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Transportation Communications Stats Science

Quantifying the Risk of Texting Drivers 217

Posted by timothy
from the where's-dragon-naturally-driving-edition? dept.
An anonymous reader writes "More than 5000 people die each year as a result of being distracted while driving, and a new study indicates that teens and cell phones make for the most volatile combination. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that of all drivers under 20 involved in fatal crashes, 16 percent were distracted — the highest proportion of any age group. 'Shockingly, texting drivers took their eyes off the road for each text an average of 4.6 seconds — which at 55 mph, means they were driving the length of a football field without looking,' said David Hosansky."
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Quantifying the Risk of Texting Drivers

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    • by karnal (22275) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @07:53AM (#40056253)

      I've seen this video a few times; is a true testament to how people get distracted.

      Yesterday I had 4 others in my car, driving to get lunch after running/walking in the Komen race in Columbus. There was a man in a truck beside us, veering into our lane about 1 foot. Not the biggest deal, I crunched myself up against the yellow line (was a 2x2 road). Later on, one of the passengers asked "Is that guy in front of us drunk?" He kept weaving about a foot on each side, about once a minute in an almost rhythmic motion. Would slowly move into either lane and then after about 10 seconds jerk the wheel back. Driver wasn't texting - he was just talking on the cell and not texting. I'd hate to see what happens if he was texting and actually not having his eyes on the road.

      And of course, my personal anecdotes from riding a motorcycle around this city are many. My biggest problem is there is no good way to communicate with another driver to kindly ask them to be careful with your life while you're on the road; most people beep and take it as a sign of aggression - or worse, just jump to the middle finger. My main issue there is that you never know what someone might do; and with me on a motorcycle and them in a car - even if I'm right - it'll still hurt me worse.

      • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @08:59AM (#40056491) Journal
        If you notice someone driving dangerously, you can report them to the police. I did this when someone decided to start reversing out of a parking space and drove into my leg. Very low speed collision, so I wasn't injured, but he refused to admit that he'd done anything wrong by reversing into a stationary pedestrian without looking. The police went and had a chat with him about paying due care and attention. Maybe next time, he made sure he checked his blind spot before reversing...
      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 20, 2012 @12:30PM (#40057505)

        Somewhat related, there really needs to be a universal "I'm Sorry" hand signal. Right now there's just like "Hello" "Bye" and "Fuck You."

        • by Zibodiz (2160038)
          I second this. The embarrassed cringe just doesn't cut it-- I think they usually mistake that for an 'oops, you caught me.'
        • Somewhat related, there really needs to be a universal "I'm Sorry" hand signal.

          I usually flash a peace sign (index and middle finger in a V, as if displaying the number two, thumb over ring and pinky). I use it also to signal thanks.

        • by MrL0G1C (867445)

          Fuck sorry, as a cyclist I want people paying attention to what they're doing on the road, most of the time 'sorry' just does not cut it.

      • by jamesh (87723)

        My biggest problem is there is no good way to communicate with another driver to kindly ask them to be careful with your life while you're on the road; most people beep and take it as a sign of aggression - or worse, just jump to the middle finger

        No need to be kind. I've thought about starting one of those "share with your friends" thing on facebook where the idea is that if you see someone driving with a phone held to their ear, or texting (harder to notice) you hold down your horn until they stop. I'm not sure enough other people would think it a good idea though... horns aren't designed to be used for an hour a day and the ensuing road rage would be spectular.

  • by _LORAX_ (4790) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @07:27AM (#40056189) Homepage

    Young drives have always been at risk because they have the least experience, only the distractions have changed over time.

    • by vlm (69642) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @07:50AM (#40056247)

      Whatever the youth are interested in will be demonized. 60 years ago it was Elvis's hips, 50 years ago rock n roll, 30 years ago dungeons and dragons, 20 years ago it was computers/video games, now its texting. Its basically "children will be seen not heard" extended into very young adulthood.

      30 years ago if a guy was fumbling around with his 8 track player or screaming at the kids in the back seat and got in an accident, eh no proof, probably get a ticket for inattentive driving anyway. Now you can prove with digital precision that the guy was sending a text message. The ability to prove exactly how the guy was goofing off is supposed to invoke moral outrage in me. It fails.

      Lets try an Einstein-ian thought experiment. Dude runs over your friend and kills them. Do you feel any different about your friend's death knowing dude was texting or trying to eat a fast food burger? We are being extremely heavily propagandized that death from texting is horrifically worse than death by burger/cd/radio/8 track/plain ole daydreaming/being lost/reading a old fashioned paper map/reading a GPS map.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Well, after having pretty much all my family in near fatal car crashes, I can definitively say there is a difference.
        With my folks, they got hit by a drunk driver who was driving on the wrong side of a mountain road.
        With my sister, it was a drunk driver.
        With my brother, it was simply a notoriously bad junction he was coming out of.

        Yeah, it sucks to be in the intensive care ward looking at people hanging by a thread, but when you KNOW that someone deliberately did something really stupid to put that person t

      • by dietdew7 (1171613) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @08:18AM (#40056321)
        The distraction of texting is not equivalent to that of eating a burger. Texting while driving is extra stupid, I need almost full attention to text and much less to eat. imagine a spectrum of irresponsibility with just listening to the radio on the low end and smashed drunk driving on the other. Texting is right up next to drunk driving for stupidity.
        • by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @09:24AM (#40056579)

          Texting is right up next to drunk driving for stupidity.

          Texting while driving has actually been demonstrated to be worse [caranddriver.com] than drunk driving in some experiments.

          At least the drunk person has the intoxicating effects to blame for their idiocy (although obviously they're the ones that chose to drink in the first place so no sympathy on that count), but most people trying to text and drive at the same time are stone sober and thus have no excuse for their stupidity.

          • by TheLink (130905) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @10:28AM (#40056855) Journal

            Texting while driving has actually been demonstrated to be worse than drunk driving in some experiments.

            I'm sure it is worse in most cases - unless you are very drunk...

            Texting requires a higher level of multitasking and most drivers have not been trained to text while driving, nor do they practice (under controlled circumstances!) doing it till they are very good at it. BUT I believe a small percentage of people (not all) can learn to text while driving safely.

            So perhaps they should:
            1) Try to train all learner drivers to text and talk while driving, and have them fail under controlled circumstances. Whether they get good enough or not they will be more aware of how dangerous and difficult it is (especially after killing many dozens in driving simulators).
            2) Then have two different driving exams and licenses - if you want the license to text and drive you have to pay more, and you have to pass a very difficult exam (paying for each try!) involving texting while driving (pass = zero spelling mistakes, zero driving mistakes, and not take too long for both driving and texting) and similar difficult stuff. If you pass, you get a different driving license and get to put a special sticker on your car (like the "handicapped" sticker except we're handicapped compared to you ;) ).

            With that license if you do crash while texting, and it's your fault, you still get the same penalty as everyone else. But the cops can't book you if you do not crash or break any other laws while texting or being on the phone. They can pull you over if you do not have that sticker on- just show them your license. So drive safely and you'll be fine.

            People might say it's elitist, but if you are good enough to pass such a test, the rest of the drivers on the road (including me) will be a greater danger to you than you to us!. I would be very happy if more drivers on the road could drive that well. In contrast I see many drivers who can't even stick to their lane when they're not even on the phone or doing anything else but driving.

            p.s. some jealous people would probably key your car if you display the sticker...

            • I can drive safely while texting. The process goes like this:

              1: Pick up phone.
              2: Try to find "text" button while keeping my eyes on the road and fully concentrating on possible hazards.
              3: Realise that's impossible.
              4: Pull over.
              5: Text.
              • by steelfood (895457)

                A few things on this:
                1) Use shortcut keys, and memorize the key sequences necessary to compose and send a text message.
                2) Use a plain 12-button phone to minimize the number of keys to press and the distance the thumb needs to travel.
                3) Memorize the T9 suggestion order.

                It's really only feasible for sending (and only sending) text messages in stop-and-go traffic, or local driving, when the pauses allow the driver to glance away briefly. Note, I'm not advocating texting while driving at all. Just pointing out

            • by hairyfeet (841228)

              Well you could do all that OR...you could teach them not to be a dumbass and that no stupid text is worth risking their life and health over.

              One of the first things I drilled into my oldest boy's head was to NEVER talk on the cell or text while driving. I know the owner of one of the local salvage yards and had him point out a few of the wrecks where they had been using the cell phone or texting and it was a VERY sobering sight, cars twisted and mangled and obvious places where someone's head had hit or eve

              • by TheLink (130905)
                1) in my post is about teaching drivers as part of the curriculum.

                Maybe should even make it as a compulsory part of the exam (compulsory to take, not to pass), even though they won't pass. More drivers should know how crap they are before they are allowed on the roads.
        • by Belial6 (794905)
          While I agree, the above poster has a point as well. I fully believe that texting while driving is dangerous, but the reason that it is being vilified in the media is not because of that. It is because it is considered a youth activity. The two are not mutually elusive. The hoopla surrounding talking on the phone while driving shows it much better. Confirmation bias is in full swing when the word cellphone comes into play.
          • by omfgnosis (963606) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @02:33PM (#40058221)

            This is rubbish. Texting while driving is being vilified because it's extremely dangerous and extremely common. That an extremely dangerous driving habit correlates to a "youth activity" (never mind that older adults do this as well) is probably a function of youth being less experienced drivers on average; less experienced drivers are more likely to engage in distracting activity while driving.

            Do you really think "the media" (as if texting while driving would otherwise be accepted by the countless other drivers, cyclists, pedestrians who've been endangered by it) would downplay a rash of "crossword puzzling while driving" by 50-somethings?

          • sharing the road (Score:4, Insightful)

            by epine (68316) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @03:04PM (#40058407)

            You might factor into your model of the mainstream media that few people find the behaviour patterns of decrepit old farts newsworthy.

            Youth are early adopters, and many youth and young adults lack the judgement to step back from the new stupid. Also known as a sex drive. A young adult using text to A) get laid, or B) indulge in the fantasy that you might someday get laid is not worrying that taking a driving license away from an 80 year-old widow with failing eyesight and reaction times deprives her of her last vestige of independence. "Get out of my way, old bird, I'm trying to get laid. #horny"

            SMS accident template

            Two young adults are stuck behind some slow-moving great-grandmother, but neither notices initially since they are both busy texting and the slower speed makes it easier to divide attention. The man is writing a shorter text and looks up first, sees that he's going to miss a major light because of the slow-moving old bird two cars ahead, but has just enough time to make an abrupt lane change into an open space and gun the intersection. Young women in front finishes her text moments later, decides to make the same move (with less testosterone) sees the same gap, but doesn't take into account the asshole multitasking male who was driving behind her one seconds ago careening into the same opening with twice the acceleration.

            Asshole male finishes his abrupt shoulder check and swings his head forward just in time to sense his impending impact with the young woman making the same lane change in front of him. He tries to protect his precious chrome bumper by swinging yet further around rodeo style and clips a bicyclist in the oncoming lane who had moved inside for an upcoming left turn.

            It's a lot like wifi spectrum. If you're the only driver on the highway who texts, you enjoy the protection of every other driver having their eyes on the road. But then other cheeky drivers start to behave the same way, and soon you experience packet loss. The problem on the road is that some packets are more fragile than others. How come the car wash is out of service? Because the drain is clogged again with little strips of Lycra.

          • by lazlo (15906)

            You will know that distracted driving activists are serious, and seriously not just targeting youth, when you start seeing calls for LATCH systems to be installed exclusively in the trunks of cars. I've never had a text message throw something at my head.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 20, 2012 @08:19AM (#40056323)

        You miss the point. Read the article, please, before commenting on it, it really helps. What Elvis, rock&roll, D&D and video games have with driving? Nobody said that accidents caused by texting and driving are worse than accidents caused by eating a burger and driving. What the article does say is that 16% of accidents caused by drivers under 20 is caused by distraction, and specifically that "among the various distractions, ranging from talking with passengers to adjusting the radio, texting while driving was particularly perilous: a 2009 study focusing on drivers of larger vehicles and trucks concluded that texting raised the risk of a crash by 23 times compared with nondistracted driving". It admits also that "even talking proved to be dangerous" and that "the distractions don't stop with cellphones; carmakers are adding new technologies to the dashboard, such as Web browsers and GPS units". It's also interesting that "a poll last year found that 59 percent of adult drivers admitted to talking on a handheld cellphone while behind the wheel, and 37 percent said they engaged in texting". So even the average driver admits that texting is more dangerous than talking on the phone while driving. But you're probably not an average driver. You're a superdriver. Until you crash into somebody while texting.

        • by pla (258480) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @08:40AM (#40056421) Journal
          What the article does say is that 16% of accidents caused by drivers under 20 is caused by distraction

          Wait - Only 16%? Seriously? And that includes "talking with passengers" and "adjusting the radio"? Wow, way to make exactly the opposite of the intended point, TFA!

          Shouldn't we perhaps worry about the other 84% before we go crazy talking about things like motion sensors to disable cell phones when in motion above some arbitrary speed?
          • A certain amount of accidents are not preventable. Shit actually does happen. Texting is preventable. Having the best driving skill is not.
          • by lymond01 (314120)

            The other 84% is likely speeding and/or reckless driving (ie, doing fun stuff in the wrong place with your car).

          • by omfgnosis (963606)

            From TFA:

            of all drivers under age 20 involved in fatal [subset] crashes, 16 percent were distracted -- the highest proportion of any age group.

            Among the various distractions, ranging from talking with passengers to adjusting the radio, texting while driving was particularly perilous. A 2009 study focusing on drivers of larger vehicles and trucks concluded that texting raised the risk of a crash by 23 times compared with nondistracted driving.

            The article doesn't discuss what makes up the other 84%, but it's not a stretch to imagine that a large portion of it is covered already by existing laws and enforcement, as in failure to follow safe driving procedure. But the figures for texting, as well as talking on a mobile, are staggering. If reducing distraction while driving could reduce accidents by anywhere approaching 16%—particularly distraction from activities that are wholly unnecessary and inappropriate like texting/mobile talki

      • by WaZiX (766733) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @08:22AM (#40056331)

        Do you feel any different about your friend's death knowing dude was texting or trying to eat a fast food burger? We are being extremely heavily propagandized that death from texting is horrifically worse than death by burger/cd/radio/8 track/plain ole daydreaming/being lost/reading a old fashioned paper map/reading a GPS map.

        Distractions of any kind increase the risk of having an accident. Texting while driving is a relatively new phenomenon and many people are not yet conscious of how much it increases the odds of having an accident. It's not propaganda to point that out.

        My work is directly related to accidents (I do statistical modelling of extreme events in reinsurance) and believe me that when you have to study "dumb" accidents caused by reckless driving, texting, alcohol or simply excessive speed (1) you fully understand the motives behind what you call "propaganda". People, often kids or young adults which are hit by death, vegetative states, para- or tetraplegia, amputated limbs, ... these are the consequences of accidents and they happen every day. Believe me that when you are exposed to those horrors on a daily basis you see things a little differently. And I have a relative distance between myself and the victims, I can only hardly imagine having to go to the scene of the accident or having to judge such cases all day.

        Those campaigns may be shocking or seen as demagogy, but they merely translate a reality which fortunately most people don't have to be confronted to every day. Its not propaganda, its reality.

        (1) Excessive speed relative to the traffic increases the odds of an accident exponentially and there is also an exponential relationship between speed and the consequences of the accident; reason why the combined distribution is often Pareto-like.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          And propaganda is dangerous. We need better trained drivers who recognize a distraction as a distraction, not just what they are told is one. So by putting emphasize on one type of distraction you are teaching drivers only to pay attention to this one distraction and the others are okay. That's stupid, no that's insane. Anyways the number 1 distraction, as studies were showing was tired driving, what do we really need propaganda telling people not to grab a pillow while driving?

          Propaganda is why I drive

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Whatever the youth are interested in will be demonized.

        As texting while driving is clearly dangerous, this is irrelevant.

        The ability to prove exactly how the guy was goofing off is supposed to invoke moral outrage in me.

        No, it is the act of putting others in grave danger for no good reason that is considered immoral.

        • by Belial6 (794905)
          Says the guy that puts others in grave danger every time he gets on the road, but doesn't see anything wrong with HIS behavior....
      • Except Elvis's hips, D&D and video games aren't generally used to distract you while driving, and therefore don't represent a real risk to life and limb.

        I'd be equally enraged at my friend being killed by someone eating a burger/ playing with the radio/ reading a map or texting while driving because a driver should know that these things are likely to distract them enough to make their driving dangerous, and if they are likely to be distracted they shouldn't be doing these things in a built-up area!

        Ma

      • by smpoole7 (1467717)

        > Whatever the youth are interested in will be demonized. 60 years ago it was Elvis's hips

        Two points.

        First, the unfortunate thing about the article is that it implies that teenagers are the worst. ALL texting while driving is dangerous. I don't care how good you think you are, either, if you're texting, there is NO WAY you could react in time if someone should change lanes in front of you at the precise instant that you're looking down, trying to find the "X" key.

        My wife and I were almost run into a ditc

        • by Belial6 (794905)
          Nope Elvis' Evil Hips turned innocent young girls into Satan worshiping drug addled depraved sex addicts who turned into prostitutes to sate their demonic insired sexual addiction.
      • by ClintJCL (264898)
        Yup! I sure remember a lot of youths being demonized for causing fatal car accidents while playing Dungeons and Dragons in their car. #Moron
      • by Ihmhi (1206036)

        Well, here's what would help:

        Make it legal to pull over to the side of the road for any reason whatsoever.

        Some businesses require live (or nearly live) communication with drivers on the road. Some people are so goddamned tired but they can't pull over, put down a couple triangles, flip the hazards on, and take a nap because they'll get ticketed and they (stupidly) would rather risk driving tired. Some people have the occasional urgent call or text that they need to take.

        What are these people supposed to do

      • by jamesh (87723)

        Lets try an Einstein-ian thought experiment. Dude runs over your friend and kills them. Do you feel any different about your friend's death knowing dude was texting or trying to eat a fast food burger? We are being extremely heavily propagandized that death from texting is horrifically worse than death by burger/cd/radio/8 track/plain ole daydreaming/being lost/reading a old fashioned paper map/reading a GPS map.

        Hell yes I would feel different. People aren't perfect... sometimes your attention drifts and bad things happen. Deliberately picking up a phone and taking your eyes off the road is a whole lot different than that though. Your friend is still dead, but in the latter case it's a result of a deliberate action and not an accident.

    • by burne (686114)

      No amount of experience will make texting while driving safe.

      And equally: even experienced drinkers (alcoholics) still cause accidents.

      This is not an age-thing. However: texting while driving is an additional risk, another way to have more funerals between 16 and 25, and every attempt to stop that is a good one.

    • by Shavano (2541114)

      The old distractions are still there. Now there's an added layer.

    • by PapayaSF (721268)

      only the distractions have changed over time

      The original driving distraction controversy was the car radio. There were a number of attempts to ban them. [mentalfloss.com] More. [reason.com]

  • by Tim the Gecko (745081) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @07:29AM (#40056199)
    When cycling home I was passed by a driver texting on her phone. A few hundred yards later there was an intersection with a long red light and I asked her to keep her eyes on the road. She carried on texting and had to make an effort to look up every so often to check if the light was still red. Presumably she was texting "lol cyclist tld me to stp". It seemed like an accident waiting to happen.
    • by CrashandDie (1114135) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @08:02AM (#40056281)

      Just wait 'till you meet this guy on your commute home: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxZxjgKcsPE [youtube.com]

    • What helps is hitting the windshield with the palm. It is loud but does no damage.

  • by finlandia1869 (1001985) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @07:53AM (#40056255)
    You know what else is equally dumb, but has gotten a free pass? Touchscreen interfaces in cars. I make it a point to buy cars with physical controls so that I can do things by touch alone. Plus, the designers always seem to make it a point to bury settings in nested menus; this only makes it worse. 4.6 seconds is probably how long it takes some people to change the station on the radio. And of course, they have to look down at the screen to do it.
    • by 15Bit (940730)
      I would agree - i do wonder sometimes if the car makers have actually done any testing to evaluate the usability of their shiny new gadgets. 4.6 secs seems to me like quite a short time compared to some of the in-car distractions i've seen. At least they've stopped drivers from being able to watch movies whilst the car is moving...
    • by itsdapead (734413) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @11:33AM (#40057165)

      You know what else is equally dumb, but has gotten a free pass? Touchscreen interfaces in cars.

      Not just touchscreens - UI design for cars in general, especially any sort of "multifunction" button that requires you to look at a display in order to know what it is going to do.

      Pretty much all car audio design is crap in that respect. Personal favourites that I have run in to (or have nearly made me run into things) include:

      • Radio with 25% of the limited facia space occupied by big shiny bezel around a big doomsday-grade button for... toggling the audio enhancement mode. Buttons for selecting the source, changing channel etc. were scratty little things.
      • One radio that started beeping when it lost its auto-tune lock on a station. Not just any beep but a beep that got louder, louder, louder and LOUDER... forget avoiding those pedestrians and oncoming traffic because THE RADIO HAS LOST ITS AUTO-TUNE LOCK! My god, man, you're driving without the aid of soft rock and unhelpful traffic information - do something!
      • Anything with blue LED illumination. There's a reason why they use red lighting in submarine movies, morons! The device in question did have two brightness settings: blinding or merely dazzling. (See also other people's xenon headlights)
      • Anything without a volume knob.
      • by DavidTC (10147)

        This.

        As an aside, I have to wonder how much more dangerous texting while driving has gotten when all these smartphones. I mean, before them, plenty of people had learned how to 'touch type' on a cell phone, and could do it without looking.

        Good luck doing that with a smartphone, where you have to constantly check where on the screen you're pushing and get no feedback. (Not that I'm saying it used to be safe, or that we should 'fix' smartphone so a stupidly dangerous activity is slightly safer for a small p

  • Darwin (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rossdee (243626) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @07:55AM (#40056261)

    Never mind the drivers that are killed, because they are texting etc, what about those that are killed or injured by them, who are innocent? (ie the pedestrians and people in the vehicles they collide with. ) They are the ones we should be concerned about.

  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @08:02AM (#40056269)

    I did some testing and adjusting the radio takes me about 3 seconds.

    But I can control when I adjust it.

    I'd be more concerned about people reading a text that arrived at a risky time than scanning the road, then texting.

    I could not text and drive safely.

  • by mobby_6kl (668092) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @08:26AM (#40056347)

    Film at eleven.

    Meanwhile, Turn signal neglect results in over twice as many crashes as distracted driving [autoblog.com], but nobody gives a shit because it's not a new scary technology used by the damn kids ruining everything.

    • by riscthis (597073)

      I expect the type of crash and outcome is quite different between those cases. A distracted/texting driver is probably more likely to end up going full speed into who/whatever they hit without even any attempt to take evasive action, because they're distracted in the first place.

      I'd expect in general the turn signal crashes are much less severe, e.g. one car running into the back of another when the first one slowed to turn off without signalling, even if their might be more of these type of accidents.

    • but nobody gives a shit because it's not a new scary technology used by the damn kids ruining everything.

      I'm pretty sure that failure to properly signal turns and lane changes is actually illegal in more states than using a cell phone or texting while driving. So this must the be some newfangled we'll-fine-you-heavily-and-raise-your-insurance-rates kind of "nobody gives a shit".

    • by tompaulco (629533)
      Turn signal neglect
      Grrr, yesterday, I was burned twice by somebody who didn't use their turn signals. Twice within the space of a mile I need to change lanes, the first time because of an accident in the left lane, and the second time because I really needed to be in the left lane all along because I was turning left at the next intersection. In both instances, the guy behind me dived into a spot that was too narrow without using his turn signal, and then cut me off from getting over while I was actually
  • by pla (258480) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @08:31AM (#40056369) Journal
    First, let me say that I consider it nothing short of suicidally (or even homicidally) stupid to text while driving.

    That said...


    which at 55 mph, means they were driving the length of a football field without looking,' said David Hosansky.

    Why does any car-motion reference need to point out distances in multiples of football fields, as though that means anything? On a highway, you can see many times that distance around you, and unless something drastically changes, 120 yards really doesn't mean much. You already know about everything within that range, so merely measuring distance doesn't say much of anything.

    More usefully, can a deer reach the road from the trees in 4.6 seconds? How long does it take for someone with a blowout to swerve into your lane? Will you hit the car in front of you (also moving at a similar speed, so absolute distance means nothing) within 4.6 seconds if it slams on its brakes for no particular reason?

    I get the idea that most people probably have a good idea of what it feels like to walk the length of a football field; that sense of "big"ness simply doesn't meaningfully apply under highway traffic conditions.
    • by tompaulco (629533)
      Why does any car-motion reference need to point out distances in multiples of football fields, as though that means anything? On a highway, you can see many times that distance around you, and unless something drastically changes, 120 yards really doesn't mean much.
      Well, that is all well and good if you are following 4.6 seconds (actually, should be more like 7 seconds because of reaction time) behind the guy in front of you. But in my experience, most people follow about a half a second or less behind th
  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @08:32AM (#40056381)

    Back in the 70's a teen could drive 100 mph in a 25 mph zone, while simultaneously smoking a joint, snorting a line of coke off the dashboard, fingering his squealing girlfriend and not spill a drop from the glass filled with Jim Beam held in his one hand on the steering wheel.

    So obviously, texting has distracted them from learning these important core driving skills, and is to blame.

    Actually, you can't ban every foolish activity while driving, because fools are so ingenious, and will always find a foolish way to distract themselves while driving.

  • Reading the headline at first, I thought that the risk of texting device drivers was being quantified, and was surprised - I had no idea it could be done. Turns out I was right - it can't
  • by bradley13 (1118935) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @09:10AM (#40056531) Homepage

    What should be illegal is being impaired while driving. Outlawing individual distractions is an endless task, and opens the door to wrongful prosecution.

    Sure, texting while driving is stupid. On the one hand: Just how is a cop going to prove that is what you were doing? Maybe you were looking at a map. On the other hand, by outlawing it, cops can accuse you of texting any time they see you with a phone in your hand, or see you looking down rather that at the road.

    Here's another example: why should it be illegal to have an alcoholic beverage open in a car? If you are not intoxicated, what difference does it make if you choose to drink your after-work beer on the way home? Why is this more dangerous that drinking it in a bar and then driving home?

    The law ought to be: if you are driving safely, fine. If you are not, you can be pulled over. If you are in an accident, and were provably distracted (by anything), this may play a role in the assignment of fault.

    • by Legion303 (97901)

      "Just how is a cop going to prove that is what you were doing? Maybe you were looking at a map."

      Whether you're texting or looking at a map, driving with your eyes off the road is the opposite of driving safely.

    • What should be illegal is being impaired while driving.

      Which is what you're doing if you're holding a phone in one hand and looking at it instead of the road.

      On the other hand, by outlawing it, cops can accuse you of texting any time they see you with a phone in your hand

      They don't need to in the UK - just holding the phone is enough (rightly so in my opinion).

      The law ought to be: if you are driving safely, fine.

      Good luck defining "driving safely". Isn't it for that very reason that we have driving laws in the first place? If you could define it, we wouldn't need speed limits, signals, laws against using a mobile phone...

      • by bradley13 (1118935) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @10:35AM (#40056895) Homepage

        Speed limits, with the possible exceptions of highways, are supposed to be set to reflect the road conditions. Traffic lights are supposed to improve traffic flow. Etc, etc. Of course, there are plenty of cities and towns that have forgotten this, and turned traffic laws into revenue generators.

        You literally cannot enumerate all the possible things that might distract a driver. What about eating a hamburger? hat about the animated billboards along the road? What about having your girlfriend flirt with you? Women putting on their makeup? Guys shaving? Trying to make a law to cover each and every possibility is just stupid. Moreover, what is distracting to one person or in one situation may be perfectly fine in another. Looking at your mobile phone while driving is dangerous? What if you are stopped at a traffic light?

        What's more, TFA can't even justify the anti-texting law. Only 1/6 of the accidents of the drivers most vulnerable to distraction (the under 20s) were due to distraction. TFA doesn't even attempt to figure out how many of those 1/6 were due to texting - it simply assumes that texting must play a big enough role to deserve its own, special law. The study - at least, the freely available excerpts - is no better, leaping from 5000 traffic deaths per year (total due to distraction) to the assumption that outlawing one specific behavior is somehow useful.

        Reality: this is another "feel-good" law that legislators will pass, so that they can be seen to be "doing something". Meanwhile, they continue to deliberately ignore the real, important issues they ought to deal with.

        • You literally cannot enumerate all the possible things that might distract a driver. What about eating a hamburger? hat about the animated billboards along the road? What about having your girlfriend flirt with you? Women putting on their makeup? Guys shaving? Trying to make a law to cover each and every possibility is just stupid.

          But if you don't enumerate everything then you're left with trying to prove distracted driving. Which means the defendant is going to argue that they were in fact not distracted,

    • by sco08y (615665)

      Sure, texting while driving is stupid. On the one hand: Just how is a cop going to prove that is what you were doing?

      Subpoena your phone records.

    • by santax (1541065)
      Here in the Netherlands they found a way to do just that... Having a mobile phone in your hand is illegal. You don't have to be texting, having a phone in your hand is enough to get a ticket (and a hefty one!). Luckily it's still legal to eat, read the newspaper, solve a sudoku, scratch your balls or having a book or mp3 player in your hands. Just not that phone!
  • But then there's the law of unindented consequences. It seems that states that ban texting see an increase in accidents. People who text continue to text but do so by putting their hands in their lap, which is even more dangerous. So be careful what you wish for.

    Full article [csmonitor.com]
  • Is that 4.6 second TOTAL PER TEXT, i.e. a sum of quick glances (just like looking in a mirror), or 4.6 secs average per interaction with the device?

    There is a big difference between the two...

  • I was in an accident with one. 100% liability on the other side. Her insurance will probably double. I suggest always to subpeona cell records in case of accident.
  • Shockingly, texting drivers took their eyes off the road for each text an average of 4.6 seconds -- which at 55 mph, means they were driving the length of a football field without looking

    Apparently you cannot view the reports from CQ Researchers without paying for them. Does anyone know if drivers are distracted for a combined total of 4.6 seconds per text, or if they are distracted for a continuous 4.6 seconds per text? There is a big difference.

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