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Jerry dycus
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Gold
big danger
Jerry dycus   6/20/2012 7:47:08 AM
 

          By far the biggest danger I face on the road are drivers distracted by cell phones.   80%+ of stupid driving effecting me on the road is fools not paying attention because they have a cell phone in their hand.

           I stopped driving during drunk hrs, Friday/sat afternnoon until Sat/Sunday morning  to get away from them now at anytime one will find jusy as bad driving because of cellphones, etc.

            The new electronics in cars is only making things worse and a lot of it needs to be stopped.  Maybe voice activated, controlled could help but it makes the road far more dangerous. 

naperlou
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Blogger
Re: big danger
naperlou   6/20/2012 8:59:09 AM
Jerry, I fully agree with you.  I have noticed the same thing.  Usually it is just stupid stuff, like sitting there when the light is green.  Yesterday I almost got hit by a guy taking a left at a light without looking.  I do not have a small car.  There is a curve there, and when you do not have the turn light you have to be careful.  Fortunately I am very familiar with the location and fully expected something like that.  He was talking on a cell phone and did not stop talking the whole time I could see him.  It is silly not to have at least a hands free rule, at the least. 

As for the electronics in the car, that is easier to regulate.  I notice that built in GPS systems do not allow changes while the car is moving.  At first I thought this silly.  I now fully agree.

Rob Spiegel
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Blogger
Re: big danger
Rob Spiegel   6/20/2012 1:42:11 PM
LaHood is on the right track. If 3,000 people were killed in airplanes during one year, we would see major changes in air safety. It's about time distracted driving is getting the attention it needs. 

Charles Murray
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Blogger
Re: big danger
Charles Murray   6/20/2012 6:45:36 PM
NO RATINGS
I agree, Rob. It's amazing how readily we accept that 3,000 figure (as well as the 30,000 or so other deaths that occur on American roads every year).

Tim
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Platinum
Re: big danger
Tim   6/20/2012 8:11:46 PM
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I guess that the 30,000 number is acceptable by people because cars are an old technology that most people trust and use everyday. People tend to accept technology that has been around a long time is inherently safe.

3drob
User Rank
Platinum
Re: big danger
3drob   6/21/2012 9:42:22 AM
People accept the 30,000 number because it happens spread out in quantity, time, and location.

This is just another example of how the government just doesn't understand how to do their job.  It's illegal to have a TV screen in the front of the vehicle, for the obvious reason that you would be tempted to just watch that instead of the road.  Now we (me included) have touch screen computers in the front.  Not only are you tempted to watch it, but you must watch it while you are trying to control the vehicle.  Navigation, weather, the heat/AC, the phone, etc.  It's doubly bad since, as a touch screen, you MUST take your eyes off the road to use it (it used to be that I could control the AC with fixed buttons without taking my eyes off the road).  I've seen recent commercials for higher end cars that even have multitouch and web browsing.  The irony is it takes less attention from the road to watch a movie (illegal) than to use a touch screen (legal).  Even when my passenger uses it, it's VERY distracting.  At least when I play a DVD in my car, the video goes dark while the car is moving.  I like the touch screen, but it should be illegal for it to be functional while moving.

What does work well are the buttons on my steering wheel for the radio.  It allows me to control the radio without even thinking about it.  It's so ingrained in my physical memory that in my second car (same manufacturer, but without the buttons) I'm always feeling around for them. 

The solution is a fixed set of hardkeys (buttons) on the steering wheel, some programmed to touch screen macro's.

rickgtoc
User Rank
Gold
Re: big danger
rickgtoc   6/21/2012 6:55:35 PM
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!

ViragoMan
User Rank
Silver
Re: big danger
ViragoMan   6/21/2012 10:32:19 AM
Today, most cars have had decades worth of safety improvement features designed into them. Unfortunately many drivers use up most of those safety features with poor driving habits. The most important safety feature of a car is the driver!!!

Until nearly all cars can navigate public roads autonomously, the driver needs to DRIVE. I believe in freedom, but I also believe in responsibility. Until the convenience and freedom of driving is properly understood in the context of privilage and responsibility, we are consigned to tens of thousands of deaths by automobile every year.

Rob Spiegel
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Blogger
Re: big danger
Rob Spiegel   6/21/2012 10:41:36 AM
Yes, Chuck, it's an incredible number. It's going down even as the population and driver miles increase, but it's still horrendous. It's good to see new technology coming out of the auto industry to circumvent some of these collisions.

Robin Goodfellow
User Rank
Iron
Re: big danger
Robin Goodfellow   6/22/2012 12:42:15 PM
I'll allow that La Hood's intentions are probably honest, but he's barking up the wrong tree. 

From my perspective, the "big danger" is that so many folks seem to buy into this idea that it is OK to implement broad restrictions for everyone based on conjecture, and to do it without checking the facts or engaging in some critical thinking about consequences or alternatives.  And all to often, as is the case here, the words used to describe the restrictions will say too much or too little and, so, not actually implement what was intended.

La Hood has equated "handheld electronic devices in a vehicle" with "inattentive driving". That simply is not the case.  Such a ban would keep my passengers from using their phones, Gameboys, calculators, or glucose meters while I drive.  And this wouldn't solve or even significantly dent the problem.  Those who are currently distracted by conversations (NOT cell phones) would find another focus other than driving for their attention.

100% of fatal automobile accidents involve automobiles.  If we ban vehicles from the road we can cut this number to zero.  We could get the same result by banning drivers.  But that wouldn't really benefit us as a society, would it?

Rob Spiegel
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Blogger
Re: big danger
Rob Spiegel   6/22/2012 3:13:10 PM
I understand your point, Robin, about some laws that are not well thought through having unintended consequences. Yet when a driver loses control of a vehicle because of texting, that's nearly the same as losing control of a car through drinking. In both cases, the driver is endangering others. So it seems to be a justifiable restriction to ban texting while driving.

Charles Murray
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Blogger
Re: big danger
Charles Murray   6/22/2012 6:27:38 PM
NO RATINGS
Rob: I, too, understand those who say that the problem isn't the electronics, it's the number of bad drivers on the road. The number of people who -- while sober -- speed, tailgate, turn from the wrong lane and don't seem to posses a vague understanding of physics, is staggering. My personal, unofficial estimate on this matter is that one in every three drivers is intellectually incapable of safely driving a car. Unfortunately, though, we're never going to get rid of those people, so we attack the symptom instead of the root cause, because it's better than doing nothing at all. That's why I'm surprised when I hear how many people resist autonomous vehicles -- to me, it seems like the only real way to get the bad drivers away from the steering wheel.

Rob Spiegel
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Blogger
Re: big danger
Rob Spiegel   6/25/2012 2:01:30 PM
Chuck, I believe you have a very accurate view of the problem with drivers. As my 16-year-old started to drive this year, I said to her, "Let me guess. You're very surprised at how many bad drivers are on the road." Sure enough, as she worked hard to drive safely and well, she was amazed by how many drivers didn't seem to care. Anything we can do to minimize the damage of bad drivers is worth the effort.

Charles Murray
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Blogger
Re: big danger
Charles Murray   6/25/2012 7:51:18 PM
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I understand your situation, Rob. It's especially hard to put your own kids behind the wheel. That's why I'm okay with most of the recent safety features that have been added or proposed. Electronic stability control has already proven to be a help and more helpful features (collision avoidance, lanekeeping) are coming.

Rob Spiegel
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Blogger
Re: big danger
Rob Spiegel   6/26/2012 1:47:39 PM
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Yes, I agree, Chuck. The more safety items the better. Something as simple as a seatbelt has saved scores of thousands of lives. I'll like to see the number of auto deaths continue to go down even as the number of miles driven goes up.

Charles Murray
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Blogger
Re: big danger
Charles Murray   6/26/2012 7:23:24 PM
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As I believe you have pointed out previously, Rob, that's exactly what's happening. For many years, traffic deaths in the U.S. hovered around 40,000 annually, even as the number of drivers climbed. Today, it's a little more than 30,000 and the total number of drivers is still climbing.

Rob Spiegel
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Blogger
Re: big danger
Rob Spiegel   6/27/2012 3:25:13 PM
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Yes, Chuck, that improvement is an unsung accomplishment from the auto industry. Right now we're seeing a flurry of activity to deliver even greater improvements. I'd like to see that number go down even lower. We may see that in the next few years. I remember 10 years ago during a reunion with my brothers, we asked what we expected to see in future developments. The two advances we identified were technology that would force cars to avoid collision and a device that would render drinks instantly cold that way the microwave makes drinks instantly hot. Were'nt we a clever bunch.

NadineJ
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Platinum
Re: big danger
NadineJ   6/20/2012 5:10:57 PM
NO RATINGS
@ naperlou- that is a great asfety addition for GPS devices.  Do you know if GPS apps on smartphones operate the same way?  GPS apps are more popular than in-car and aftermarket GPS systems lately.

GlennA
User Rank
Gold
Re: big danger
GlennA   6/21/2012 9:30:25 AM
NO RATINGS
naperlou;  I disagree about disabling built-in Navigation Systems when the car is moving.  I agree that the driver should not be playing with it, but the passenger should be able to use it.  The same goes for cell phones;  the driver should not be using one, but the passengers should be able to.

Do you remember the 'attack seatbelt' ?  The seatbelt was attached to the door frame and secured itself around the driver when the door was closed.  And retracted when the door was opened.  And occasionally tangled itself around the driver.

At some point the driver must be made to be responsible for their actions.  Or a robotic arm could be added to every car to confiscate items the driver is being distracted by.

Charles Murray
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Blogger
Re: big danger
Charles Murray   6/21/2012 8:49:08 PM
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.

TOP
User Rank
Gold
Re: big danger
TOP   6/21/2012 9:38:57 AM
Among the other road hazards I now watch for is the cell phone up to the drivers ear or texting. I'll have to say this about cell phones, it is a lot easier to tell there is a distracted driver around that a drunk driver.


The problem with attempting to regulate such behavior with laws is that it doesn't work any better than the ability and willingness to enforce it.


Since it is the insurance companies that pay when an accident does occur, it seems more sensible for the insurance companies to simply refuse to insure any driver proven to be operating a cell phone while driving. They do this with seatbelts now which is why I won't allow passenger to ride with me unclicked.


This simple act on the part of the insurance companies would also give law enforcement the tool they need to get distracted drivers off the road since driving without insurance is highly illegal most places.


My favorite distracted driving story is that while on a trip, 1,000 miles from home I sat at a stop light and watched a texting driver pull up behind me at a rapid rate coming very close to hitting my camping trailer.


I also find it interesting that generally when on the phone with someone they simply refuse to politely end a conversation when you tell them something like, "I have to go now, the tornado sirens are going off." Same is true for cell phones.

NadineJ
User Rank
Platinum
ME-factor isn't addressed
NadineJ   6/20/2012 5:08:10 PM
The evolution of distracted driving is predictable.  I've commute by bicycle, motorcycle or car on any given day for over 25 years.  Very often, people shut the door when they get in their car and forget that there are other people sharing the road.

But this constant need for distraction is carried into other parts of our lives-walking, standing in line, eating out, etc.  I'm amazed at how many people need to be in their hand held device everywhere they go.  It's partly due to our new connectivity through technology and our fear of connecting-actually engaging with another person eye to eye in real time.  The ME-factor (or "it's all about me") is very strong.

I don't see effective laws being passed until we address the root of the issue.  This seems heavy-handed and not thoroughly researched.  But, is it better than nothing?

Watashi
User Rank
Platinum
Re: ME-factor isn't addressed
Watashi   6/21/2012 9:30:08 AM

I agree with your sentiment.  It seems that a selfish, maybe even narcissistic, attitude is the root of the problem. No new regulation is going to fix that.

But on the up side, I don't feel as guilty cutting people off in traffic anymore!  Sorry in advance if any of you drive I-95 south of D.C.

GlennA
User Rank
Gold
Re: ME-factor isn't addressed
GlennA   6/21/2012 9:35:15 AM
Watashi;  And I am less hesitant to give the driver that drifts into my lane, or sits at a green light, while talking on a cell phone, a good blast on the horn.  I wonder what the person on the other end of the call thinks when they hear the horn.

Watashi
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Platinum
Re: ME-factor isn't addressed
Watashi   6/21/2012 9:38:50 AM
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I often wonder that myself!

Watashi
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Platinum
Re: ME-factor isn't addressed
Watashi   6/21/2012 9:42:38 AM
A couple months ago I had to use my horn against a VA state trooper that had drifted into my lane while fiddling around on his dash mounted laptop.  He must have got the message as he sped up and found the first turn-around to pull into.

tekochip
User Rank
Platinum
Re: ME-factor isn't addressed
tekochip   6/21/2012 12:04:40 PM
Seen that too.  Just once I'd like to see a cop that wasn't on his cell phone.  Aren't those guys busy enough already?

rickgtoc
User Rank
Gold
Re: ME-factor isn't addressed
rickgtoc   6/21/2012 6:57:38 PM
NO RATINGS
But how does the poor fellow text "horn!"

Paul F Scott
User Rank
Silver
Can cellphone laws be enforced?
Paul F Scott   6/21/2012 9:31:01 AM
I am from Connecticut, which was one of the first states to make using a cell phone, while driving, illegal.

Unfortunately, the law isn't enforced.  During my morning commute, half my fellow commuters are on their cell phones.  Yesterday, at a traffic light, I glanced over and a local patrol car driver was using a Laptop, which was on the passenger seat next to him!!  I think any "national level" action will be enforced as well as our "state laws".

mikec711
User Rank
Silver
Is more gov't intervention really the answer?
mikec711   6/21/2012 9:31:57 AM
First, Duke just finished a study showing that speaking on the cell phone (all hands free) is highly distracting and dangerous.  This can easily lead gov't bureaocrats to decide it is time to move in on us and make cell phones in the car illegal.  I'm likely far more dangerous working with my GPS than my cell ... should we make GPS illegal as well?  Several years ago, there were 7x more issues with people changing the radio station than talking on the phone.  Do we remove the radios?  If talking hands free makes you less safe, then what about talking to a passenger.  So in the end, we we end up with one driver in the vehicle with no distractions.  Not too dis-similar than when I am on my motorcycle.  How do we then go the next step and prevent people from day-dreaming?

AREV
User Rank
Platinum
Do your job.
AREV   6/21/2012 9:50:06 AM
Let's move forward and not bakwards. Electronics caused, electronics will solve the problem. I bought a Chrysler 300C w/ the adaptive cruise control and I amamazed thet the DOT is not looking at makeing all cruise controls have this feature. (It slows down a car to match the car in front.) It also eliminates road rage totally. Awesome feature. At minimum a sensor should alert the driver something bad is about to occur if they contine on. Normal driving has become such a drag, typically requiring very little of the driver's attention that sleeping will replace the phone, we already have applying makeup, reading, shaving distracting us. In this hurried up world we look to shave minutes, the phone is just one of the ways. The safest mile is the one not driven. If by the phone conversation I can avoid driving it was a benifit.

Jluminais
User Rank
Silver
Distrated Driving
Jluminais   6/21/2012 10:02:18 AM
NO RATINGS
If the DOT wants to eliminate deaths due to distracted driving, they should encourage efforts to speed along development of cars that will drive themselves.  Take away cell phones and drivers will find something else to distract themselves.  Lets face it, driving is boring to most people.  You can cause a traffic jam (and a resultant accident) by simply pulling your car over to the shoulder, lifting the hood, and looking under it.

hatallica
User Rank
Silver
Focus on Requirements?
hatallica   6/21/2012 10:25:28 AM
One of the other stories sent to me with this one, was the one regarding focusing on requirements.  So, it is with great interest that I see the various detailed schemes by which people wish to solve this problem.

We do not need scores of new laws or new technical solutions.  We only need personal responsibility.  You are individually accountable for each distraction, be it from texting or eating french fries or gawking at the hottie washing their car.

We can make "stupid" and "incompetent" illegal, but it will not change behavior.

Robert Schulte
User Rank
Iron
Distracted driving
Robert Schulte   6/21/2012 10:26:56 AM
Driving safely is a learned skill and it only comes by paying attention and practice.  I eat, drink and talk on the phone when commuting but you have to drive first and do the other things as secondary operations, DRIVING COMES FIRST.  You can't safely text in traffic!  They should give tickets for poor driving not for having a phone in the car.  What ever happend to the don't tailgate rule?

fpeory
User Rank
Iron
Target the behavior, not the technology
fpeory   6/21/2012 1:34:07 PM
Many people can and do successfully multi-task while driving safely. The successful ones understand that driving is the top priority, but that doesn't prohibit them from changing the radio station or drinking a cup of coffee or a number of other behaviors that millions of drivers safely do every day.

The distracted behavior that should be targeted basically falls into two categories: (1) Averting your eyes from the road and (2) pushing buttons

Laws that target talking on the phone while driving or sending & receiving text messages while driving are missing the bigger picture. It's not so much what you're doing as it is how you're doing it with regard to behaviors (1) and (2) above.

With my iPhone 4s and the bluetooth-enabled stereo system in my vehicle, I can talk or send a text message hands-free without turning my head or removing my eyes from the road ahead, and with just a single button push. I can also change the radio station or CD track using buttons on the steering wheel. Why should any of those things be against the law?

Having said that, it's terrifying to see someone typing a text message on a cell phone -- eyes down for a number of seconds, fingers on one hand busy pushing lots of buttons -- while cruising down the road, oblivious to whether or not the brake lights of the car in front of him came on 3 seconds ago.

Enforcement would be difficult, but the law really should focus on setting limits on behaviors (1) and (2). For how long are you allowed to avert your eyes from the road (maybe 1 second?) and how many buttons are you allowed to push before your hand must go back to the steering wheel (maybe 2 or 3?)

I welcome all criticisms and counter-arguments, but I also ask you to consider how many perfectly legal behaviors are allowed, behaviors that millions of drivers engage in daily, that violate my suggestions for limits on (1) and (2). 

bigfoot6
User Rank
Iron
Distracted driving
bigfoot6   6/21/2012 11:53:28 AM
I think that all personal communication devices should be disabled anytime the motor vehicles engine is running, or in the case of electric vehicles whenever it is occupied. 

I am really tired of having to work around these people who are off in a cloud and not paying attention.

Ockham
User Rank
Gold
Re: Distracted driving
Ockham   6/21/2012 12:46:28 PM
Right on Bigfoot6!  I am sick of the delays and deadly behavior of those people who think that "this one call or text is so important that I can act like a idiot". Besides the danger, there is the simple fact that their erratic driving causes congestion and slows the entire traffic pattern.

I do NOT want to live in my car. I want my commute to be as brief and as uneventful as possible.


Between the distracted drivers and those people in those Pruis slugs that are constant traffic holdups (apparently due to their terrible acceleration performance) and those ninnies who are functionally violating traffic law and courtesy as they hyper-mile to save a nickel on their daily commute, driving is becoming distinctly unfun in many congested areas.

Ockham

VadimR
User Rank
Gold
Re: Distracted driving
VadimR   6/21/2012 1:30:11 PM
Most of the time I commute by bicycle and have had plenty of close calls with people oblivious that there was a bike sharing the road.  Having said that, I would never support yet another law governing what I can and can't do.  Last time I checked this was a free country. It's not just phones.  I've seen people distracted by the stereo, adjusting the air, or simply day dreaming.  What's next, are we going to make it illigal to use the air or the radio in the car?  Are we going to make it illigal to ponder or daydream while driving?  How would we enforce that? 

Car manufacturers are doing this too.  My mother has a Prius and I can't believe you can't change your GPS while the car is moving... even by a passenger!  For crying out loud, why do we insist and accept others telling us what we can and can't do?  In gerneral we get offended or annoyed when people give us advice, but we seem to not care when it comes from the auto manufacturer or uncle Sam.  We need to be more consistent.

In my opinion some people are able to multi task just fine, others shouldn't be driving in the first place!  Its funny how when we turn 16 we somehow magically become mature enough to get our license.  We are not all the same and we shouldn't apply the same expectations of everyone.

 

kdslezak
User Rank
Bronze
Dangerous Drivers
kdslezak   6/21/2012 12:36:58 PM
For many people I think it is an attitude -- it's OK unless I get caught. Compare the safety of using hand held devices to vehicle speeds (10, 15, 20 MPH OVER the speed LIMIT). Enforcing no texting, etc. may happen as well as enforcing speed limits. Personally I don't think No Texting laws will make much difference.

nichollr
User Rank
Iron
Better driver training and testing
nichollr   6/21/2012 1:21:21 PM
As others have stated here, drivers need to drive first and do other stuff second.  Yes, there are a lot of distractions in a car now days but how many drivers really get the training they need?  I know that where I live, I can renew my license by mail every 5 years.  No test of any kind to test your current knowledge of driving laws or your current driving skills is required.  Yes it would be inconvenient and expensive, but operating a 4000 lb object at speeds up to 80 mph requires a lot of skill and good decision making.  And some of those decisions are when to focus on driving only and when conditions allow you to divert a portion of your attention to a secondary task.  Unfortunately, today's auto designers have a problem with feature creep and intuitive control design forcing more attention on those secondary tasks.

ChasChas
User Rank
Platinum
Some people can
ChasChas   6/21/2012 1:45:11 PM
 

Many people CAN multitask and drive safely. Should we take this away from them because there are some that cannot?

Self-training is key and knowing what you can and cannot do is crucial.

Otherwise you do not belong driving.

Knowing yourself has always been necessary to stay alive - there is no changing that by depending on laws and rules.

One size never fits all.

ricardo
User Rank
Silver
Re: Some people can
ricardo   6/21/2012 5:54:07 PM
> Many people CAN multitask and drive safely. Should we take this away from them because there are some that cannot?

If you believe this, you should not be driving.


ChasChas
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Some people can
ChasChas   6/21/2012 6:31:15 PM
ricardo, I don't call while driving because I don't feel safe doing it. But, I have ridden with people who can make a call without even looking at the phone and I feel safe in their ride.

The most I do is shift the modes on my GPS. I know myself ricardo and I drive safely.

Like I said, 'One size does not fit all.'

We can't all use wheelchairs because some people can't walk.

P.S. Smart phones with the soft buttons are the worst - no feel, you must look.

robatnorcross
User Rank
Gold
Stupid medling bureaucrats
robatnorcross   6/21/2012 7:05:24 PM
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.

ricardo
User Rank
Silver
Re: Some people can
ricardo   6/21/2012 10:38:15 PM
> We can't all use wheelchairs because some people can't walk.

That's true.  But there's a MUCH stronger argument that none of us should drive cos some (?) of us can't drive properly.  How would that affect our quality of life?

As none of us should carry guns cos some of us kill people for fun or personal gain .... Oops!  Forgot most of you are from the US of A.

RBedell
User Rank
Gold
Selfish Behavior
RBedell   6/21/2012 2:10:25 PM
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.

Chuck_IAG
User Rank
Platinum
Drivers need to take responsibility
Chuck_IAG   6/21/2012 2:20:41 PM
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!).

Absalom
User Rank
Gold
Distractions
Absalom   6/21/2012 7:13:53 PM
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.

William K.
User Rank
Platinum
Distracted drivers dialing?
William K.   6/21/2012 10:24:28 PM
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.

Robin Goodfellow
User Rank
Iron
Re: Distracted drivers dialing?
Robin Goodfellow   6/22/2012 1:25:02 AM
It is this sort of "logic" that gets us saddled with restricive legislation that does nothing to address "the problem".  Let's presume for the sake of argument that your facts are correct: A) 80% of accidents are caused by driver inattention, and B) participating in a cell phone call demands listening that requires attention.  That does not imply a causal relationship between cell phones an auto accidents.  Neither is there any implication that attenion paid to cell phone use (or conversation) would necessarily be returned to the "driving pool".  And, in fact, it won't.

I bicycle, a lot, so I have a signifcant interest in distracted drivers' behavior, and I see the things that distract them.  Cell phone use is just one of many sources: smoking, juggling coffe and a McMuffin, shouting at the sports announcer, singing with eyes closed, disciplining the kids, picking their noses; you name it.  Are we to outlaw it all?  If we did, do we think that because there was a law against a behavior it would stop?

We don't need legislation that will cripple our devices so that my passenger can't get directions either. We need to build a culture that expects attentive driving.  So put away your cell phone, ask co-workers to do the same, maybe honk a friendly reminder to they guy trying to text and drive, and remember to smile.

Oh, and give a bike 3 feet.  ;^)

etmax
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Gold
Re: Distracted drivers dialing?
etmax   6/22/2012 6:44:22 AM
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@William K. I tend to disagree with you about the converstaion being the problem, that sort of thinking would ban passengers (including babies) from a vehicle. The worst things are typing & navigating menus closely followed my dialing. I have held many conversations while driving, some talking on a hands free and some to a passenger and find that as I look ahead while conversing I tend to stop talking as soon as something starts changing on the road ahead. If someone were do the opposite, i.e. stop concentrating on the road it would obviously create issues, but I have only known 1 person so far that did that and needless to say I never got back in the car with them. While I don't have any data to support the view, I don't believe holding a phone to your ear to talk while driving is worse than holding a cigarette, so both should be banned.

On a different note, putting the severity of distraction into perspective, someone here said that using speed dial only makes you lose concentration for around 5 seconds, but that is 83 metres when travelling at the rather modest speed of 60kph which is local traffic speeds, and is than enough distance to wipe out 83 kids standing in a line holding hands, not even considering the time to brake after that. Of course in reality after the first few fly through your wind screen you will probably realise something was up. This tells me that phones should use the GPS signal to register movement above say 5kph and lock out dialing and texting. It would be intrusive to be sure because it would prevent a passenger from making a call, but you could always pull over to do the dialling :-)

TJ McDermott
User Rank
Blogger
There's worse things than distracted driver
TJ McDermott   6/22/2012 12:31:07 AM
The statistic in this article quote 3000 deaths attributed to distracted drivers in 2010.  I didn't find statistics for that year, so went to the Census Bureau and got numbers for 2009:

http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/cats/transportation/motor_vehicle_accidents_and_fatalities.html

It shows 4898 fatalities from distracted drivers.

The data also shows between 10000 and 12000 alcohol related fatalities.

Has the government given up on cutting this much larger number?

How exactly does the NTSB propose to ban hand-held electronic devices from vehicles?  Does the NTSB plan to mandate a special lockable compartment into which these devices must be placed and which cannot be unlocked while the vehicle is powered?

I suppose the glove box will need to be renamed, and require a new solenoid-controlled interlock.

PLEASE.  Most of the time, I respect the work of the NTSB and their recommendations.  In this case, they're not even in the same ballpark as the rest of the country.

 

 

 

etmax
User Rank
Gold
Re: There's worse things than distracted driver
etmax   6/22/2012 6:48:18 AM
@T J McDermott are you in fact saying that (assuming drink driving and phones are the only cause of accidents) after trying for years to prevent 66% of road deaths they should do nothing to prevent the cause of the other 33%?? It sounds to me like a serious lack of empathy road victims.

3drob
User Rank
Platinum
Re: There's worse things than distracted driver
3drob   6/25/2012 7:46:24 AM
I'm curious how many accidents were not attributed (by the NTSB) to any cause? Do they even really know the extent of the problem if no one was seriously hurt? Even if someone was hurt, how would they know it was caused by distracted driving unless the perp fessed up? The fact the numbers are so high despite being such a hard to pin act implies the problem is far worse than assumed.

I remember a radio show where one of the hosts argued that smoking marijuana was OK for some people because they could afford to lose a few neurons. But for other people it was NOT OK because they had so few working neurons to start out with that the loss of even a small percentage would be catastrophic. I think the same idea goes for driving. Most people are capable of limited multitasking (some more than others, but most not as much as they assume), but there are some people that just don't belong behind the wheel at all. Making it illegal to operate a motor vehicle while not paying attention is just plain common sense. It makes those who "think they can" think some more about it because of the consequences of getting caught, and it makes those who can't think at all refrain because they've been told not to.

I remember on a ski trip to Europe (about 10 years ago), we were on a gondola that held around 50 people. We were all standing up, packed so tight it was hard to breath. A phone rang and every last person on that gondola hooped and hollered and whistled so loud the "perp" had to hang it up. Some things are more effective than laws, if only we could do that in our cars!

Robin Goodfellow
User Rank
Iron
Education, Not Legislation.
Robin Goodfellow   6/22/2012 9:15:14 AM
If folks would take time to actually read and digest the studies so often quoted, they'd see that the level of distraction is substantially the same whether the other party is on the other end of a cell phone connection or sitting in the passenger seat. The proplem isn't the phone, any more than it was the cigarette lighter in my father's generation.  I note that cab drivers and police have been talking on two-way radios literally for generations, and they have some of the best driving records on the road.

The fundemental flaw with this, and with a lot of other well-intended legislation, is that it tries to attack with legislation a problem that is best addressed with education.  The proposed set of rules concerns a few of the props involved when those props are being unwisely used,without regard to the legitimate uses and users of those items.  At the same time, it does nothing to actually address the root causes of the problem.

The problem is not the appliances, it is that as a society, we have built an attitude that let's us be cavalier as we pilot over a ton of automobile with a thousand time more kinetic energy than a bullet. And we don't call each other on it.

Cell phones and electronic devices are not the culprits, they are just the "new kid on the block" so they get blamed for a problem that we bring with us when we get in the car.  Let's not blame the new kids; let's clean up the block.

William K.
User Rank
Platinum
Distracted driving
William K.   6/22/2012 10:28:09 AM
Here are responses to various assertions: Ploice and cab drivers, and many other radio operators in cars are conversing in a simplex mode, which means that when the talk button is pressed you can't hear any response. So it is far less distracting. As for the 5 seconds being enough time for a disaster, why certainly, but I was pointing out that the hours spent conversing are a much greater portion of the time. So probably far more accidents happen in the 99% of the time when people are talking.

About the drunks having accidents, surely many of them are not able to pay attention to their driving. Most of the drunks that I have seen can't pay attention to anything for very long. Of course, drunks do also make a lot more driver e4rrors.

I don't think that it would be possible to prevent drivers from using the phone, but one option would be to change the mode to simplex, with push-to-talk and release-to-listen. That conversation mode would be far less distracting, which the record for police and taxi drivers verifies. In addition, it could reduce system power requirements on both ends of the call, although probably only the mobile end would benefit from it, since nondriving users could still have their full duplex conversations. And who knows, possibly having to take turns talking might make this a more courteous nation, at least on the phone.

Robin Goodfellow
User Rank
Iron
Re: Distracted driving
Robin Goodfellow   6/22/2012 11:33:59 AM
Sir William,

I don't buy the simplex/duplex argument, except maybe the part about being a more courteous nation if we'd take turns talking and listening.

Police, Fire, cab drivers don't do better because they use simplex equipment; they do better because they are, in general, better trained and more strongly incentivized to practice responsible and defensive driving.  Accidents lead to loss of employment.  You can probably throw HAM radio operators into that group; they have definite protocols and expectations, and the HAM community tends to police its own. CB radios are simplex as well, but I wouldn't include CB operators with the previous group; the CB community is more diverse, less well trained, and very loosely policed by its own members.

When the rage hit in the late 70's, CBs were targeted as a cause for accidents.  And then, like now, it wasn't the CB radio that was at fault.  The CB was a new technology and most people had not yet figured out what the rules needed to be. I distinctly remember a drop in the "courtesy level" when the FCC decided it was no longer necessary to license and broadcast call signs.

Distracted driving is carbon based, not silicon based.  Its causes originate between the ears of the driver, not in the spec sheet of a piece of equipment.

William K.
User Rank
Platinum
distracted drivers damaging
William K.   6/22/2012 9:42:05 PM
NO RATINGS
GoodFellow is certainly correct about the unintended consequences that come from poorly thought out emotionally driven legislation. We get a lot of that these days. 

If they domsucceed in banning portable electronic devices then we will be seeing a whole lot of built-in cellular devices that "dock" the phone and make it part of a permanently installed hardwired system. With no reduction in the distraction level.

How about a serious fine for causing an accident because of being distracted? Then all the causes of distraction are covered, and nobody can complain about it being unfair. Plus, it would cover distractions that have not been invented yet, so it would be less likely to become out of date. Just consider what the threat of a $5000 ticket would do for a high school student: It would end mobile texting while driving. It might even reduce the amount some adults talk on the phone while driving, or possibly make them much more attentive. IT would be worth a try.

The assertion that there is no difference between simplex and duplex is really unfounded. It is not just that those drivers are better, it is that it takes much less concetration to converse in the push-to-talk mode. Really, it is true. Just ask those who use it now.

jhankwitz
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Platinum
Siri
jhankwitz   6/25/2012 10:41:41 AM
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With auto Manufacturers (other than Ford) hooking up with Apple, I hope Apple comes up with something revolutionary with Siri that would enable total eyes-free driving.  I just cringe when I see the new iPad sized display being used that do nothing but distract driver visual attention from their driving.  Siri could eliminate the need for eyes-on control.

Siri's ability to understand more than a list of command words would be a step in the right direction.  The voice command system in my Toyota is terrible because it only recognizes the 20 or so, often illogical, words I have to memorize to use.

William K.
User Rank
Platinum
Distracted drivers and automated functions
William K.   6/27/2012 10:06:08 PM
I suggest a lot of caution in suggesting that we have things like stability control mandated. They can be an extra cost option, I have no problem with that, but the sad fact is that the only drivers that they really help are the beginners, and those who simply should not be driving at all. None of those systems can handle the exception situations, and none of them have an adequate means to disable them for me to handle the exceptions. ABS on a gravel road does exactly the wrong thing every time, likewise, it also deos the wrong thing when it encounters loose material on top of pavement. The stability control is only helpful because vehicle handling has been compromised to accomodate poor drivers. In a properly set up car, meaning it has a small amout of oversteer, stability control would not add any value. The cars that sometimes could benefit from it are the ones that understeer so very horribly. 

A lane-keeping warning system could be useful, but an automatic lane departure correction system could become confused very easily with the many construction lane markers that I see occasionally. And the automated collision avoidance systems would certainly make the wrong move when a large chunk of litter suddenly appeared in front of them.

So how about a speed controller system that senses driver stupidity and restricts them to a safe speed? Or it could be a driver competency detector, if we chose to use more polite language.

Charles Murray
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Distracted drivers and automated functions
Charles Murray   6/28/2012 8:07:50 PM
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I understand what you're saying, William K. Unfortunately, it's a little late to stop the stability control mandate now; it's already the law.

William K.
User Rank
Platinum
Possible unintended consequences?
William K.   6/28/2012 9:27:56 PM
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I realize that the stability control feature has been mandated, and I wonder how many will die because of it. Or will there just be a crowd of people who just plain don't like the way the car drives any more? User backlash killed the seatbelt to starter interlock, I wonder how much user backlash it will take to get rid of mandatory stability controls.

The seatbelt interlock could have worked and been very effective if it had simply prevented operation of the air conditioner and radio unless all the occupants were belted. There would have been no sensable argument against it, and so there would not have had to be any interlock defeat system. The result would probably have been earlier seatbelt usage and avoiding the airbag mandate.

Right now the best way to reduce the distracted phone users would be to make the phones run in a push-to-talk mode.

Manning
User Rank
Iron
Who are the commentators, anyway?
Manning   7/2/2012 4:31:21 PM
NO RATINGS
To all,


I have read all the posts on this piece and I have one thing to say: are there any designers out there?

It seems that nobody has addressed the one issue that is properly ours to address: should we be designing built-in distractions in cars?

There are other responsible parties besides drivers and the government - US.

For example, a number of respondents have cited the prevalence of touchscreens in new cars and correctly pointed out that they present distractions to drivers.  But nobody has mentioned that they didn't grow into those dashboards by themselves - THEY WERE DESIGNED BY ENGINEERS JUST LIKE US!

We must start to say no to the MBAs and marketeers who insist that the only way we can sell and differentiate our particular brand of car is to ratchet up the infotainment war.  [Personal note: as a design engineer I had done just that, and I earned respect and a normal retirement decades later.]

It is time to say "NO, I won't be a party to that nonsense, as it is likely that it will conribute to pain and suffering."

We have met the enemy and they is us.

Let's have some discussion about OUR responsibilies, shall we?

- A just-retired aerospace engineer

 

Charles Murray
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Who are the commentators, anyway?
Charles Murray   7/3/2012 6:05:22 PM
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You raise good points, Manning. One of the problems is that wer're in a big, fat gray area here. Radios are acceptable. So are CD players, cassette players and, yes, phones, among other things. NHTSA not only hasn't outlawed those devices, they publicly went to bat for them (against the National Traffic Safety Board) late last year. So designers end up thinking that they're doing a good thing if they design an easy-to-use touch screen. An easy-to-use touch screen is, after all, a safer alternative to the completely legal (bad) systems that are out there now.  

Manning
User Rank
Iron
Re: Who are the commentators, anyway?
Manning   7/3/2012 8:36:32 PM
NO RATINGS
Charles,

Intuitively, I cannot see how diverting ones's vision and attention from the road and other vehicles can be considered at all safe.

Do you have data attesting to the safety of a touchscreen in a moving vehicle in traffic?

Also, you mentioned radios and CD players (etc.); They had (but in some cases no longer have) discrete knobs which could be operated by feel - and the radios could be tuned using preset buttons.  No diversion of vision was necessary.

Anopther point: a little research will show you that the NTSA certainly is concerned about the distracted driving which can result from use of such technologies in automobiles:

http://www.nhtsa.gov/Driving+Safety/Distracted+Driving/Policy+Statement+and+Compiled+FAQs+on+Distracted+Driving/

As you can see, however, the NHTSA defers to the States to make appropriate rules.  For example: As far as phones are concerned, my home state has outlawed their use in autos, so their acceptability is certainly open to challenge.

Fundamentally, I reject the notion that our autos should become rolling home theaters.  And any engineers who contribute to that effort need to consider the likely results of their efforts.  I apologize if that sounds harsh, but I believe that we are responsible for the usage of our creations.

Manning

Charles Murray
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Who are the commentators, anyway?
Charles Murray   7/6/2012 6:44:50 PM
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I respect your opinion, Manning. I want to make it clear, though, that I understand that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is against distracted driving, and has done a great deal to combat it. I've written about this many times. What I did say, perhaps poorly, is that when the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) asked states to ban cellphones while driving last December, LaHood (NHTSA answers to him) publicly said he wouldn't back the proposal. LaHood's position is that hands-free cell phone usage is not the problem. See below.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204464404577112803206637964.html

http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1395&doc_id=237328

 

bobjengr
User Rank
Platinum
DISTRICTED DRIVERS
bobjengr   7/5/2012 12:38:07 PM
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 Charles,

I think we all have had "close calls" relative to distracted drivers.  I was rear-ended by a lady on a cell phone several months ago.  Fortunately, we were moving towards a stop sign and going very slowly but she did hit me.  Not much damage and she readily admitted it was her fault.  Her child was in day care, developed an illness and that information was "called in" to the mom.    The call was a definite distraction but under the circumstances what do you do?   I think one possible solution might be the technology coming next—voice activated electronic devices.   This will not completely alleviate the distractions but I do feel it will aid efforts towards complete "hands-off", thereby allowing the driver to operate the vehicle in the manner intended.    My skirts are not that clean either.    I have an "X-M" radio with the button selections and screen basically front and center.  There have been those times when changing stations my eyes have focused on the numbers and not the road.   It only takes an instant.   I think "driver-ed" goes along way but I really don't see how the FED can be that proactive otherwise.   Awareness needs to be heightened.   I do think texting while driving is absolute insanity and should be outlawed altogether.

 

warren@fourward.com
User Rank
Platinum
Will DOT 'Distracted Driver Blueprint' Solve the Problem?
warren@fourward.com   7/5/2012 6:48:21 PM
NO RATINGS
I know it is a ripe field for politicians to further integrate themselves into our lives, but we are distracted every time we look at the gauges on the dashboard, turn our heads to check our blind spot, adjust the radio/heater/AC/defroster, focus on the windshield instead of at a distance, etc. 

The bottom line is, if you are distracted, no matter the cause, then you are placing yourself and others in danger.  And you will be held accountable under the law.  That should be enough.

We don't need big brother more involved in our everyday affairs.  There are laws enough, just like with handguns and the borders.  Just enforce what is there and leave the rest up to the individual.

przemek
User Rank
Gold
Re: Will DOT 'Distracted Driver Blueprint' Solve the Problem?
przemek   4/2/2013 3:23:20 PM
NO RATINGS
Compliance is the hallmark of a good law, but it's surprisingly difficult to achieve. When people understand and approve with the goals of a regulation, they follow it simply out of self-interest. Conversely, people tend to comply with the system of regulations that is functioning, broad and perceived as fair. This is the problem with gun laws: they are full of holes and exceptions: background checks not required for gun shows; lack of enforcement against straw purchases; lack of accountability for lost guns (over half a million guns are stolen every year, but there's no effective reporting system, see. e.g. mayorsagainstillegalguns.org). The border enforcement is similarly holey, as we all know.
Laws against distracted driving are similarly not enforced---many jurisdictions don't even have it as primary offense. I would be in favor of a system that would turn on the vehicle emergency flashing lights whenever the phone is used in certain way, e.g. the SMS mode is active, or data is being sent to and from the phone :)

Manning
User Rank
Iron
Moral Responsibility?
Manning   7/12/2012 6:29:10 AM
NO RATINGS
The previous messages on this topic have clearly focussed on the issue of laws (advisability or inadvisability) to control distracted driving.

But let me restate the issue as I see it (from my 7-2-12 post, with some added emphasis):

It seems that nobody has addressed the one issue that is properly ours to address: should WE be DESIGNING built-in distractions in cars?

There are other responsible parties besides drivers and the government - US.

For example, a number of respondents have cited the prevalence of touchscreens in new cars and correctly pointed out that they present distractions to drivers.  But nobody has mentioned that they didn't grow into those dashboards by themselves - THEY WERE DESIGNED BY ENGINEERS JUST LIKE US!

We must start to say no to the MBAs and marketeers who insist that the only way we can sell and differentiate our particular brand of car is to ratchet up the infotainment war.  [Personal note: as a design engineer I had done just that, and I earned respect and a normal retirement decades later.]

[I believe that] It is time to say "NO, I won't be a party to that nonsense, as it is likely that it will conribute to pain and suffering."

We have met the enemy and they is us.

Let's have some discussion about OUR responsibilies, shall we?

 



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