I would assert that the "experts" who claim that dialing is the largest part of distraction were payed off. The full duplex conversation is where the danger lies. Speed dial reduces the distracted time to perhaps 5 seconds, while the distracting conversation lasts for most of the trip.
And the sad fact is that 80% of all accidents are caused by driver inattention. And participating in a phone call demends listening and that requires attention, and that attention should be on driving instead. So hands free and autokmated dialing are steps in the wrong direction, The problem is the conversation.
Good point about GPS, naperlou. Changing your GPS while driving is a distraction. GPS -- even when working normally -- can also be a distraction. There's an Allstate commercial that depicts a common GPS problem...when the unit suddenly says, "Recalculating," and changes its mind.
Have you ever looked in a police car. It is loaded with more distractions than you can imagine. They have mulitple radios, computer displays, radar, cell phones, lights, weapons and more. Perhaps we should study the number of accidents officers are having because of distraction.
I don't think the problem is the devices at all. It is the incompetent fools we allow to drive who have no awareness of the danger they present by not attending to the job of driving. It is a self discipline that is lacking in many. There certainly are people who can drive, use a cell phone, a gps and eat peanuts safely all at once and there are other who can't drive safely with both hands on the wheel and their mind in outer space.
My brother was killed last year by a person who wasn't being distracted by anything except his own stupid inattention. He lost his driving licence for 2 years and paid a fine for failure to yield right of way. With that kind of a slap on the wrist consequences, who is going to care how many they kill? At a minimum the restoral of driver's license should have been dependant upon successful completion of some kind of extreme driver training class for dangerous idiots that he would have to pay for himself.
Anyway, I don't think the gadgets are in any way to blame. It's people not being held accountable for their actions.
New Hampshire State Commissioner of Motor Vehicles Griffin says: "New Hampshire is against automobiles equipped with radio which can be operated while the car is in motion. This department is satisfied that the greater percentage of accidents is due to inattention of drivers, and where a radio is being operated while the car is in motion it certainly would tend to divert the attention of the operator". ..
From Radio Broadcast Magazine APRIL 1930!!!!!
The reason the U.S. is falling further and further behind in everything but lawyers is that we have people like La Hood running things and making up rules as they go.
Agree that the advent of touchscreens for controls in cars is a probllem. My first GPS device had mechanical buttons and controls. With use, one could actually do some GPS functions without looking away from the road. My early cell phones were equally easy to use without my having to look at the faceplate (Remember the little bump on the '5' key?) Similarly, radio and climate controls became familiar enough to be located by feel and operated with very little visual distraction. Usually, there were differences in shape or texture that permitted tactile recognition of the right control. You could operate these controls in the dark.
In contrast, my second GPS had one physical button - an on-off control. It even lacked a physical volume control, meaning that one had to drill down through three layers of touch screen menus to change the volume when it blared or faded out relative to road noise. Talk about designed by monkeys! Yes, touchscreens are sleek, and more easily modified (software changes) as model year changes require new/changed controls. They allow more controls using less real estate (though menus) than do physical buttons and controls. But they require visual attention, and with multiple layers of menus/control windows, require longer visual attention than the old physical controls do.
Bring back the knobs, sliders, rocker switches, and buttons -- for safety!
The ultimate problem is that folks really can't multi-task. Nobody can. What we do is task-swap. Until quite recently computers were the same way, except that they could task-swap so quickly you couldn't tell the difference. The variable is, how QUICKLY can you task-swap from one focus (say, dialing a cell phone, changing the radio station or reaching for the soda in the drink holder) to another (like watching the road). Younger folks in all probablility can do it faster, but they may lack the wisdom to know how often to turn attention back to driving, thus becoming distracted, and BAM! tail-end someone at the stoplight. And the more gadgets we come up with, the more distractions we face.
At the same time, I despise the idea of the nanny-state telling me I can't drink a soft drink or tune the radio in a car because some people can't handle it safely. When you try to legislate for all contingencies, you restrict freedoms beyond an acceptable level.
The answer? freedom with responsibility. You do it without consequence, you win. You do it and mess up, you lose, big-time (like a lifetime ban on driving privileges). But try passing that legislation in our current society (ha!).
Two things come to mine after reading the posting and comments. Banning all handheld devices would include GPS units that attach to the dash but not units built into the vehicle. And what do they mean by ban? If I have my phone in my pocket and I now in trouble? Does that mean I can not use it if I am interfacing to the phone though the car's 'built-in' interface?
I am not immune to the distraction of a cell phone. But what I suspect is that the cause of most accidents is poor prioritizing when driving. Driving a car has priority over most anything else short of a gun pointed at your head. As mentioned, personal responsibility is lacking and the lawyers/courts have allowed it to happen. Most people want to blame someone else for their misfortunes rather than taking the responsibility themselves. This creates the mentality, if something happens it isn't my fault. Some lawyers go out and try to prove it was someone else's fault. The courts accept these stupid arguments rather than use common sense.
The other thing that gets me lack of perspective in the numbers. DOT reports, '... at least 3,092 people were killed in distraction-related accidents in 2010.' Out of how many people that died in accidents? According to NHTSA ( www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811552.pdf ), it was 32,885 people. It goes on to say 2010 was the lowest number of fatalities since 1949! Same report, 10,228 fatalities due to alcohol-impaired driving (3 times the distracted driver). So why is distracted driving being so heavily targeted? Because of media hype and the number of near accidents and non-fatal accidents people observe.
Get the argument right, it is not fatalities at issue. It is the non-fatal accidents and near accidents at issue, along with the estimated 2,240,000 people that were injured in accidents.
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