics from cars, let them start with their own. 

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Don't take mine until you give up yours
Rob Spiegel   1/10/2012 1:24:12 PM
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I've seen similar sights on the freeways, Watashi. You can always tell by the slow driving -- and not holding the lane. It is getting dangerous out there. Texting seems to have taken distraction to a new and scary level.

dougspair
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Re: Don't take mine until you give up yours
dougspair   1/10/2012 8:50:30 PM
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...I agree...I often see the weaving and 'variable speed' driving here too. I'm in Sacramento, California...we have a no cell-phones (handheld) law, but now poeple still use the. They just try to hide them by holding in their lap...while texting...

  I drive a commercial size Dodge 1/2 ton van, and being a bit elevated...I see many interesting things...as does my brother..who has driven semi-trucks (logging) most of his adult life.

Charles Murray
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Re: Don't take mine until you give up yours
Charles Murray   1/11/2012 8:24:06 PM
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Rob, you've pointed to the two behaviors that I've associated with distracted driving: not keeping up with traffic and not staying in the lane. These sound eerily like drunk driving symptoms.  

Watashi
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Automation Perils
Watashi   1/10/2012 10:17:50 AM
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I, like many others, take driving seriously and know my limitations when it comes to distractions. Whether it is mechanical aptitude, good understanding of physics, or experience pushing vehicles to their limits; I have a little higher tolerance to distractions than others. But I would not attempt half of what I see other drivers doing every day with or without cell phones. 

I can only image what these morons will be doing if driver automation is pushed into the market.  We can engineer automated aids to driving, but giving them to the masses that don't understand the system limits is asking for disaster.  I can picture some idiot putting on the adaptive cruise control, activating the lane steering assist, and setting an alarm so he can take a nap on a highway drive, thinking he only needs to be awake when he gets close to his destination.

dougspair
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Re: Automation Perils
dougspair   1/10/2012 8:47:05 PM
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  Auto-pilot......He (or she) may get a very rude awakening when arriving at their destination..!

  I and my brother...both in our 60's, have driven for a living, and cell-phones and other stuff are just insane to allow while operating any motor ehicles...unless maybe you're properly trained...police, emergency vehicles..etc...

  We both also ride motorcycles, and suggest perhaps anyone who  wishes to have a drivers license be made to ride a motorcycle for ...maybe 2 weeks...to understand the real deal with driving... 

William K.
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Cellphone ban for drivers?
William K.   1/12/2012 11:48:31 AM
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It has been admitted quite a while ago that at least 80% of all vehicle accidentrs are caused by driver inattention. The other 20% includes drunks, erors, and mechanical failures. 

Now we get to the interesting question about the degree of distraction. Some tasks take a lot more attention for a much longer time, we all know that. Switching on the wiper or headlights only takes a little attention for a second or two. Drinking coffee, (not spilling it, just sipping it) takes a small degree of attention for several seconds, but spotting the cup to grab it only takes a very few seconds, and many can do it without ever taking their eyes off the road.  Conversation may not require any visual effort, but keeping track of what is being said takes much more effort for times that may be many minutes. So there is agreat deal of difference in the kind of distraction, which many people choose to ignore.  Carrying on a conversation takes a lot more attention than eating a hamburger, if one does not drop the burger. And spilling hot coffee in ones lap is quite distracting. 

The problem is that we have a serious problem with serious consequences, and a fairly new industry with lots of money that does not want any problems found to be caused by it's products, since that would reduce the profits.

A very fundamental part of the problem is that people believe that they can multitask all the time, and that no task is so demanding that it takes 100% of ones concentration. Unfortunately both of those assertions are lies. But bad habits are very hard to break, and the fact that so many people are terribly addicted to being on the phone while driving is a real problem, and it will take a real effort to solve it.

Of course the auto companies are not helping by putting in more and more toys to provide driver distractions, to relieve drivers from the boredom of concentrating on driving. Unfortunately for all, the toys are a big profit item and will not go away without a fight that is bound to leave some injured.

Jack Rupert, PE
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Re: Cellphone ban for drivers?
Jack Rupert, PE   1/28/2012 2:42:16 PM
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I like your analysis of the situation William.  In addition, there is the "unconscious concern" (if you will) for the person on the other end of the phone.  If you're reaching for your coffee and something happens on the road, you just don't reach for it.  If you're talking with a passanger and you stop mid-sentence to handle a situation, your passenger is aware.  However, they guy on the other end of phone does not know that anything is going on and will keep the conversation going.  The inherent politeness of people will mean the driver will also try to respond not give 100% to the situation on the road.

Charles Murray
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Re: Cellphone ban for drivers?
Charles Murray   1/30/2012 7:39:43 PM
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Jack: When I spoke to researchers recently, they noted that teens are the most likely to exhibit the kind of "inherent politeness" behavior that you describe (this might surprise some parents of teens). Teen drivers tend to want to look at passengers when they talk to them, whereas experienced drivers know it's okay to look straight ahead.

Charles Murray
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Re: Cellphone ban for drivers?
Charles Murray   2/1/2012 7:58:57 PM
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William K, I couldn't agree with you more. Automakers will not take away the toys as long as drivers demand them. Every time I attend a press conference for one of these new tiys, the execs carry on for th first 15 minutes about safety, and about how saf their toy is. But if they really wanted greater safety, they wouldn't introduce these things.

JamesPDX
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Cell Phone Licensing for Vehicle Operators
JamesPDX   2/2/2012 2:09:56 PM
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All communications equipment have gone through the gantlet of FCC regulations for the most part.  We all understand that the safety of utilizing such equipment is paramount, but there are apparent parties with vested interests in Washington who have a major influence on the regulators when it comes to continuing to fill their deep pockets.

The PTT (referenced by William) button has been of the greatest value in the push for safety minded parties.  All of those operators, whether licensed or not, who use the PTT when communicating, have a far greater record of safety than the drivers who use cell phones.  I am a licensed HAM operator and I use the cell phone while in a vehicle.  When I receive a call while driving, I inform the person on the other end that I am driving and will get back to them shortly, if I am unable pull over safely.  The people who insist on continuing with their conversation are cut off with an apology and a click.  If it is an emergency, then I am more polite about cutting them off.

Inappropriate head turning of the driver to look at a passenger can be viewed from the entertainment industry all the time.  Totally wrong message!

I am a proponent of FCC licensing of cell phone usage while operating any vehicle and violators who put the rest of us in danger and should be punished severely in some manner.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Cellphone ban for drivers?
Rob Spiegel   2/2/2012 3:12:03 PM
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That's interesting, Chuck, that they address safety when introducing the distracting items. Does that also include suggested use? Do they indicate that some of these devices need to be used/adjusted when the car is at a stop?

Charles Murray
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Re: Cellphone ban for drivers?
Charles Murray   2/2/2012 8:33:06 PM
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They seldom deal with suggested use, Rob, but they never, ever fail to talk about safety. Here's a video of a typical explanation.

http://www.designnews.com/video.asp?section_id=1375&doc_id=234436

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Cellphone ban for drivers?
Rob Spiegel   2/3/2012 12:31:06 PM
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Nice video, Chuck. Now that's distracting. That has to be at least up there with dialing a cellphone number. And I can't imagine drivers pulling off the road just to change a radio station. That visual screen is far more distracting than the memory buttons on older radios.

Charles Murray
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Blogger
Re: Cellphone ban for drivers?
Charles Murray   2/7/2012 7:41:30 PM
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Interestingly, Rob, the Cadillac CUE system is the least distracting that I've seen. I guess the lesson is that it's getting harder to incorporate all this stuff and still maintain safety.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Cellphone ban for drivers?
Rob Spiegel   2/8/2012 11:03:34 AM
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Yes, it seems that the dash electronics are getting complicated enough that you really need to pull off to the side of the road before using the CUE system.

Charles Murray
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Re: Cellphone ban for drivers?
Charles Murray   2/8/2012 8:07:54 PM
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Toyota says that their EnTune system won't let the driver go two steps deep into the menu. Beyond that, they say, you have to pull over. We'll need to check that out.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Cellphone ban for drivers?
Rob Spiegel   2/9/2012 11:18:07 AM
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I'm surprised to hear that about Toyota, Chuck. Seems like intrusion into the customer's ability to run the device -- even if it does improve safety. It sounds like that also would hamper a front-seat passenger's ability to utilize the system. Or maybe there's an override for passenger operation.

JamesPDX
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Drivers need Education and Understanding
JamesPDX   1/12/2012 4:35:40 PM
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Metal attendance to conversation is a condition that we have all been trained to participate in to a high degree (full attention).  Such training or conditioning is important, but has its drawbacks.  Face-to-face conversations may take the driver away from the task at hand for several minutes.  The familiar radio and audio recordings (music or conversation) can take the driver into a transfixed metal area for quite some time or even the greater portions of an hour or more when travelling long distances. 

The movie industry is being totally irresponsible by providing us with depictions of the driver turning to look at the passenger while carrying very long periods of casual and in depth conversations without regard for the speed at which the actors might be travelling.  To see this is a great distraction for me while trying to take in a nice ride that the movie should be presenting.

In concept, the multi-tasking phenomena (per se) of computer timeshare (circa 1957-1987), has provided us with distractions that are relatively more recent.  Competition for our perceived needs has further pushes us in to multi-tasking our activities.

The addicted to using a phone while driving is a problem, but the issue is not to break or change the habit, but to understand it and when such mental activity (complete attention) is required and necessary.  It is like dressing properly for an occasion or purpose.  It would appear that there are too many drivers who are not capable of this.

As long as there is the "greed factor", there will be manufacturers out there who would profit from lobbying to not allowing legislation to ban phones or other expensive 'toys'.


Charles Murray
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Worse before it gets better
Charles Murray   1/12/2012 8:02:16 PM
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It's worth noting that the trend toward more electronic connectivity is going to get worse before it gets better. Virtually every concept car at this year's Detroit Auto Show was packed with systems aimed at helping connect the driver to GPS, phones and even Internet. Most of the concept cars are aimed at 2015 introductions or even later, so we can expect the distractions to get worse over the next few years.

JamesPDX
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The government needs to step
JamesPDX   1/13/2012 3:12:28 AM
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The government needs to step in with greater license testing, not bans.

Automobiles drivers and airplane pilots were not require a have license when these vehicles were first brought on the scene.  As the concerns for safety grew due to the ever increasing abilities of these vehicles and the number of people using them increased, licenses were designed and issued for that purpose.  Education was soon required for anyone to pass the tests for each type of license.  Now, with the trend towards ever increasing automotive electronic gadgetry there needs to be a corresponding increase in license testing for the safe use of these gadgets on the highways and streets, just as there are for pilots.  There are far too many people involved to ignore this problem.  It will not go away, but get worse with time as you say.

William K.
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Platinum
would a cellphone ban aid car safety?
William K.   1/28/2012 5:17:59 PM
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One simple thing that I have suggested in several discussions about cell phone distraction would be to change the drivers communication to full simplex. That would be a PTT (push-to-talk) mode, identical to CB radio operation and the very early mobile phone modes, like in the 1960s. POlice, fire, and taxi communications have been using that mode for at least 60 years, and a great deal is known about how to keep it safe. One additional advantage is that it could reduce power consumption in the mobile device if the transmitter was only on while the user was talking. Of course it would require a huge change in habits, but it might improvepeoples manners, which would be an unintended consequence.

The implementation would definitely be a big deal, so it might not be the very best choice, but it is certainly an interesting possibility.

RaceTruck
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Iron
cell phone users know it is unsafe
RaceTruck   2/18/2013 3:38:25 PM
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My observation is, I am following a car in fast lane that suddenly for no apparent reason the driver slows down by 10~15 mph and maybe weaves a little but continues in fast lane.  When I pull to right and pass I observe driver is on cell phone.  My conclusion is that, unconsciously the cell phone user recognizes they are driving while distracted and they slow down.

tekochip
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Re: cell phone users know it is unsafe
tekochip   2/18/2013 9:07:58 PM
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and then you see the folks with the push to talk phones holding the phone in one hand, talking and attempting to make a left hand turn that requires all four lanes of the intersection since they can't steer hand over hand.  Signaling?  Not likely.


Debera Harward
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Silver
Re: cell phone users know it is unsafe
Debera Harward   6/18/2014 5:06:02 AM
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It is really very risky using the mobile phones while driving one should have little common sence .At least in turnings they should avoid not only using mobile phones but all the other things and devices that create distraction during driving 

JohnE
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Iron
worse than DUI
JohnE   6/28/2013 8:39:21 AM
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As a member of focusdriven.org, I strongly oppose the use of cell phones and other distracting technology while driving. Inattentive motorists are an even bigger threat to public safety than DUIs, because they are so plentiful. The crash statisics speak eloquently and tragically for themselves.

I don't care if it's hands-on, hands-off, whatever -- do the ethical, responsible thing and HANG UP AND DRIVE!

Charles Murray
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Re: worse than DUI
Charles Murray   9/30/2013 8:23:52 PM
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Well said, John E. What I don't understand is that so many people despise cell phone use by drivers, but when someone tries to take away their right to use it while driving, they protest.

chriskoob
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Re: worse than DUI
chriskoob   6/9/2014 1:21:18 PM
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The only thing new is the device.  The bureaucratic desire to prohibit and regulate continues.  

The June 1935 issue of Radio-Craft magazine explained the battle being waged between state legislators and radio manufacturers: "Ever since auto-radio installations became popular, a controversy has been going on—between legislative authorities and insurance companies on one hand, and radio manufacturers and car radio owners on the other—as to whether auto radio presented an accident hazard or not."

 

Of course people oppose regulations that are often implemented in a heavy handed way.  Remember the 55 mph speed limit in 1974.  It took 13 years to get rid of it.  And who wants to give a cop another reason to search your car or pull you over. 

Debera Harward
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Silver
Re: worse than DUI
Debera Harward   6/18/2014 4:59:38 AM
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Agreed charles , They protest as in we are trying to do certaon harm to them on the contrary we talk in favor for them , for their security and safety so that they reach there destinations safely .

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