I would think that distracted driving--whether because you're drunk or because you're texting--is distracted driving. If it causes accidents, then the reasons for it are essentially on the same level of danger-causing behaviors. From a slightly different angle, one could argue that driving drunk gets you busted whether or not you do something stupid while driving drunk. Does that make people think it's not all that bad? Clearly yes, since some people continue to do so. I think driving while talking or texting on a cell phone should have the same penalty. Driving either drunk or talking/texting are equally dangerous behaviors when behind the wheel of a deadly weapon. So I think it's just as irresponsible to put a cell phone, etc. in the car as it would be to put a bottle of alcohol in the car, or the ice cream in the fridge (from my earlier comment's metaphor): it's presence there implies that's it's not all that bad, when in fact it *is* all that bad.
I don't like to take a hard line stance, but occasionally I find myself forced into it. Here in America we have a history of writing "symbolic" laws. The penalty is often less than the benefit of breaking it. The result is that people will take the chance and break the law, because they still come out ahead.
The law makes a statement, but it doesn't make a big change.
Elementary game theory says that to deter an action, the perceived risk of loss must be greater than the perceived benefit. I have heard that Germany implements this. They don't have people checking every ticket in their subways, in fact they have very few ticket inspectors. In spite of this nearly everyone buys a ticket. Why? Because the penalty for getting caught is 1000 times the ticket price.
There are many answers to smart phone use while driving. None are easy to implement. Few will catch most use. If we want to protect people from distracted drivers, we have to make the penalty stiff enough that people will pick up their phone in fear of getting caught. That fear has to be greater than the social pressure they feel demanding them to answer the phone, or make the call. If it isn't, they will use the phone.
The problem with trying education is that the people doing it are in denial. Education doesn't change that. Everyone has seen the clip of that teen girl driving off a small cliff while talking on her phone. It hasn't changed anything
The only other way to deal with it, is to mandate the disabling of the phones in the car. I can't think of a way to do this that wouldn't have side effects worse than the problem.
It took MADD to drive home the importance of clamping down on drunken driving. One group is trying to do that for cell phone use, FocusDriven. The group is trying to be the MADD of cell phone driving. They may have some statistical ummph now with the National Safety Council announcing last week that one quarter of all accidents are now caused by cell phone use.
I'm sorry for stating my point so poorly. My point isn't that we should throw people in jail for using a cell phone while driving. My point is that we could stop it in a heartbeat if we really thought that this was a truly a widespread, life-threatening problem, as drunk driving is (in Chicago, I've frequently heard people say that distracted driving is as dangerous as drunk driving). But would so many of us be doing it if we all thought it was that bad? And if it's not as bad as drunk driving, how bad is it?
So throw em in jail if they have a cell phone to their head? (laws similar to drinking and driving)
If they have Bluetooth.. the problems of distraction will be solved?
The details of the article indicated that holding a cellphone to the head and talking wasn't any more distracting than listening to the radio... Yes, there was some level of distraction but not much. Even talking to a passenger is a distraction from driving (modest).
The cell phone was a significant distraction when the driver:
- fumbling to answer the cell phone (yes, bluetooth would help here)
- dialing a number while driving (yes, voice dialing would help here)
- the driver's eyes were removed from the road (cell to head - was not a significant problem from the report's perspective). I often ask my wife to answer the cell phone while I am driving, then she puts it to my head so I can talk. My eyes never left the road during any of this.
The point being made..... texting was a big problem because it removed eyes from the road.
Bluetooth is a help and seeing a cell phone being held to the driver's head indicates a modest level of distraction. But addressing these items did not address the much BIGGER problem of texting while driving... right up there with trying to read a book while driving. You would think it was an obviously bad idea, but people do it.
Are we going to outlaw books in cars? or make them easier to read while driving? These are not solutions.
Rob, we have the same law here in the Chicago area. The problem, as pointed out by Alex, is that virtually no one pays attention to the law. Every time I drive my car I see people holding phones to their ears, and many can be easily picked out by viewing their erratic driving patterns. One simple law could clear it up: Lower the boom on anyone caught driving with phone in hand. This has worked (somewhat) in the area of drunk driving. Drinkers increasingly know that driving drunk will result in the loss of their driver's license and maybe a night or two in jail. The question is whether we really believe that driver distraction is an issue, and whether we're really willing take away driver's license as a result of this behavior. Since many of us have probably held a phone to our ears at one time or another while driving, I suspect we'd sympathize with the distracted drivers at prosecution time.
I think we CAN legislate a solution, if the legislation is smartly written. The mandate should not be that calls can't be made, but that hands-free capability (bluetooth) must be used. This is in fact what the law is in New York, and the commenter is correct in stating that it's widely ignored. So the next step is to mandate that cars come with built-in bluetooth. This might seem onerous, until you consider that new cars are now basically rolling electronics platforms with engines and transmissions thrown in as an afterthought. The final step involves disabling in-vehicle calls unless the in-car bluetooth is used. This is a much tougher (technological and social) nut to crack. I don't have an answer here, but I think it should be pursued. Cars don't kill people; drivers holding cellphones to their heads with their hands, not paying attention to the road, do.
I don't think we can address this issue by legislating a solution that can't be enforced.
Are we going to ban cell phones from being in cars? I don't think so.
Education is a key part of any real solution to these problems.
Cigarettes - juggling a fire while driving (talk about temptation!, we are dealing with addiction on this one), blowing your nose ( lost a young woman in our community , because she reached for a tissue at the wrong moment), a child crying or wiggling out of their seat.... the list is very long..and often doesn't involve what would normally be called a "temptation".
At least part of the solution involves training the driver to ask:
-"is this distraction worth risking a life?"...when presented with a distraction
- and recognizing what is a distraction (many don't know or are in denial of it ).
I agree that stupid drivers doing things that distract them from driving is a problem. But why put the temptation in front of them to begin with? That makes no sense and I think it's irresponsible to begin with. If I have an eating problem, then bringing home ice cream that will call to me from the fridge is not too bright. But did I put the ice cream there or did someone else? I assume that all this distracting stuff is in the form of options, right?
1) acceptable degrees of distraction. The report does indicate ANY cell phone activity is distracting.. but only because the extreme level of distraction texting caused, they recommended the practice to be outlawed.
Most people would except this conclusion. But I have no knowledge of exactly how this would be enforced. And this is a critical aspect of enacting any law.
2) Story told to me (during traffic survival class in the 70s).
Police found a car wreaked (extreme) along side the road .. the driver was alive. They couldn't determine the cause of the accident. The road was straight for miles. The weather was pleasant. The driver wasn't drunk. They wasn't another car on the road.
They noticed a coat hanger all tangled up in the steering wheel, and commented on how strange and extreme the wreak was - that it could result in a coat hanger tangled up in the steering wheel.
The driver said: " oh , no. That wasn't the result of the accident! I normally keep the wire in the steering wheel to prop up my book".
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