I have to say, most of the time, when I notice a driver doing something particularly bone-headed, e.g. crawling along at a slow pace while a stale green is about to turn red, or swerving into my lane unexpectedly, it's because the genius is talking on his cell phone. So I'm not surprised by this NTSB recommendation. A ban would go a long way to preventing road rage.
A total ban is an inconvenience to everyone. It's motivated by the evident fact that too many people cannot be bothered to show some restraint. While driving, keep those calls short, if you must call at all.
Still, my suspicion is that people in Congress are among the worst offenders, so that nothing will be done on this score.
A new device can be fitted into every car so that the driving seat area will not be able receive or transmit calls including the hands free wired or non wired devices. This device to be designd as a passive device which will absorb all the radiation of the mobile tower signls. Also it will detect audio signls from the wired devices and switch of the engine with a warning.
Interesting concept but I suspect there would be a huge uproar about government pushing personal freedoms if such a device were mandated in a car. I agree that something needs to be done, I've seen too many close calls due to cell phone use behind the wheel.
Never mind safety issues when wired to the engine controls!
Irresponsibility is there all the time, phone use just provides another opportunity for the idiot within us to reveal itself.
Maybe set cars' EMS to run very slow, very safe (and yet economical) unless the driver holds a advanced licence which is as hard to get and hold as a commercial pilot's licence.
The problem with legislating a ban is that determined users will ignore the law just as they do now. Placing the responsibility on the service providers to detect motion and disable communication (except for emergency calls) will ensure all moving devices are rendered inoperable.
The argument against this is that passengers in cars, trains, buses, boats are also affected. However, in most cases these passengers are already restricted from other activities such as consumption of alcohol or illicit substances.
The alternative is to embed a jamming device in the vehicle that can sense whether it is the driver or a passenger using the mobile unit, make this device impossible to defeat by its removal or electrical disconnection, and not jam users external to the vehicle. This would be quite a trick.
Maybe a camera in the steering wheel? [(No image OR driver's lips moving OR lips covered with surgical mask) AND strong RF field detected AND vehicle in motion AND both hands not on steering wheel for longer than 5 seconds = enable jam)]. Or similar algorithm. The problem here is that older vehicles without this 'feature' would quickly rise in value and remain in service much longer than they do now.
It's a pickle all right...
I approve of the ban. More people are killed by phone or texting users than drunk drivers. While there has been some reduction in drunk driving, accidents by distracted phone and texting is on the rise. We all need to identify and expose the ignorant people who think they can do other things while driving. Perhaps if they lose their drivers licenses, they will have more time to phone or text without endangering anyone.
Whatever happened to personal responsibility? Now days there are laws that compel us to do a myriad of things which most would be better off learning through parental instruction. What next--a law banning drive-thru food since someone taking a bite out of a quarter pounder while exiting McDonalds is more likely to get in an accident? Burgers have been around a lot longer than cell phones and are certainly as dangerous.
I totally agree with you, seaEE! Not enough personal responsibility is being taken by whiners who can't drive themselves, and are not quick enough on the draw. Personal utilities and toys are for us to use and play with at our discretion. Personal liberty is too precious.
Instead of making legislation which only sane people follow and hence are of no use let the technology itself impose such restrictions.
Let the Car body itself act as a shield jamming all kind of transmission (except may be GPS) while engine is running. If anybody in the car wants to talk, take the car out of the traffic , stop the engine and then talk.
Windows would have to be made conductive, and the rubber seals would also need to be conductive to form a Faraday cage.
Windows would have to be forced closed when an internal RF field is detected This can be defeated by use of an external antenna.
Forcing the windows closed while the vehicle is in motion because of RF field detected could trap Junior's little arm. Someone would be sued.
Fully agree with your last statement. If any occupants of the vehicle absolutely must talk, pull over into a McD's or such and tend to other bodily requirements at the same time.
@ seaEE I once mirror-watched a female in an SUV come tearing up behind while stopped at a red traffic light. She had a hamburger in one hand and a phone in the other.
1st thought - Didn't your mother tell you that speaking with your mouth full is rude?
2nd thought - What are you steering with - your elbows?
All the following are legal: driving with your eyes closed, driving while exhausted and delirious, reading a magainze on your lap, adjusting the EQ on the radio, digging items out of the center console, checking out your review mirror for more than a few seconds.
Hmm... motion control is an option, but then no one in the car could use their cell phone. If you were on a train, presumably your do-everything phone would know you were on a train track, and would let you use the phone. The train engineer, however, would have to be trusted. Texting could be prohibited at all velocities above a walk, for everyone, everywhere. Personally, texting annoys me... my kids send me text messages at work: why can't they just speak to me? Dad is too cranky? It's possible, I suppose.
I've another idea: you need insurance to use your cell phone in a car. You get into an accident while on your cell phone, your liability insurance is ok, but your property damage is void. And your medical bills are your problem. People will buy insurance, or not, as they please. Or not use their cell phones. Or use a hands-free device. Passengers aren't bothered by cell phone restrictions in this case.
Maybe it's all a tempest in a teapot. I plan to look at the NTSB reference, and see if there are any statistics. The NTSB are a cut or two above most of the agencies in DC, they may actually be rational. Just how many lives would be saved by the end of texting and voice from the driver? How many would be saved if cars couldn't go faster than 35 mph?
There seems to be no end of great ideas from the government on changing our behavior for our own good. I don't want to be safer courtesy of civil servants in DC constantly dreaming up restrictive laws. I don't mind if they fix the responsibility for my actions more firmly on me, but I don't care to have my actions limited by the bad decisions of others.
...continued... Of course cell phone usage by a driver increases risk. Aircraft pilots spend a lot of time training to fly the plane, navigate the plane, and talk to controllers, all at the same time. And then they retrain. People driving cars spend as little time as possible "training" and then never get a refresher again. The entire license system needs to be overhauled, and I don't think cell phones are the straw on the donkeys' backs in DC to do it.
I actually had the same thought wrt pilots of aircraft. However, I believe the answer there is more than just training. That's part of it, but the other part is that pilots can and do stop yacking on the radio when they are busy doing something. For example, during landing and takeoff. It's not constant chatter.
The air traffic controllers are well aware of this, and they give pilots space.
Driving a car is more similar to the landing and takeoff portion of flights, than it is to the steady cruising at altitude.
And when taxiing on the ground, the conversations between pilots and controllers are short and sweet. If drivers could manage to restrain their cell phone confversations similarly, I submit to you that we wouldn't have a problem.
As always happens, the rest of us inevitably pay for the abuses of the many.
Bert, true, and true: a pilot's communications are typically short, specific, and related to the task at hand. In an airport traffic pattern, even the conversations between the tower and other aircraft are of interest--a pilot builds a mental picture of the other traffic in the pattern(s) which tends to enhance safety, not degrade it.
One other thing: while training, pilots are taught that whatever else happens in the three domains of fly, navigate, and communicate, to do it in that order: fly the plane first. How many drivers, fumbling after a cell phone or a coffee, stop watching the road? In an automobile, a distraction of seconds can result in an accident. In an airplane, 20 or 30 seconds, even a minute, looking at a display or chart often means nothing at all. The only time a driver can ignore their surroundings for a minute is when they are parked.
Do you have an autopilot in your car?
In a separate thread, that was discussed. They're coming, IMO. In the meantime, if you try to convince the judge that it should have been perfectly okay to carry on a long cell phone conversation while driving, because your car was on autopilot, I think you may get a bigger fine.
In 2010, there were 3,029 traffic deaths attributed to distracted driving. In the same year, there more than 10,000 deaths due to drunk driving. That's half what drunk driving deaths were when I started driving. 2010 had the lowest rate of traffic fatalities since 1949 and the lowest absolute number since nearly that long ago NHTSA data).
No. I'm not saying 3,000 traffic fatalities is good or acceptable. However, given that fatalities are consistently dropping, even with the rise of cell phones, it's a pretty good bet that those fatalities would have occurred with or without cell phones. They aren't incremental fatalities.
Make it safer by banning texting and hand-held calls, but we can stop there at that point of diminishing return. Again, the data suggests that completely banning cell phones won't have any more affect than banning texting and hand-held use would.
Alternately, we could institute a government regulated total safety program. All home and car doors would be networked and locked (from both inside and out). The locks would be connected to government computers and would not be unlocked unless the person requesting permission to leave the house could produce proper documentation of training, recurrent training and common sense, as well as a government safety approve justification for the trip. That would save a lot of lives.
“In 2010, there were 3,029 traffic deaths attributed to distracted driving.” Was there any mention as to how distracted driving was defined? I assume it is not solely talking on a cell phone or texting.
Here's the definition of distracted that is given by the NHTSA for this contect: "distraction by dialing a cellular phone or texting and distraction by an outside person/event".
They have refined their definition to get closer to just texting and cell phone conversations, but there is still a number, not split out, that are just other generic distractions.
With Apple's Siri launch, people dont have to literally type to send an sms while driving. Just ask siri to do it. I suspect, this investigation havent considered the evolution of natural language voice interface.
eewiz, your point is a good one, but directing a system to do something for you doesn't eliminate the distraction entirely, just mitigates it. On a tangent, though, let me ask: first, I verbally direct a system to send a text message, which I then dictate. The message goes out to another person, possibly driving their car, who directs his automation to read the message (and, optionally, plays post office). All that rather than speak to the other party? To each his own.
No, the underlying problem isn't the automation, or the exact mode of communication, it's the distraction of trying to communicate while performing a task that needs some of your attention all of the time, and all of your attention some of the time.
Any phone with a GPS and/or motion sensors can detect when a car is moving. It could splash a big red warning label when a driver is texting. Something about it being ILLEGAL and DANGEROUS to text while driving. Disabling is a bit much, since a passenger might be texting. The feds could push through something like that.
"Distracted driving" covers a LOT of sins! I have witnessed (and on occasion been hit by) drivers who were: combing their hair, putting on makeup (using the rear-view mirror re-aimed so they had no rear view at all), tending to children (in the back seat!), SHAVING, using a laptop, watching TV or a movie, dancing in their seat to their iPod (earbuds clearly visible), etc. And that's just in the past month (not the hit part, though; I'm way too good at dodging these accidents waiting to happen)! Seriously, these days so-called "licensed drivers" have apparently never been taught how to drive safely, and maintain their awareness of EVERYTHING going on around them (360 degrees). I've been driving over 50 years, and still keep my eyes in constant motion when I'm behind the wheel. My last chargeable accident happened in 1964, well over a million miles ago. And most people consider me an aggressive driver!
Indeed there are many forms of distraction besides talking or texting on a cell phone. I have seen drivers do nearly all of the same things you mentioned, including one I saw last week reading a newspaper!
You also forgot to mention eating, although others did. I'm guessing that eating, especially drive-thru fast food, is high on the list of dangerous things people do behind the wheel -- not just the distraction factor, but also because they are driving one-handed or no-handed -- steering with the knees.
I think training and regular re-testing and license renewal would be more effective and practical than many of the technical prohibitions being discussed here. Adding many thousands of dollars of cost to every automobile in an attempt to combat stupidity is simply not the right solution.
Speaking of training and testing, or lack thereof, how do you tell if a person lives in Arizona? The expiration date on his driver's license looks like a "star date" from Star Trek. My 17-year-old son's license expires in 2059, when he turns 65. He is not legally required to have any supplemental safe driving training or re-testing until then, and I think that is insane!
An ex-employee of mine once killed a small child crossing a road when he was driving and talking on his (hand held) cellphone. MaryL above gave some appaling stats. Yet we see people talking on hand held phones here in Australia all the time and Police don't enforce the law. The really sad thing is that you can pick up a Bluetooth car kit for around $25-50, hardly a lot, and these idiots don't think it's worth buying one.
Unfortunately, according to this NHTSA study, but I've also seen this reported previously, even the hands-free systems distract drivers. I think it has to do with having to concentrate on an unrelated topic immediately, in order to be able to carry on this phone conversation.
Truth is, I have no trouble believing this. One, because we have a hands free car phone system, so I know it can still distract. But also, have you ever driven with a passenger who is constantly talking about things you're not particularly interested in, and is doing so relentlessly, and perhaps even with a piercing voice?
Imagine, for example, trying to find your way to an address you're not familiar with, perhaps at night, with such a person yacking away in the car. It's very disturbing. That's the environment a long telephone conversation, unrelated to your current driving task, creates.
All good points, but if you ban cellphone conversations in cars, you should also list and ban other manual activities like some cited above (shaving, puting on makeup, etc). And some passengers should probably be banned too!
Does anyone have any stats for accidents in which cellphone use was a factor, split into those with handsfree kits vs those with hand-held phones? I think handsfree ones would be in a fairly small minority, but I'm open to correction.
If I am right, proper enforcement of the "no hand held (and no texting) rule would lead to a good improvement.
For myself,I have a handsfree but I will not answer calls in heavy traffic, I'll phone the person back when I'm on a more open road. And I've set up handsfree dialling. And I'll pull over or call back if I'm on a call which needs me to think a bit. All common sense, which is fairly rare sometimes. Thats why we need laws, and more important, enforcement of them.
About 10 years ago, I was on my way home from work. I was stopped at a traffic light waiting to turn left into my neighborhood, when I heard a boom. I looked to my right and saw an SUV stopped where the car next to me used to be. I saw the woman push the air bag out of the way and reach down to retrieve her cell phone to continue her call. Yes, I am all for restrictions of distractions for drivers, but they have to be enforcable and not laws that take away our freedoms. Anyone that causes an accident due to negligence has to be held responsible and punished.
@daleste...Could not agree more, but it's very difficult to do without some restrictions. Your story is incredible.. I've also watched people run right through red lights without even recognizing the light was there, some do so successfully some don't. Those that don't need to bear responsibility for whatever happens as a result of their inattention.
My guess is the origins of legislation such as this is come from the insurance industry looking for legal outs to deny claim coverage and as a way to increase premiums. We already have laws on the books for "Operating a moving vehicle while impared", we don't need another.
Driving while talking on a handheld phone has been illegal for some years now in the UK. As far as I am aware, it is enforced (it's obvious to any other driver who's on the phone, so it must be blindingly obvious to the police). There is a culture of it being unnacceptable (you see headlines in newspapaers referring to a driver having killed someone while on the phone, for example).
While, it is technically legal to use a handsfree kit in the UK, if you have an accident while doings (especially if you kill someone) you will be in big trouble (you will go to prison for example if you kill someone while using a handsfree kit). We have the offence of "driving wothout due care and attention" (as mentioned elsewhere), but also "death by dangerous driving" (a few years inside - what you'd be charaged with if you killed someone while using a handsfree kit) and "death by reckless driving" (more than 10 years inside - what you'd be charged with if you killed someone whilst talking on a handheld).
and it makes sense. I say, while on the road, one should always keep both hands on the wheel and think of nothing else but driving. I am not even sure about playing music
while driving to be honest....
Talking on a telephone is not the main issue. I follow numerous slow-pokes that hold up traffic and when I pass, I can see from my higher vantage point, they are texting. To not expose this behavior, the driver keeps the device below the steering wheel, adding to the danger.
Start here and see what occurs then. Ed
I suspect that there are laws everywhere prohibiting driving while distracted/impaired ... It should be relatively easy to include texting under the definition of driving while impaired, so there shouldn't be a need for additional laws. I suppose that the legislatures need to ensure that the penalties are significant enough to discourage the practice.
The other part is to record cell phone activity and GPS info from the phone for a period of time (several days?) if it's not already being done, so your cell phone will indict you if you've had an accident and were texting. If you've been on the phone and your GPS coordinates were changing around the time of the accident, you're in trouble. The police should be able to check cell phone records for a time in question for any accident.
Here in Australia it is an offense to use a cellphone ( or a Mobile Phone as we call them here) while driving or stopped at controlled intersections ( Stop signs, Red lights etc), the fines vary from state to state. Personally I use my drive time for some wind-down and just let the thing keep ringing.
Some Articles about statistics:
Interesting stuff Toeknee, thanks for that. I'd go along with most of the concusions in the AMTA report, however I'd question how many people are going to answer a question with an answer that may make them look stupid (even if it is anonymous) and also whether people are going to act as they usually do when they know there is a camera filming their every action.
I also live in Australia and would point out that (a) I hadn't even heard of AMTA prior to this, let alone seen or heard of their guidelines and (b) I have never seen or heard of anyone being prosecuted for hand held mobile phone use, in spite of the fact that it's a crime and I see people doing it all the time.
How about you?
I don't recmon we should knock the existing laws until it's proven that good enforcement of them has no effect - and I think it would have a marked effect.
hands free bluetooth should be mandatory on all new cars and not just an option on the high end luxury cars. The accidents typically will happen when the user is distracted to looking at the screen or keypad and not the road. As far as the comments that a talking passenger knows to stop talking is silly, if the driver is in a tight situation he\she will automatically stop talking and pay attention to whats going on or if they have any sense, terminate their call. They are not going to keep having their conservations as they are getting into an accident or dangerous situation.
I love the discussion that followed the article! I can't agree with the ban, only with holding drivers responsible for their actions. I have seen many drivers (mostly women for some reason) talking on cell phones thru red lights, not signaling and turning, weaving, slowing down (10-15 mph below speed limit), and making bad driving decisions. Still, it should be punished as a moving violation like DUI. If the cellphone records show the driver on a call during the accident then: added fine and loss of license (for some period; increasing with repeats). Just a thought..
Anyone here who has also viewed the same topic on other public forums will note a major difference in these comments - nobody here (maybe because the commenters are engineers with common sense) claims to be a superhuman multitasker who can devote 100% of their mental faculties to driving while at the same time devoting the other 100% of their mental faculties to the cell phone conversation/texting.
I cannot agree with holding drivers responsible for their actions. This happens AFTER the fact; I do not wish to become a victim of an irresponsible moron whose accountability becomes just a fine to the state. Again, the prevention needs to happen BEFORE an innocent victim becomes maimed for life. Only carrier shutdown of moving devices can accomplish this.
zeeglen, your observation that engineers don't believe that they can do 3 things at once with full attention is a good one. But I disagree that drivers shouldn't be held responsible for their actions. Surely, someone is responsible, and the driver looks like a good bet. On the other hand, holding the driver responsible doesn't have to be the only steps that are taken to mitigate a problem; other mechanisms can be put in place. What certainly won't work is to rely only on those mechanisms... it will not be practical to design a system that knows when it's the driver, in motion, talking or texting, but not a passenger. You can only make driving completely safe if you limit speeds to something between 0 and 5 mph. Just like spaceflight: keep the vehicle on the ground, spaceflight is safe. Except for Apollo 1.
Interesting discussion. Reminds me of the DUI/DWI discussions. In the early 1960's an engineer developed a simple device to prevent intoxicated people from driving a car. A display flashed a 6 digit number for 3 seconds. The driver than had 15 secs to enter that number and activate the vehicle. After three failed attempts, the vehicle was disabled for 60 minutes. This would have added about $15 to the cost of a new car. Why don't we have these in cars today? Because our society has determined that driving is a RIGHT, not a privlege, despite what the law actually states.
Until recently in my city, a driver could beat a DUI charge by simply refusing to blow in the tester.
I think that developing a technology to prevent cell phone (mobile phone, mate) usage may be just another way of telling abusers that if they can find a way around the tech, their behavior is acceptable. In other words, if you don't get caught, it's OK.
I agree with zeeglen that a better solution would prevent the problem, but no one will implement or use it. I like Robotics Developer's idea, even though it is 'after the fact'.
Look at the drunk driving laws in Iceland for example.
Here is my proposal:
If there is an accident and it can be determined that the operator of the vehicle was texting, then they lose the car, have a $5,000 fine, and a 30 day license suspension. Second offense, they lose the car, $10,000 fine, 1 year suspension. Third offense, they lose the car, $20,000 fine, 1 year in jail, and lifetime license suspension.
For an accident whilst talking on the phone, the punishiments would be similar, but scaled down a little.
And, if three sober citizens will testify that a driver caused an accident that killed another person and the driver was on the phone AND drunk, we just shoot them right there.
There are other reasons that the 6 digit device doesn't exist. One is that in an emergency, an otherwise normal person my be so hyped up that memorizing a 6 digit number and keying it in would be very difficult. Immobilizing a car for 60 minutes under those circumstances would be about as criminal as drunk driving.
How do you keep people from texting while driving? Ultimately, you can't. After the fact penalties are ok by me, but they don't sweep the driving population clean of scofflaws, and they don't help the family that is maimed by losing a mother or father. In the number of people driving in the US, a large number are impaired one way or another at any given time. Not much you can do except set up your penalties, and hope for the best. Similarly, banning spoons won't affect the number of obese people in the US, nor would fining people for being overweight.
These are problems in human behavior, and it will not be readily solved by gimmicks or engineering toys. Life is risky, and the amount of risk we can remove is limited.
Not disagreeing with your proposals, but I do strongly disagree with this notion that driving is a "privilege," implying we should genuflect in front of the bureaucrats that "allow" us to drive.
Driving is no more a "privilege" than breathing air is, or riding a donkey was in the old days. Driving is our current form of private transportation. No one even dreamed of adding "riding a horse" as a "right" under the Constitution. Or for that matter, driving a horse-drawn cart. It was a given, that people could move about as they pleased, and carry on with their business as necessary.
So when I hear "driving is a privilege," it sounds like so much sanctimonious claptrap. We, the people, have enacted certain laws to make sure that those who drive don't endanger others unduely, but that's about the extent of the "privilege" nature of driving. We do not need to beg anyone for the "privilege" to move about.
Perhaps it's mostly a matter of semantics.
"I rode up to her and said 'Aye, young lady,
Me donkey he will carry two.'"
"Well, seeing as ye have a donkey,
To the Dingle Fair I'll ride with you." (traditional song)
Back then donkeys did not crash into each other even when their drivers/riders were distracted or inebriated, and certainly not by cell phones. Similar to the government-regulated sharing of the RF frequency spectrum, sharing of the public roadway became a problem when the donkeys and horses were replaced by high-speed pistons. When someone does endanger others unduly they lose the privilege of driving. They can thereafter walk, or buy a donkey.
True. If someone proves that he can't be responsible behind the wheel, their license to drive is revoked.
But look at it the other way around. If someone meets the age limit and has not given any indication that he would be a threat to others, does anyone have the "right" to withhold his "driving privilege"?
That's my point.
This is not much different from owning a gun. Any yahoo can buy a gun, and claim his God-given second amendment right to do so. And the next day, he can go on a shooting rampage. So in fact, this is not much different from driving.
A gun is (usually) intended for self defense, and its use, unless while calling the police, is not normally distracted by a cell phone conversation.
One can lose the right to drive by speeding. This is a definite threat to others. It is not necessary for an accident to result, simply driving the vehicle above the posted limit is sufficient to endanger others.
In the same way, concentration directed to a mobile communication reduces the level of safety cogitation to others who share the same roadway. And unfortunately vehicle dashboard design does not help - where at one time knobs and buttons could be sensed by touch, today's modern designs are flat with no tactile texture to the buttons. Flat screen displays are the worst offenders, they REQUIRE the removal of eyes from the road to view the screen. Not designed by monkeys, rather these are designed by morons.
I think a separation needs to be done in this discussion between texting, voice calls while holding the the phone and then true integrated hands free. Dialling is an issue separate from talking.
I would like to suggest the following:
1. texting while driving = total madness
2. dialing while driving = total madness
3. talking while holding the phone = a slight departure from reality
4. talking totally hands free = no worse than talking to a passenger
5. having young kids in the car = about halfway between 3 and (1/2)
Others have argued that a passenger is less of a distraction than a hands free call, but I believe that is probably more of an individual thing, because I use a hands free and when a call comes in and something on the road get busy, I zone out of the conversation in the same manner as when talking to a passenger, where as others may not.
One other thing I would like to add is that menu driven infotainment systems should be banned long before handsfree mobile phones, as they are almost as dangerous a distraction as texting. Of course they could be fixed by requiring the handbrake to be engaged much like the navigation menus on a GPS
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