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Cellphones Transportation Science

Study Confirms Mobile Phones Distract Drivers 439

Posted by kdawson
from the hang-up-and-drive dept.
An anonymous reader notes a Reuters report of a study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, confirming that Mobile phone calls distract drivers far more than even the chattiest passenger, causing drivers to follow too closely and miss exits. California's ban on using a handheld cell phone while driving, which went into effect last summer, is looking less than fully effective. A handful of other states have instituted similar bans, but none has forbidden driving while talking on a cell phone at all. "Using a hands-free device does not make things better and the researchers believe they know why — passengers act as a second set of eyes, shutting up or sometimes even helping when they see the driver needs to make a maneuver."
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Study Confirms Mobile Phones Distract Drivers

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  • by stei7766 (1359091) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @06:46PM (#25967527)

    Sleeping at the wheel found to correspond to an increase in accidents.

  • by liraz (77590) * <liraz@turnkeylinux.org> on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @06:47PM (#25967547) Homepage

    There is a ton of supporting evidence that talking on your mobile while driving is dangerous. The legal situation has more to do with convention and historical artifacts than anything of substance.

    In fact, not only is talking on your mobile more dangerous than talking to passengers, but talking on your mobile while driving can be as dangerous as driving intoxicated, at least according Mythbusters which did a cellphone vs drunk driving [wikipedia.org] experiment on season 3 ("Killer Brace Position")

    The two hosts arranged an obstacle course into four parts: accelerating to 30mph and then stopping at a stop sign, parallel parking, seeing how long it would take to do 15mph through the whole course, and while going 30mph, being told to switch left, right or center lane. Each part was graded by an instructor.

    During a sober run of the course, both test drivers passed. However, during the cell phone run, Hyneman asked the drivers three questions in which they had to either think about the answer, repeat a sentence, figure out a verbal puzzle and list five things. Both drivers failed the obstacle course.

    • by holophrastic (221104) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @06:51PM (#25967603)

      Actually, Adam's conclusion is the most important. The phone is not as dangerous as the intoxication -- because you can put down the phone.

      So maybe drivers need to be taught how to refocus their attention when necessary. You know, instead of being told that tehy should expect everything to be perfect all the time with no distractions.

      • by QuantumG (50515) *

        Meh, people tend to be in a daze after they get off the phone. I notice this when talking to people who are not driving, I imagine it's even worse when driving.

      • Actually, Adam's conclusion is the most important. The phone is not as dangerous as the intoxication -- because you can put down the phone.

        So maybe drivers need to be taught how to refocus their attention when necessary. You know, instead of being told that tehy should expect everything to be perfect all the time with no distractions.

        But also the person on the other end of the line has to cooperate. If my wife calls me when I am driving she will realise immediately what is going on when I say call you back later and hang up. If my stupid fucking sister calls me for help with her internet connection she knows straight away that nothing in the universe is as important as her getting on to facebook so she keeps nattering away.

        And yeah I hang up on her but a lot of people (my mum included) won't.

      • The phone is not as dangerous as the intoxication -- if and only if you put down the phone.

        Fixed that for you.

      • by R3d M3rcury (871886) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @07:49PM (#25968439) Journal

        The phone is not as dangerous as the intoxication -- because you can put down the phone.

        I'm not sure that's entirely true.

        People don't believe they are impaired when driving while talking on a cell phone. "Sure, some people may have a problem," they'll say. "But not me. I'm a great driver. I've never had an accident and I use my cell phone all the time."

        I've heard similar arguments from people talking about how they have no problems driving while legally impaired (say, 0.08 BAC). And the only thing that keeps them from driving while impaired in the threat of losing their license or jail time.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Maxo-Texas (864189)

          And... ability in the world being distributed on a bell curve, some of these people are correct.

          Some people can drive at .08 drunk better than many other people can drive sober.
          Some people can drive while talking on the cell phone better than many other people drive on their best day.

          At some level of drunkenness, every one drives worse than the worst sober driver.
          For some kinds of cell phone conversations, everyone drives worse than the worst sober driver.

          I've driven for years with a cell phone with no prob

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            And... ability in the world being distributed on a bell curve, some of these people are correct.

            Yes, of course. But none of them truly know for themselves whether they are correct or not. And it only takes one idiot to run me over on the crosswalk.

            Actually, I see this kind of attitude on /. all the time in comments on the driving-related stories. I often point out that a speed limit, whether you perceive it it as "unreasonable" or not, is there for some reason, and you shouldn't second-guess whether it is s

        • Every time there is an article on over speeding look at the number of people saying they can handle it without risk. I would propose they use exactly the same think-path : "Sure, some people may have a problem," they'll say. "But not me. I'm a great driver. I've never had an accident and I drive over the local speed limit all the time.".
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by geekmux (1040042)

        Actually, Adam's conclusion is the most important. The phone is not as dangerous as the intoxication -- because you can put down the phone.

        While technically this is correct, due to numbers and relative odds of people driving with cell phones vs. driving intoxicated, the theory is completely flawed. Somehow I seriously doubt the sheer numbers of 15 - 18 year olds with very little driving experience cruising around with a cell phone pinned to their ears (or thumbs) comes even close to those driving intoxicated.

        So maybe drivers need to be taught how to refocus their attention when necessary. You know, instead of being told that tehy should expect everything to be perfect all the time with no distractions.

        Ah, "when necessary"? You're driving 2 tons of steel traveling 40MPH while making 100+ decisions every 60 seconds. That's just while y

      • by mr_death (106532) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @11:24PM (#25970697)

        Spot on. Pilots are told by instructors that you "don't drop the airplane to fly the microphone". It is entirely proper to say "stand by" to a controller when you're busy with an aircraft control task.

        If only driving instructors taught the same thing ...

    • by stei7766 (1359091) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @06:53PM (#25967627)

      What I've always wondered is if the increased distraction a cell phone brings vs. a passenger has something to do with the brain activity of talking on a cell vs. in person.

      I'm no neurologist but I've noticed that while talking on a phone I have a tendency to imagine that person and their expressions, reactions, etc. Perhaps this results in the use of more brain "power" to use a cell than talk to a person?

      Anyone know of any studies using fMRI or the like which suggest such a thing?

      • Perhaps this results in the use of more brain "power" to use a cell than talk to a person?

        I think that's certainly true, in large part because you only get a couple of kHz bandwidth, little dynamic range and less than full-duplex operation from a phone. Wireless connections are often so crappy that I have to use my full concentration to decipher what the other person is saying even when I'm sitting in a quiet room doing nothing.

        Much of the brain's I/O processing power that should be used to pilot the car is instead taken up in an effort to decipher the original meaning out of a noisy narrowband

      • by HTH NE1 (675604) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @07:13PM (#25967941)

        Anyone know of any studies using fMRI or the like which suggest such a thing?

        I suspect any study would confirm that driving whilst undergoing an fMRI scan is extremely dangerous and distracting.

        How are you supposed to check your wing mirrors and blind spots before changing lanes if you can't move your head?

      • is that you can punch the person sitting next to you in the car to shut him up but you can't do it over the mobile phone.
      • by Chris Burke (6130)

        I've always thought it was because, culturally, there is a much stronger assumption that when you're talking to someone on the phone, that they have essentially your full attention and vice versa. I think this manifests in two ways: First, you're naturally going to give more attention to the phone conversation since it's expected. Second, if you're quiet for a couple seconds because your exit is coming up and traffic is congested so you need to figure out how best to get over, a person in the car with yo

        • by LandDolphin (1202876) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @07:30PM (#25968163)
          All of that drama could be avoided if you just said "hold on a sec, I'm merging" and then ignore anything that come safter that until your done then come back and say, "Sorry, I was merging"
          • by Chris Burke (6130) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @07:54PM (#25968509) Homepage

            All of that drama could be avoided if you just said "hold on a sec, I'm merging" and then ignore anything that come safter that until your done then come back and say, "Sorry, I was merging"

            If people were that good at quickly shifting their attention to and from the phone as the need arises, cell phones wouldn't be that big a deal to begin with. An accident can happen while you're saying those six words.

            Anyway, the correct response, the one I use in those rare times that I would pick up the phone at all, is "I'm driving, I'll call you back."

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            It could even be more easily avoid by not answering the phone in the first place, or saying "I'm driving, I'll call you back, bye". Just how many calls are really that important that you absolutely must take them right now?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MichaelSmith (789609)

        What I've always wondered is if the increased distraction a cell phone brings vs. a passenger has something to do with the brain activity of talking on a cell vs. in person.

        Passengers generally know it is in their interest not to distract the driver. The person on the other end of the phone conversation is not at risk so they talk about anything at all.

        • by prockcore (543967)

          Passengers generally know it is in their interest not to distract the driver. The person on the other end of the phone conversation is not at risk so they talk about anything at all.

          Basically all of these "compared to passengers" arguments are null and void when it comes to children in the backseat. Should we ban driving with children in the car? They won't help with directions or know not to distract the driver.

          • by stei7766 (1359091) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @07:38PM (#25968289)

            Basically all of these "compared to passengers" arguments are null and void when it comes to children in the backseat. Should we ban driving with children in the car? They won't help with directions or know not to distract the driver.

            Nope. Just require them to ride in the trunk.

          • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @07:50PM (#25968457) Homepage Journal

            Passengers generally know it is in their interest not to distract the driver. The person on the other end of the phone conversation is not at risk so they talk about anything at all.

            Basically all of these "compared to passengers" arguments are null and void when it comes to children in the backseat. Should we ban driving with children in the car? They won't help with directions or know not to distract the driver.

            A very young baby will either sleep or need attention which requires the vehicle to be stopped. A two or three year old will spend their time commenting on cars, trees, people etc. My son (now six) just wants to play 24/7 on his DS.

            On the whole I find children less distracting than adults.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Dare nMc (468959)

            Don't forget blind people, what would the ADA say about banning talking to children and blind people while driving?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tlhIngan (30335)

        What I've always wondered is if the increased distraction a cell phone brings vs. a passenger has something to do with the brain activity of talking on a cell vs. in person.

        I like to think of it as the "ability to be rude" factor.

        If a passenger is in the car, it is very acceptable socially to shout "SHUT UP!" or "BE QUIET!" during periods of the drive where higher concentration is required (e.g., merging, changing lanes), especially if the passenger(s) don't automatically realize it and shut up themselves.

      • by nedlohs (1335013)

        I've heard a similar argument before, that talking on the telephone requires a lot more concentration than talking to a person you can see because so much of communication is non-verbal.

        Without being able to see body language and gestures communication is more difficult.

        Plus of course they can't see that your about to weave between some trucks while appraching an intersection...

    • Notably missing though from the mythbusters test was a full handsfree setup including voice recognition.
    • by ifdef (450739)

      But this doesn't have anything to do with real driving. Who would talk on the phone when in a situation requiring attention? Who would CONTINUE to talk on a phone if the situation turned into one requiring attention?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hal9000(jr) (316943)
        But this doesn't have anything to do with real driving. Who would talk on the phone when in a situation requiring attention? Who would CONTINUE to talk on a phone if the situation turned into one requiring attention?

        Do you drive. At all? Every day I see some ass on the road, male and female alike, yakking on the phone while:
        • Stopping short
        • Dangerously turning into on coming traffic
        • blowing through stop signs and stop lights
        • Changing lanes without looking
        • chaning multiple lanes because they will miss the
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sexconker (1179573)

        Most people on the road, sadly.

        If there's a collision, they'll typically continue to talk with the person on the other end of the phone for several minutes, before getting out and yelling at the other driver.

    • There is a ton of supporting evidence that talking on your mobile while driving is dangerous. The legal situation has more to do with convention and historical artifacts than anything of substance.

      In fact, not only is talking on your mobile more dangerous than talking to passengers, but talking on your mobile while driving can be as dangerous as driving intoxicated, at least according Mythbusters which did a cellphone vs drunk driving [wikipedia.org] experiment on season 3 ("Killer Brace Position")

      The two hosts arranged an obstacle course into four parts: accelerating to 30mph and then stopping at a stop sign, parallel parking, seeing how long it would take to do 15mph through the whole course, and while going 30mph, being told to switch left, right or center lane. Each part was graded by an instructor.

      During a sober run of the course, both test drivers passed. However, during the cell phone run, Hyneman asked the drivers three questions in which they had to either think about the answer, repeat a sentence, figure out a verbal puzzle and list five things. Both drivers failed the obstacle course.

      As usual, Mythbuster methodology fails. A similar show made by and for scientists would be nice. On said show, the drivers wouldn't know they were being tested, the phone conversation would be a typical conversation, and the driving would be normal driving. The Mythbusters are so obsessed with statistically insignificant, unrealistically contrived "experiments" that they seem to actively avoid the simple, meaningful method.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by syousef (465911)

      In fact, not only is talking on your mobile more dangerous than talking to passengers, but talking on your mobile while driving can be as dangerous as driving intoxicated, at least according Mythbusters which did a cellphone vs drunk driving experiment on season 3 ("Killer Brace Position")

      Karma be damned. Mythbusters is entertainment NOT science and should not be cited by intelligent people to back up their discussions. The mythbusters methods are less than scientific and are more about ensuring ratings tha

  • by TheDarkener (198348) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @06:50PM (#25967587)

    I live in California, where it now looks like an army of cyborgs has invaded. Everyone walks around with one of those damn bluetooth headsets on since it became law to use a hands-free device while driving. Wouldn't you think that some RESEARCH and TESTING had taken place before enacting this law?

    I sure wish I was in the bluetooth headset business.

    • To make matters worse here in CA, only talking on the phone is illegal. Texting is perfectly ok - what were they thinking?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by internerdj (1319281)
        UnLmtd Txt Plns 4 nVstng
      • The law was written a number of years ago, before texting was common. They kept delaying it taking effect though. If it had been written today there probably would of been a provision for texting too.
      • by HardCase (14757)

        To make matters worse here in CA, only talking on the phone is illegal. Texting is perfectly ok - what were they thinking?

        Inattentive driving is still against the law. And in 2004, SB1800 would have banned texting, among other things. I guess it didn't pass.

        I'm pretty sure that an inattentive driving citation is a moving violation - worth points against your license. Talking on a cell phone is an infraction. No points.

      • "using cell phones while driving" laws.

        If someone is driving recklessly, give them a ticket for driving recklessly.

        I've seen people sue cell phones, read a paper, put on make up, shave and get a hummer while driving. DO we need an explicit law against each on of those?
        No, just use reckless driving laws to cite them.

        No excuse me, I have to bring up porn and masterbate while I drive home... Since there is no law, what's the harm?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ChaosDiscord (4913) *

          By that reasoning we don't need drunk driving laws; we can just bust them for reckless driving.

          You can't bust someone for reckless driving unless you observe them making dangerous decisions, at which point it may be too late. Sure, you'll catch the really stupid people weaving back and forth as they talk with a reckless driving law. But that's not the point. The point is the people who aren't weaving around, but the ones just driving down a lane, seemingly fine. But someone suddenly stops or swerves a

    • I live in California, where it now looks like an army of cyborgs has invaded. Everyone walks around with one of those damn bluetooth headsets on since it became law to use a hands-free device while driving. Wouldn't you think that some RESEARCH and TESTING had taken place before enacting this law?

      A guy I work with who rides a motorbike to work took his headset apart and integrated it with his helmet. Very cool but when I am on my bicycle my phone lives in my backpack.

    • I am too cheap and not trendy enough to get a headset, but upon reading the new law I discovered a hilarious loophole I use all the time! It is not illegal to talk on speakerphone, so just turn speakerphone on and chat away as you hold it in front of you.
    • Wouldn't you think that some RESEARCH and TESTING had taken place before enacting this law?

      There has been plenty of research and testing that has shown that hands-free systems don't decrease the risk from cell-phone mediated distracted driving. The issue is that people who write laws are not the people who are familiar with such research, you only hope that they can task some staffers to look into it. In this particular instance that communication simply got dropped. My dad does a lot of work on distracted driving [unc.edu], and a friend of mine was working in the office of a state senator back a few ye

  • Why? Because in California (and probably other states) we're allowed to talk on the phone while driving if we have a hands-free device. This is a boon to the hands-free device manufacturers, but not to safety apparently.

  • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @06:52PM (#25967619) Homepage Journal

    How long until the first news of an iPhone/Blackberry using driver who, upon a collision, is killed when the airbag drives the smartphone through their brain? Has it already happened?
  • In an other shocking study released today, one legged men consistently fared worse than two legged opponents in ass kicking contests.
  • Insurance (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Samschnooks (1415697) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @06:53PM (#25967635)
    Several years ago (2001), I caused a crash. There were others in the car all taking. It distracted me - I cannot multi task at all. I can't even listen to the radio when I'm driving in heavy traffic. Anyway, when I talked to the insurance company the first thing they asked me was "Were you on a cell phone?" (I didn't own one.) And "Was the other driver on a cell phone?"

    I think the insurance companies have known this all along but never shared the data.

    • by CdBee (742846)
      I live in south-east England - which means that since the Channel Tunnel opened I'm able to get my car into Northern France more easily than I can get it into central London. I've taken lots of friends over there and one thing I brief them all about during the car-transporter-train trip thru' the tunnel is 'don't distract me when I'm driving'

      Driving in France (they drive on the right, we Brits drive on the left) is scary even before you contemplate the suicidally daring nature of the average French driv
  • Now, not only do I see pricks driving about talking on the phone, but also they are emailing, texting, playing games, looking at google maps, trolling slashdot and all sorts of other stuff. (Full disclosure, I am one of these pricks from time to time, but I'm trying not to be).
    • by QuantumG (50515) *

      Whenever you see a guy swerving all over the road, he's more likely texting than he is drunk.

      • One popular use case I see when cycle commuting is where somebody is meeting up with somebody else and they don't know exactly where. So they get in touch by phone and one gives the other instructions like look out for this landmark, do a left turn etc. It leads to drivers keeping their attention inside he vehicle instead of outside. Aircraft pilots resolve this issue by dividing tasks. I sometimes do that if my wife is in the car. She gets directions and I concentrate on not hitting things, etc.
  • What shocks me is the people calling for tech support for their blackberry, while driving down the road and calling me from the blackberry. Half the time I'm worried I'm going to cause these people
  • by CopaceticOpus (965603) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @07:03PM (#25967793)

    How dangerous do cell phones have to be in order to be outlawed for drivers? If they result in 3 accidents and 1 death per year per 100,000 drivers, is that acceptable risk? What if the number of deaths goes up to 10, or 100?

    Before you scoff, consider that speed limits are set in this manner. Raising limits adds convenience at the cost of higher rates of accidents and deaths.

    However, I am inclined to view the convenience of cell phones much more harshly, because cell phone use is not an essential part of the driving process. If you want the privilege of using public roads and putting others at risk, you should take the responsibility of devoting your full attention to driving well. I would be glad to see cell phones outlawed on the road entirely.

    • Better yet, let's just outlaw all reckless driving, then we could punish people who do it no matter what the reason. Oh wait, we've already done that.

      • Better yet, let's just outlaw all reckless driving, then we could punish people who do it no matter what the reason. Oh wait, we've already done that.

        Most reckless drivers are not caught. Even when they do get reported to the police there is almost never enough evidence to do anything about it.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          And this would be different from cell phones how?

          The existing laws cover the problem. If you want to do something, enforce them better.

    • by prockcore (543967) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @07:10PM (#25967891)

      Raising limits adds convenience at the cost of higher rates of accidents and deaths.

      Except that's not true. When the limits were raised from 65 to 75, the accident rate dropped.

      • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @07:18PM (#25968021) Homepage

        Cite proof. I keep hearing the speeding advocates toute this but they never EVER reference anything that shows this supposed trend.

        • by aaronl (43811) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @07:28PM (#25968147) Homepage

          http://www.sae.org/technical/papers/960439 [sae.org]

          It costs money, though the brief is still useful.

          Basically the leading cause of accidents would seem to be bad road design. Additionally most accidents happen on roads with lower-than-highway limits. Also, the German autobahns, with no speed limits, have consistently been safer than US low limit roads.

          "Speed limits were found to have minimal effect on the traffic accidents. "

          • by zoney_ie (740061) on Wednesday December 03, 2008 @07:11AM (#25973423)

            Having been on both German autobahns and Irish and British motorways and US highways, I can safely say the biggest difference of all is that far less people drive like morons on German roads. I don't need any studies to explain why the Irish situation is so bad either when we have so many people on the roads who haven't sat a test ("provisional licence" supposed to be for learning to drive, and people who got "free" licences in 1980 or so last time there was a testing backlog). That's for starters (there are a host of other reasons that need little analysis to see their contribution to traffic mayhem).

            In the US I didn't feel particularly safe on the highways, and there was a much bigger emphasis on "the bigger the vehicle the more I can act as if I am crash-proof" - the trucks in particular were road-hogs. The 55 mph limit is stupidly low of course, meaning that there is a lot of problems caused between faster drivers and slower ones (still no excuse for the maniacs driving in excess of 70mph or so).

            Germany we encountered only two people trying to get everyone killed in half a week of driving well over 1000km, whereas on a single 100km trip on Irish motorways you will meet at least a dozen people trying to get everyone killed (tailgating and crazy lane-switches are exceedingly common).

            A side note about German Autobahns though - it's disturbing how the hyper-fast travel distorts perceptions. At 180km/h it eventually feels just like the normal Irish limit of 120km/h. You slow down on an exit and think you are down to 50km/h for the curve (the Autobahn junctions often were pretty compact), and realise you're still 100km/h!

            I think 120km/h limit as in Ireland is reasonable for two lane motorway. Where there are three lanes, it would perhaps be possible to allow the outer lane (next the median) to have 150km/h or so (don't know about elsewhere, but our new motorways in Ireland have a design speed of 160km/h). Two lane unrestricted autobahn sections in Germany were a bit hairy between the 80km/h trucks/buses, the 120 km/h normal drivers, and the people wanting to make full use of the lack of speed limits. Talk about lane changing!!!

    • However, I am inclined to view the convenience of cell phones much more harshly, because cell phone use is not an essential part of the driving process. If you want the privilege of using public roads and putting others at risk, you should take the responsibility of devoting your full attention to driving well. I would be glad to see cell phones outlawed on the road entirely.

      People who were raised watching cop shows on TV might disagree. The police always had cool two way radios which they used while driving. I think police today should lead the way by banning their own drivers from using communication equipment while driving, then advertise the fact.

  • by Smuttley (126014) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @07:04PM (#25967811) Homepage Journal

    Because at least then I have a free hand to hold the steering wheel whilst I'm smoking a cigarette/eating some food/applying my makeup.

  • by Seakip18 (1106315) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @07:06PM (#25967833) Journal

    Ok....I thought this would be handsfree vs. handheld talking vs shutting the hell up. If a person is in the car with you, OF COURSE they're going to tell you "Hey dumbass, get over. Your going to miss the exit."

    Next thing you know they'll says

    "PASSENGERS IN CAR MAY CARE ABOUT GETTING TO DESTINATION AND WILL HELP DRIVER GET THERE"

    • by Seakip18 (1106315)

      *You're and say

      or Your Exit is passing by...though exits aren't mobile and can't really pass you & Next thing researcher will says, they says....

  • So do (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JohnnyGTO (102952) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @07:06PM (#25967837) Homepage
    small children, nagging adults, cigarettes, women in the next car topless, the CD you need just out of reach in the back seat, your MP3 player that's needs to be plugged into that &$*%$ lighter before it dies in the middle of that cool song, trying to figure out just how is that lady in the next car doing 75 on the I10 tying her shoe?
    • by JohnnyGTO (102952)
      I kid you not she had her foot through the steering wheel and was using both hands to tie. I was sooooo tempted to giver her a little swerve to see how she would recover...
    • by Lumpy (12016)

      I like the women that are crusiing down the road with one foot out the window and another on the dash. I shit you not. I have seen this more times than I can believe... BOTH FEET up away from the pedals, cruise set at 80.. mind boggling.

  • by LockeOnLogic (723968) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @07:06PM (#25967839)

    The difference between a cell phone conversation and passenger conversation is due to the fact that the passenger is in the vehicle and knows what the traffic conditions are like, and they help the driver by reminding them of where to take an exit and pointing out hazards"

    Passengers do probably have a small assistant role in the car like "hey would you change the cd?" ect... but that doesn't fully explain the deficit.

    Reaction times and ability to stay in the lane are altered, something the passenger has little to do with. The big reason there is less of an affect on driving ability from passengers is that social rules of phone conversations and in person conversations place a different demand on the drivers.

    Next time you are talking on the phone, try not talking for maybe 10 seconds. Now try it in the car with a passenger. Notice that in the phone conversation the silence is very awkward and jarring? While in person it feels more or less normal. This illustrates that the different social demands of different types of conversation. It's not that they help by actively doing much, it's that they can shut up and let you drive because they are also aware of the need to perform the task at hand!

  • by holophrastic (221104) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @07:08PM (#25967853)

    No kidding phones are a distraction. Everything and anything is a distraction. No kidding it's more dangerous to drive with a phone than without a phone. It's more dangerous to drive with a book on your lap than without one.

    But here's the thing. I drive year-round. I drive often, and I drive frequently. I dirve short and long distances. I drive in blizzards, at night. I drive in fog. I drive in rain. Each of these is way more dangerous than driving on a nice day with dry roads and infinite visibility.

    So here's my question. If you, or anyone else, is going to say that I can't drive with the phone because the risk is too high on the sunny day, then you're going to have to say that I can't drive in a blizzard at all. There are certainly limits to my driving ability. Quite frankly, in the blizzard, at night, I'm not on the phone, I turn off the radio, and I turn off the fan. You want to say that I can't be on the phone in the blizzard at night on ice? You'll get no argument from me there.

    Incidentally, the whole hands-free thing is also garbage -- for other logical reasons. I drive an automatic transmission. I have one hand on the steering wheel to steer, and one foot on the pedals. My other hand is available for radio and phone and picking my nose -- every driver's right. If I were to drive a standard transmission, I'd have one hand on the steering wheel, one on the gear shift, on foot on the pedals, and one foot on the clutch -- and I'd have to co-ordinate ALL FOUR limbs in stop-and-go traffic. Again, if you want to say that I can't be holding the phone while driving a manual transmission, you'll get no argument from me -- there are limits to the number of hands that I have. But if you're going to let me drive a manual transmission, then you can't say that I lack the second hand for a phone while driving an automatic transmission.

    Look, no one's saying that it's safer to drive with a phone. Let's say that driving with a phone is like driving with 0.079% blood-alcohol level. Drinking and driving is perfectly legal. Driving while drunk is not, and legally drunk is 0.08% blood-alcohol. So, if the phone equals 0.079% blood-alcohol, and you want to say that I can't drive with a phone unless I'm completely sober, you'll get little argument from me.

    Ultimately, it comes down to this in all of those cases. You're not going to say that I can only drive when everything is perfect and there are no dangers and no increased risk of any kind. That'd mean clear sky, visibility, no rain, no ice, no snow, no fog, no phone, to alcohol, no radio, no itch behind my left ear, no fatigue, no hunger, no bowel, no bladder, no boredom, no excitement. You're going to have to accept some level of risk. Do you need a road-sign saying "use at your own risk"? Do you need something on the form of your licence saying "you accept a level of increased risk"?

    You're going to have to accept that driving is more dangerous than not driving, and you're going to have to accept a certain level of fluctuation and buffer. Air-bags and seat-belts increased the risk by decreasing the danger (people drive faster when they feel secure).

    Incidentally, I'm all for improving the safety of phone use while driving. Teach drivers how to drive with phones. Make it another class of licence, like motorcycle. Teach drivers to physically drop the phone when something happens on the road.

    • by Chris Burke (6130) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @07:38PM (#25968291) Homepage

      If there's a blizzard out, and you do not have to drive, then you shouldn't. If you do have to drive, well, it's not like you can make it stop snowing, which is why that's legal. Hopefully enough other people were able to stay home that it's safe.

      There is no reason why you must talk on a cell phone while driving. If the call is that important that you can't miss it, pull over. If your time is so valuable that you can neither skip the call nor stop driving, then you need to hire a driver. Can't afford a driver? Then your time isn't that valuable. Pull over or call them back.

      Hands-free vs hands-on has nothing to do with your available limbs, and everything to do with using those limbs for a completely separate task. I drive a manual, shifting is simply part of the task of driving that I'm focusing on, not a distraction. Fiddling with a cell phone is a distraction, a completely orthogonal task of coordination. It's the difference between a drummer using all their limbs to perform, and using 3 of their limbs to perform and one to juggle. Not that hands-free headsets have been shown to substantially reduce the risk posed by driving while on the phone, because you're already more than distracted enough to cause problems just by talking to someone who isn't present.

      Also, it's already been established that talking on a cell phone while driving is more dangerous than driving while at a 0.08% BAC, the legal limit. Which is why you shouldn't do it, no matter how sober or how good a driver you incorrectly think you are. Even if both a 0.08% BAC or talking on a cell phone, by themselves, aren't as dangerous as driving in a blizzard.

  • Just don't answer (Score:2, Interesting)

    by LithiumX (717017)
    This is why I more or less ignore my cell phone when I'm driving - especially if traffic is tight, complicated, or even just "weird" that day. If it rings, I'll get it when I get the chance.

    Most of the people I know who disagree with this tend to either be the same ones who insist they can drive with a few drinks in them (and some of them can, which doesn't make it any less dumb), or who are terminally hooked on their Crackberries and have to respond to every email and call immediately.

    Even good driv
  • by markdavis (642305) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @07:14PM (#25967959)

    When driving on an interstate in good weather, using a headset, my talking on a phone is barely any distraction at all. However, when driving in bad weather or in city traffic, my using a phone in most situations is distracting to my driving, more so than most other things, which is why I won't use or answer it. The key is that I am aware of my *OWN* limitations.

    But for SOME people, using a phone is overly distracting under any circumstances. People are different, conditions are different there is no one golden "rule" that is going to make any sense or be fairly applied to everyone or even most everyone. People need to be trained to NOT distract themselves and pay attention to their attention spans.

    You can't legislate stupidity away. After phone use is made illegal in cars- what's next? GPS? Music? Food? Kids? Cold medication? Pets? Enforce laws about the RESULTS of poor behaviours, not the supposed causes. It doesn't matter why someone is weaving, following too closely, drifting, not using turn signals, not checking blind spots, etc... they should be ticketed just the same. Combined with education and public service messages, perhaps not everyone has to suffer for the lowest common denominator.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You describe "supposed" causes as if they were the result of some half-cooked speculation instead of solid experimental evidence like the TFA describes. There are laws against stuff that has a strong correlation with causing accidents. For example, drinking and driving. Are you suggesting that anti-DUI legislation also be done away with? Since talking on the phone has been shown to have similar risks as DUI, it should be treated the same way.

  • When I was in school, we did an experiment that at 65 mph, you're going 95 feet/second. So if you close your eyes for a second, you've gone 95 feet blind. A lot can happen in 95 feet, particularly if you're following too close to the driver in front of you, or changing lanes with drivers in other lanes going variable speeds.

    I think the reason the ban has been "less" than effective is as other posters have said, that having a conversation over the phone can be distracting enough to take seconds here where
  • How long have CB radios been in cars? Any correlation between CB radio use and accidents? Better ban CB radios out of all vehicles. Especially trucks, taxis, and police vehicles. If dispatch needs to talk to you, they can send a signal to automatically engage your emergency brake first.

    Seriously: why only phones? Because they're relatively new and increasingly common, even though plain radio receivers are far more common and they aren't going after people who sing along in their cars.

  • Right now I'm driving and surfing Slashdot on my smartphone as I post this. As you can see, no probl{#`%${%&`+'${`%&NO CARRIER

  • A previous study has found ferrets distract drivers in a similar fashion.

    For this reason the study concluded by suggestiing a hands-free ferret.

    Hands Free Ferret [youtube.com]
  • I don't know if I believe this. We've had blind passengers riding around with people for a very long time and I don't recall anybody complaining that talking to blind people while driving a car increases one's risk of an accident.

    I think our brains function differently when talking on the phone. They make us dumber. And my hypothesis can be readily observed in any public place where people are chatting on cell phones.

  • In related news, studies confirm grass if often green, and water is often wet.

  • by blahplusplus (757119) * on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @08:09PM (#25968711)

    ... this all comes back to the fact that we have a limited amount of attention and the more we spend it focusing on conversation and thinking about what is being talked about (our minds eye being 'elsewhere') the less we are focused on our environmental surroundings, we're increasing the attention resolution for conversation on the phone while decreasing our attention to the surrounding environment.

    This happens even without a phone, I remember driving and having something fall on my lap, just the momentary lapse of your mind focusing on something other then what you're doing takes your ability to focus attention on the environmental changes as needed. I remember almost hitting someone, even though just a few seconds before everything was clear. After that I promised myself never again would I ever change the focus of my attention. It's just too dangerous a lot of the time, in heavy traffic / slowed to a crawl, I don't mind if people are on their phones when traffic is going to be at a dead stop for a while but outside of that, I wouldn't personally.

    It's the same thing - using your mind to assess the situation intelligently, it applies to everthing - if you exercise and don't overeat you won't get fat (barring extenuating circumstances like disease, etc).

    Personally I think anyone who's a phone junky really needs to experience what it's like to have a near miss accident, there's nothing like a near miss to change your thinking about driving forever IMHO. I'm glad my near miss never hurt anyone, and it certainly smartens you up afterwards. For the people who say "eh I'll risk it", I just hope you don't one day end up regretting it.

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