Ann, one of the reasons for the introduction of prohibition WAS medical. In that regard, the analogy holds.
If safety is the goal, then speed limits should also be returned to 55 mph, and strictly enforced.
A law that is constantly and consistently flouted is a bad law, no matter the good intention. Prohibition had terrific intentions, but no one wanted it to affect them personally. It got repealled.
Cell phone bans also are a good intention, but will be revised in some way (such as permitting use in semi-autonomous vehicles). If the law is intended to prevent distracted driving, then the NTSB's prohibition of ALL hand-held electronics should be put in place.
However, the NTSB rule should go further than that. Mirrors in the sun visors should be added to the forbidden list, lest someone be distracted by looking in the visor. Car radios should be on the list as well. Even the environmental controls can cause a driver to become distracted.
Mothers are able to manage unruly offspring ("Don't make me come back there!"), but the idea of passengers being able to distract drivers means the driver should be in an enclosed space dedicated to the driver alone (the word chauffeur was used in an earlier response).
TJ, banning cell phone usage in cars is not a valid analogy to prohibition: that's an apple and a banana. The valid analogies are banning cell phone usage in cars and banning drunk drivers, as I pointed out--i.e., the usage of the thing--or banning cell phones altogether and prohibition--i.e., the thing itself--which was not being suggested. And if I saw a cop using a cell phone, I'd call the cops on him/her. Unless they have a special exemption, which might be the case. Does anyone know?
TJ, as you probably know, the National Transportation Safety Board called for an all-out ban on cell phones in cars (including hands-free phones) last December. Just as you said, the idea was met with derision. I agree with you, there's a parallel to Prohibition.
@JT, I don't think the laws will fail, but I think the only law that will stick is the hands free one, and honestly I do see a big difference in the control of my car between holding a phone to my ear and hands free. I think with hands free it lowers the risk to acceptable. Now, maybe someday fully autonomous driving will let drunks drive home safely. That being said, I do not think we should make something legal just because a lot of people want to do it. Laws are made to restrain the evil desires that we all have.
As for the cops doing it, I have been tailgated so close by a cop on the way to the police station to leave for the day, that I could see the whites of his eye in my rear view mirror. The cops can get any with almost anything they want and they know it. All they have to say is that "they have to sometime break the laws to enforce them." That is what I was told when I tried to report that cop.
Ann, the ban on cell phone usage in cars will fail the same way prohibition failed. In an intellectual sense, people see the idea as good, but in the real sense, they just had to make that one quick call.
When even the COPS are using cell phones while driving (honest, I personally saw this last week), then the law is a bad law.
I think the argument that banning cell phone usage "hasn't worked" isn't much different from arguing that banning drunk driving hasn't worked because people still drive drunk: so should we make it OK for people to drive drunk with autonomous driving? Actually, banning drunk driving has worked (if not 100%), at least in lowering the rate of accidents due to it. And that's mostly because of enforcement. I think what's lacking in the case of texting/phoning while driving vs that of drunk driving is that a) people don't see it as wrong, and b) apparently it's not being enforced as much, probably because such a higher percentage of people do it than drive drunk, even before drunk driving enforcement efforts went up. As Bryan points out, people are making a conscious decision to do something they know is not safe: and that goes for both situations. The problem with talking about "acceptable risk" is, acceptable to whom? The risk is not just to the driver, it's also to innocent victims of the driver. I don't see how that's OK, or why it should be rewarded or accommodated.
@Beth, If Charles' statistics from the AAA are correct that 95% of people know it is not safe, yet 68% still do it, how can that not be a conscious decision to do something they know is not safe. Although that sounds harsh, I think we (as I use the phone with headset while driving) see it as an acceptable risk for the benefit of staying in touch. Or a drunk drives home from the bar sees that as an acceptable risk for the benefit of being home with his car. Or just like any person who drives and risks being part of that 30000 killed each year sees it as an acceptable risk for the benefit of getting somewhere. If we wanted to remain safe at all times we would never get anything done, as almost everything has some risk. The question is, is the risk acceptable in trade for the benefit.
@Bryan: I don't think it's a conscious effort to buck the rules or thumb their nose at safety. I think people are just indoctrinated in the "always connected, always on" culture so that if you're driving and your text beeps, your automatic reflex is to check it. It requires some significant will power to ignore it. Now that begs the question, why don't we all shut off our phones while in our cars. But again, the culture has evolved to the point where your office expects to hunt you down wherever you are and you're looking for a constant connection to your kids and family. It took a decade or two to get to this place where this is the expected norm. Try convincing people to go back.
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