Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Two-rants-in-one: 1) Phoning while Driving & 2) Back-to-School Safety for Drivers

I've commented on the first topic before, but there's a reason I'm revisiting.

Recently, while reading this article about "Back-to-School Safety" (re: drivers), I found myself in agreement with and very interested in most of the suggestions. Here are the highlights:
  • Be familiar with school zones.
  • Stop for school bus lights.
  • Obey crossing guards.
  • Anticipate the worst.
  • Be careful around parked vehicles.
  • Turn your headlights on.
  • Avoid using cell phones when driving.
  • Avoid reversing.
  • Don't speed.
  • Don't honk at pedestrians or bicyclists.

I must say, though, that I had to pause at the seventh suggestion:
Avoid using cell phones when driving. Cell phones are a known distraction. Never use hand-held cell phones while driving, and never use hands-free cell phones while driving in school zones or areas with children. The same goes for activities that distract the driver, such as changing CDs, looking at notes and reading maps.
I'll give them some points for acknowledging the fact that there are of other things, within and without the vehicle, to distract drivers. Still, I'm still bugged by the idea that the mobile phone is the worst of them - worthy of a special mention or statewide legislation.

I don't see anyone out-lawing cheeseburgers, cd players, or hyper-active five-year-olds. All of which have caused drivers to divide their attention at one time or another.

Safety's the bottom-line, of course, but I remain skeptical that mobile phones make THAT many bad drivers. It seems far more likely, to me, that bad drivers happen to use mobile phones.


I can agree to look out for the kiddies, though.

22 comments:

Rider said...

I disagree with you. I don't have any empiracle evidence to substantiate my arguement, but I do have an opinion and here it is.

Eating a cheeseburger doesn't take much concentration. It's sitting in your lap, you reach down, take a bite and go back to driving all within a matter of about 2 seconds. It doesn't take much mind power or concentration to do that. I realize it only takes a blink of an eye for an accident to occur, but in the grand scheme of things, this doesn't take much time or effort to do.

As far as changing channels on the radio, the same thought applies. You look down at the face, push a button and you're good. Doesn't take much time or concentration either.

However, when you are on the phone, you can have your eyes on the road but your mind can be elsewhere. Especially when people have full blown conversations in their car. Usually when I'm talking, my mind goes to that conversation, and if I'm driving, my concentration while talking is not what it should be, and for a pretty significant amount of time if it's a serious talk.

And the reason people probably want it outlawed is because almost everybody drives and talks on the cell phone. Next time you are in a city, just look at how many people have phones up to their ears talking away. I'll bet you notice more people talking then you would eating or changing the station on their stereo.

West said...

re: "I disagree with you. I don't have any empiracle evidence to substantiate my arguement, but I do have an opinion and here it is."

Opinions are welcome.

In response to your biggest point,...

"However, when you are on the phone, you can have your eyes on the road but your mind can be elsewhere. Especially when people have full blown conversations in their car."

...that'd also mean we should consider outlawing passengers of all ages. People might have full-blown conversations with them.

I don't think that'd be a very good idea, though.

Rider said...

You'll admit though that when you are in a full blown conversation you're mind is somewhere else beside the road, which isn't a good thing no matter if it's on the phone or in person.

I wouldn't suggest banning passengers. That would defeat the purpose of using a car. Cars are made for getting from point A to point B, often times with more then one person in the car. Talking is going to happen. In my case, it's usually the passengers talking with me chiming in ever once in awhile, not the one carrying the conversation.

Cell phones weren't made for cars. If you ban the use of cell phones in cars, you at least take away one potential problem. You don't need a cell phone in a car, and you definitly don't need to be talking about how you hate work so much while driving or something trivial like that. If it is causing accidents, it makes more sense to ban them then not just because you can put a nice play on words and argue about it all day long.

West said...

re: "...it makes more sense to ban them then not just because you can put a nice play on words and argue about it all day long."

I don't know what you mean by this, but I'm going to try to assume it's not an insult.

To the topic... Mobile phones are used for more than just talking about trivial things, but even if they weren't they needn't be any more distracting than any other conversation.

When I walk into a door, I don't blame the don't blame it on some woman's cleavage. If it distracted me, it was because I allowed myself to be distracted.

It's about the driver, not the phone.

Rider said...

Well if you take the phone out of the picture, the person who lets themselves be distracted by them no longer has that option. It's that simple.

Not everyone is responsible on this planet. Sometimes you need to make decisions based on people's best interest.

What do you think the percentage is of phone calls that pertain to matters that absolutly need to be addressed right then and there, i.e. emergency? I don't know for sure, but I bet it's less then 2%.

You don't need to talk on a phone while driving, and if it takes away from the drivers judgement, which it does, it should be banned.

West said...

re: "Well if you take the phone out of the picture, the person who lets themselves be distracted by them no longer has that option. It's that simple."

Not really, because the person can still have such an engrossing conversation, with a passenger.

That's been my point this whole time.


Anyway, thanks for the discussion.

Rider said...

Talking with a passenger and talking on a cell phone are two different things, not the same. Just because both can potentially be a problem doesn't mean one shouldn't have a stop put to it.

People talking in a car is naturally going to happen. It can't be stopped. Talking on a cell phone isn't natural, or neccesary.

"Not really"

Oh, yes really, because if the phone is out of the picture, that problem in itself is extinguished. Just because another problem still exists doesn't mean the other should be left alone. If that's the arguement, and that's how it comes across, it's pretty lame.

West said...

We'll have to agree to disagree.

James Meeley said...

I think the difference with a phone, verus a lot of other distractions, is that it usually takes your hands off the wheel. You have to hold it. If you drop it, your instinct is to look down to where it goes.

All of which makes it a lot more dangerous than talking to your friend in the passanger seat.

Granted, there are other distractions that could cause the same effects, but none so widespread as a cell phone.

Like so many other things in life, it's a question of responsibility. If people were more responsible, they'd know talking on a hand-held phone while drive is a stupid thing to do. Unfortunately, people don't always look to the responsible answers. That's fine, IMO, if you are the only one who will suffer for your actions. In the case of driving, however, that just isn't the case. So, it seems only fair that a law is in place to force people to think more responibly, for the sake of the public's saftey, if not a person's own.

Of course, should cheeseburgers suddenly become a major distraction for people while driving, I'd fully expect a law aginst that, too. If we don't want laws to enforce public safty, then we need to be smart and enforce it ourselves through our own actions. If we don't want to do that, you can hardly get mad when the law steps in.

Rider said...

All good points James. I agree wholeheartedly. I just wanted to also point out how silly(for lack of a better word) West's view on this topic is, and that I'm very glad the medical field doesn't think this way.

In my eyes, his arguement was, if talking on a cell phone can cause problems, and talking to a passenger can cause problems, then do nothing.

However, you can cure part of the problem by getting rid of cell phone use in a car.

What if a Doctor said, well you have cancer, and your 2 seconds away from a heart attack. Sorry, but since we can't cure you all the way, we aren't going to do anything at all. If we fix one, the other one is going to get you anyways. Yeah, you could live another year or two, but we want all or nothing.

Sounds kind of silly right?

So talking to someone in a car, whether in person or by phone is dangerous. If you can solve part of the problem by taking cell phone use out, why not do it?

West said...

Welcome, James!

I've got to say, it seems that your position boils down to how likely one is to look down, when dropping a mobile phone.

I don't find that likelihood particularly compelling - especially since it's the talking, not the dropping, that happens the most... I'd wager.

re: " If we don't want laws to enforce public safty, then we need to be smart and enforce it ourselves through our own actions. If we don't want to do that, you can hardly get mad when the law steps in."

It's not that I don't want such laws. I just want them to focus on the actual problems, not ornamentation.

Luke Cage said...

I'm sorry that I'm getting in on this topic late. There are waaaay too many people using cellphones in cars. Its gotten to the point that I can actually tell when a driver is using one from the way that they are driving when I'm behind them. I've sat at a intersection waiting for my light to change and watched cars turn from the opposite side and virtually counted to see how many folks have got that thing to their ear.

The number is crazy. I was involved in a fatal accident last year because of a cell phone. So I may be biased since I also think the whole cell phone thing is so overrated. I have one, but truth be told, I don't talk to many people on it and I use it more at home than on the road. I also cannot picture life without it too and I'm a old school cat.

But I will tell you one thing that may help cellphone users, especially in cars... the bluetooth. Great gadget!!! I wouldn't pick up the cellphone in my car when it rang before I got a bluetooth. Now, it's too cool that I can't picture myself driving without one. Plus most new cars today have taken the consumer's wants and needs in mind West if you're making the argument that other things can distract you in a vehicle. Which is true. The cellphone is being picked on a bit in this way.

You can actually adjust your volume of your radio, change cd's or cd selections, and change radio channels all from the steering wheel (at least in my car I can and I'm sure most that are coming out now do this too) eliminating the need for the driver to look down and extend their arm to do these things. All points are compelling and make sense guys. Good post West!

West said...

re: James' "If people were more responsible, they'd know talking on a hand-held phone while drive is a stupid thing to do."

I don't think it's particularly stupid. People drive with all sorts of handicaps and impediments; many drive with one hand, even when they're not on the phone.

Cage: Thanks.

beef mug said...

I think for the sake of the kids' safety there should be no cell phone use driving zones. Just like in front of a hospital, you can't use your horn while driving. In front of a school, you can't drive and use your cell phones.

Anyone who disagrees with me is a murderer in the making.

West said...

re: "Anyone who disagrees with me is a murderer in the making."

You do a disservice to your position by mixing well-reasoned arguments with vitriol like this.

YouToldHarpoTaBeatMe said...

*looking up*

Hugs? Midol? Lithium? What?? It ain't that crucial. Getcha OWN blog and tell 'em why ya MAD sonnn!!!

Anywho, I'm with you on all the distractions. That's why I've carried belts and big afro combs for the last 16 yrs in my vehicle (kids). When they were acting up, they would dayum near pass out as soon as they saw a red light or if I pulled over, 'cuz they knew one of them were about to get hemmed up.

Me personally, I hook up my lil' earpiece before I even put my vehicle in "drive", so I don't have to hunt down anything when I hear my lil' "soul glo" ringtone.

West said...

*cracks up at the Soul Glo ringtone!!!*

Son of Blog-El said...

I'm coming in even later on this discussion. I live in NJ where we require a hands free cell phone device (bluetooth or not) while driving. I think this is a preferable alternative to a flat ban. The ultimate responsiblit is on the driver. If you allow yourself to be distracted from any of the number of dumb things that we bring with us in the car (significant others excluded of course) it is on YOU. Living in the northeast I have seen some crazy shit people do while driving. Hey maybe that should be a new post.

Rider said...

One thing everybody forgot, including myself is that cell phones are used not just for talking. People use them to send text messages, which is even more distracting then talking.

I fail to see the neccisity of having a phone while you are driving a car outside of an emergency.

YouToldHarpoTaBeatMe said...

Rider: "I fail to see the neccisity of having a phone while you are driving a car outside of an emergency."

It may not be a necessity for you, but it works wonders for the person who's always on the go.

There's the Dr. who needs to step on it because he's needed in E/R, the soccer mom who needs to swing back around because practice has been cancelled, the "I can't find my way to your house...gimme a landmark to look for" call, and the "Don't get on I-95 by Plaza Drive because there's an accident and you'll be late for work" call. Every example had something to do with the need for a mobile (cell) phone.

Kelson said...

I think the difference with a phone, verus a lot of other distractions, is that it usually takes your hands off the wheel. You have to hold it.

It seems logical, but studies have found no difference in the amount of distraction resulting from a handheld cell phone conversation and one done with a hands-free headset. So all these "hands-free-only" laws are only addressing the physical problem -- one hand off the wheel -- and not the psychological problem -- mind on something else.

And they do seem to be different from conversations with people in the car.

My personal theory: it's the disembodied voice. If someone is sitting next to you, your brain knows where the voice is coming from. If it's right in your ear, part of your mind is distracted by trying to work out the source. I find myself wondering whether dashboard speakers would help, or whether they'd be just as bad.

That, and a passenger can see what's going on in the car and will react to the same things you react to.

West said...

re: "It seems logical, but studies have found no difference in the amount of distraction resulting from a handheld cell phone conversation and one done with a hands-free headset. So all these "hands-free-only" laws are only addressing the physical problem -- one hand off the wheel -- and not the psychological problem -- mind on something else."

I've seen those studies, myself, and, of course, I agree with your assessment.

re: "And they do seem to be different from conversations with people in the car."

Are you talking about more studies and statistics?

In my experience, it's the conversation that distracts me, not the source. Running my mouth with my girlfriend sitting next to me leads to the same missed turns as talking to her over the phone.

Just my take.