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Summary:

The issue of driving while talking on a cell phone has two distinct sides, and no matter which side of that issue you are on, if you spend much time in a car you see this every day.  We’ve all heard the stories of fatal car […]

key2safedrivingThe issue of driving while talking on a cell phone has two distinct sides, and no matter which side of that issue you are on, if you spend much time in a car you see this every day.  We’ve all heard the stories of fatal car accidents caused by drivers on cell phones. Studies have indicated that talking on a phone while driving impacts the driver’s reaction time in a manner similar to intoxication.

Many major cities in the U.S. ban driving while talking, although most of those allow the use of headsets or other hands-free solutions.  Personally I think it’s the lack of concentration on driving due to the phone conversation as much as holding a handset, so I’m not sure that headsets make that much difference.  My own city of Houston has ordinances that ban the use of phones while driving in school zones which seems like a good thing.

New York City recently had a one-day clamp-down on driving while using a phone and issued over 9,000 citations to drivers talking on phones.  That number is amazing even for a large city like NYC, and it indicates the law is not impacting the practice enough.  Another statistic that I find amazing is that over 195,000 citations were issued in NYC in 2008. That plainly shows that the $120 fine is not a big deterrent to those who talk and drive. Maybe it’s time to force the use of gadgets that prevent phone calls in cars?  These are typically designed for teen drivers but they’re not the only ones doing all the texting or talking.

(via cellular-news)

  1. If you think you are right, you shouldnt be even talking to any of the passangers in your car – its the same distraction as talking to them through a handsfree…;-)

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  2. I’m for Jamming Devices similar to the India government use. I think when they are in session they prevent (via jamming) the use of cell phones in the entire building so they can concentrate on the people’s business). I believe 90 percent of all phone conversations are pure waste of time and actually reduce productivity. I would love to see phone jammers used throughout the U.S., mainly in public places like theaters, restaurants, libraries and bathrooms.

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  3. As always, the problem is not what potential distraction is out there, it’s with how the driver deals with that distraction. Passengers, music, talk radio, eating, drinking, books on tape, all can be horribly distracting if you let them. Ever notice how you turn down the radio when you think you need to concentrate more on what you’re doing while driving? That’s how these things are different from being intoxicated, you can stop at will when the need arises. It may not be popular to admit, but it doesn’t take that much concentration to drive most of the time if the roads are designed and maintained well and you’re driving defensively.

    If you can’t already guess, I’m very much against laws banning cellphone use while driving, especially ones that include using headsets.

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  4. While I would concede that conversations are a strong factor in driving distration, I would say that talking on cellphones without the use of handsfree options is significantly worse. In other words, I see two sources of driver impairment — mental, which may be covered by conversation in general, and physical, which is the added layer of impairment from non-handsfree phone usage. While talking on the cell phone (without handsfree) you have one of two options:

    1) the better, you are holding the cellphone to your ear with a free hand. At best you are deprived of one hand for steering, which any driving instructor can tell you is quite suboptimal for emergency maneuvering and even basic turning. At worst, your overall vision and situational awareness is impaired: your peripheral visibility is reduced and your ability to turn your head to check blind spots is impaired.

    2) the worse, you are holding your cellphone to your face with your shoulder, in which case you might have both hands on the wheel but your ability to move is significantly impaired, and forget about peripheral vision, turning your head, blind spots, etc.

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  5. AndyT:

    …But what happens when there is an emergency? If there is a fire in a theater or if someone is choking in a restaurant? If we were to couple hypothetical jamming with the fact that payphones have seen a marked reduction given the recent proliferation of cell phones, you could have a pretty bad situation.

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  6. It is the same problem in the UK.

    Sure there are laws with penalties but you have to get caught first and a lot of people think (just like speeding etc) that they will get away with it and that getting caught by a traffic cop is something that happens only to other people.

    So a big clampdown like this one should make people think that maybe there is a real chance of them getting caught and only then will they actually think twice before using a phone when driving.

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  7. “If you think you are right, you shouldnt be even talking to any of the passangers in your car – its the same distraction as talking to them through a handsfree…;-)”

    Studies indicate that that’s not the case. Passengers see the same things as the driver and tend to stop talking when the driver needs to concentrate. As to handsfree versus not, the evidence again is that it doesn’t matter; it’s the talking that distracts, not whether you have something in your hand.

    Damn those scientists!

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  8. Douglas E. Welch Wednesday, March 18, 2009

    Enforcement of a headset law here in Los Angeles has appeared to have dropped to zero. I see dozens of people a day back on the habit of holding their phone to their ear.

    Of course, whenever I am put in danger on my daily walk, more than half the time the driver is holding a phone.

    I am not for an outright ban of cell phone use, but I think removing the physical impairment of holding a phone is an important step.

    I have always used a headset myself, even in the pre-Bluetooth days. It makes me more comfortable and less distracted.

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  9. In the UK it is illegal to hold a phone whilst driving. As has already been said, this is hardly enforced. The only time it is, is when there has been an accident and the driver’s phone records are checked. Just this week a Labour Life Peer was released early from prison having been involved in a fatal car accident. His phone records were checked and he was found to have been texting several minutes prior to the accident. Whilst there was no link between the accident and the texting, it did initiate an investigation which ultimately resulted in him being the first person in the UK being sent to prison for texting whilst driving.

    I do use my phone in the car but it is mounted in a powered cradle and I use it with voice dialling via a bluetooth headset. The phone also doubles as my sat nav which is very handy.

    I see no problem in using a phone like this. The problems I see are when people hold a phone whilst driving and worse, text whilst driving. There is no way you can be in control of a car when you are driving one handed.

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  10. Why solve the problem with technology (that I’d have to pay for even though I don’t talk while driving… and didn’t even before CA enacted the ban last year) when you can just make it painful enough to be a deterrant. E.g., $500 fine. Or immediate impounding of the vehicle for 30 days..

    Yeah, I am tired of seeing distracted motorists on the streets.

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