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Cellphones, Texting, Driving, Congress, and Danger



cartextingThe New York Times is reporting that the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration decided not to go forward with a large study on the potential distractions of using a cell phone while driving and held back data and research already gathered, because there was a fear it would anger Congress.

On the one hand that sounds like your typical government with its head in the sand story (or lobbyists hands in their back pockets), and on the other hand I’m glad they didn’t fund the full study. Why?

Quite honestly, I don’t think there need to be new laws put on the books about using cell phones, and texting while driving. There are already laws on the books about reckless driving and to my mind anyone who is texting while driving is already guilty enough. The same holds true, in my opinion, for those who don’t use a hands free solution while talking on the phone and driving. If we need to spend money to determine if using hand held devices while driving is a potential danger, then I think we need to look more at the deficiencies caused by having our heads stuck in places where they don’t belong.

Yes, states have enacted hands free laws, but let’s face it, they don’t really solve the issue because in most cases you can still physically dial a cell phone under the existing laws. This “compromise” came about because many Bluetooth and Voice Control solutions just don’t work as well as we’d like them to, if at all, and the cell phone industry lobbied for things not to go that far so as to keep their costs down.   Frankly, the newer laws already passed are so full of loopholes as to be meaningless.

Today all of the research is being made public (you can see them on the NYTimes site.) I’m sure it will provoke cries for more stringent laws. I say save us all the aggravation and the expense and just enforce the laws we already have, even if it upsets Congress or whomever.

The next thing you know we’ll be funding studies about passing laws regarding texting while walking. Although I don’t think that would have helped this lady.



  1. Mickey Segal

    07/21/2009 at 11:23 am

    Dialing and texting seem to be the periods of most risk. People should really pull over for that. I would never do those while driving, but I will sometimes take an incoming call. However, many conversations in themselves are distracting, and I won’t have such conversations even with someone else in the car and I won’t call someone to have certain conversations if I expect them to be in their car and think the conversation would be distracting.

    For most things I have higher standards for myself and more tolerance for others, but driving is different because the other person could kill someone other than those in their vehicle. For this reason it is appropriate for driving to be more regulated than other areas of life.

    Regulating through state laws is a bit problematic since it is hard enough to know the laws in one’s own state, let alone nearby states. One reasonable approach might be a suggested federal standard that can be liberalized by individual states, allowing people to follow the federal standard when they are not sure of state rules.

  2. Mark (K0LO)

    07/21/2009 at 11:55 am

    It isn’t mobile devices per se, but DISTRACTIONS that are the cause of most accidents, and one can be just as distracted by trying to drive while reading a newspaper, disciplining the kids, talking to a passenger, eating breakfast, or whatever.

    I would agree with Mickey — when a widespread behavior threatens the health and safety of other people then it is an appropriate area for regulation. That’s why we have laws against drunk driving, and should have laws against cell phone usage while driving, which has become such a dangerous, pervasive practice that statistics prove is a significant cause of accidents.

  3. Sumocat

    07/21/2009 at 12:12 pm

    I’ve been bumped several times by people just not paying attention. Last major fenderbender I was in was caused by a woman who ran through a traffic light because she was looking back at her sick cat. Haven’t been hit by a person talking or texting on their phone yet. That said, of all the distracted drivers I pick out in traffic (who are plentiful and easy to spot) the majority are on their phones.

  4. sbtablet

    07/21/2009 at 12:36 pm

    To Warner, unfortunately, the general legal usage of reckless driving laws are applied to things like driving 60 in a 25 zone, passing in a dangerous situation, weaving in and out of traffic. Driving while distracted by a cell phone or anything else doesn’t usually rise to the level that usually gets a reckless driving charge. So I think we do need something. But you’re right about wasting time on toothless laws. My state has a law against using a cell phone without hands-off equipment “except in an emergency” nowhere does that law state what is considered an emergency, therefore it is deemed unenforceable by the state patrol and most police departments, and ignored. What a waste of time!

  5. Xavier Lanier

    07/21/2009 at 2:18 pm

    I think automakers should make integrated hands-free systems standard equipment. I still talk a lot on my phone my phone while driving, but I don’t touch the thing. Instead, I use my car’s system to answer calls, dial calls, look up contacts, and enter GPS destinations. It makes me a better driver and I think there are enough laws that are unenforced already.

  6. Nicholas

    07/21/2009 at 7:02 pm

    Personally, I check e-mail and surf sites and make calls on my iPhone while driving and have never been relatively close to a wreck. If I typically drive 6+ car lengths back I will drive 10-15 back if I am doing anything on my phone and make sure I can see the road the whole time. I will even slow down a bit below the speed limit occasionally if I feel I need to.

    Driving and doing these things is not difficult if you take proper precautions and realize your driving comes first. Maybe that it is because I am in my mid 20’s and have spent a large part of my driving life fidgeting with mp3 players etc… that I don’t feel like I am distracted. However, I also don’t plan on stopping if I am never even remotely close to being in danger.

  7. sbtablet

    07/22/2009 at 6:16 am

    @Nicholas–Sounds like you’re driving on lightly travelled roads. Imagine someone doing the same thing in city traffic. Still, I can promise you that you are paying less attention to the road than you would be if you WEREN’T surfing sites while driving. A call to someone on your voice or speed dial I can get, but web surfing sounds scary to me. It’s so easy not to see the deer or dog running out in front of you.

  8. Warner Crocker

    07/22/2009 at 7:13 am

    There are two kinds of drivers in the world. Those who think their world extends only to their vehicle and how they control it, and those who realize that when on the road and driving they are a part of a bigger picture, subject to more than how they proceed alone.

  9. DaveTN

    07/22/2009 at 6:21 pm

    I hav ehad two near misses on my motorcycle and in both cases I was almost T-boned by people that ran stopsigns with their hands plainly visible on top of the steering wheel texting away.
    I had a really good time with one driver/texter. I locked up my brakes and was about to lay my bike down or swerve. Fortunately the oncoming car saw it coming and got over. I swerved and my thumb hit my horn button (which is a car horn). She honked back and flipped me off. We both ended up next to each other at the next red light. I don’t know if she was clling daddy, the police or what but she was in tears.

    A little factoid.
    I did aresearch paper last year for one of my psych classes and found that repeated studies have proved that driving while texting/taliking is actually more dangerous than driving drunk. In several of the studies that I reviewed, the texters had significantly more accidents than the intoxicated drivers.


  10. DaveTN

    07/22/2009 at 6:27 pm

    @xavier and @nicholas,
    The studies I mentioned, included both hands free and hands on. It is the lack of concentrattion on the DRIVING that causes the accidents. If you are focused on a phone call, trying to solve a world problem, or deeply involved in a conversation, you ARE NOT paying attention to what is in front of you. 5 car lengths or roughly 60″ is abput 2 seconds worth of time at about 40mph. A safe following distance for an undistracted driver with a reaction time of about .5 seconds. A distracted drivers reaction time is significantly longer and that gap closes quickly. Even quicker if the other object is moving towards you.


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