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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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