Are cell phones while driving worse than, say, shaving?

First – disclosures:

  1. My company depends on the wireless (“cell phone”) industry for its survival.
  2. I use my cell phone while driving, but only on the open, uncongested highway. (I have a stick shift, so anything else would be insanity, IMHO.)
    So you may feel that I have a vested interest. But I am NOT trolling. I am interested in having an honest debate on this subject and feel that the TM will surely expand my thinking. (Even as I fear you will all rip me to shreds!)
    OK, now back to the subject…

A number of communities are considering enacting laws that will prohibit (make it a crime) for people within their boundaries to use their mobile phones while in control of a moving vehicle (i.e. driving). Yet nearly every day when I drive on the highways and roads to/from work I see people doing any number of other things that seem just as potentially distracting: shaving, applying make-up, eating, dropping cigarettes, READING A BOOK OR THE NEWSPAPER! (placed strategically open across the steering wheel!), arguing with their SO, digging their toll fare out of their purse/wallet, yelling at their kids, driving with a big dog in their lap, etc., etc. And yet, AFAIK, there are no laws against these specific activities.

It seems to me that phones are not the culprit, but inattentive drivers/bad judgement. Shouldn’t the “crime” be inattentive driving, whatever the cause, and not just cell phones?

I know research has been done that says drivers talking on their phones are more likely to be in or cause an accident, so I’m not saying that all drivers are completely attentive when talking on their phones, but-

  1. Has any research been done on these other activities causing accidents? Why not?
  2. Should all cell phone users be punished for the transgressions (stupidity) of the minority?
  3. Don’t the existing laws on driver responsibility (obligation to be attentive, etc.) already cover this territory?

I think it might stem from latent resentment of the (no longer valid) stereotype of “yuppies and their damned cell phones in their BMWs”. (FYI - The fastest growing groups of mobile phone users are moms and kids. There are now nearly 80 million mobile phone subscribers in the USA.)

Your thoughts?

(P.S. I totally HATE people who talk loudly on their phones in restaurants or other places or who let them ring in the theatre/church/concert/etc. I’m a big proponent of cell phone etiquette, but that’s another thread, and probably more suited to the BBQ Pit.)

Sorry, I have no problem with laws restricting access/usage for handset type phones in cars. (I will cut people who use “hands-off” type equipment some slack.)

I have seen studies that purported to show that cell phones are/are not dangerous to use, but none of them were quite rigorous from the perspective of scientific analysis so I won’t get into them.

Several of your “other” examples should be ticketed (reading, applying mascara, etc.). The problem with phones is that phone users have two sets of distractions, not just the immediate distraction of playing with a toy in traffic. There is also the problem that a phone conversation has a second participant that has only verbal clues, so the car-phone operator feels compelled to engage at all times.

If I am having an intense conversation with a passenger in my car when a semi decides to share my lane, the passenger is immediately aware that I am not going to keep up my end of the conversation and I have no compulsion about breaking off while I try to keep the car in reasonably good condition, structurally. If the person on the other end of the phone is the driver’s boss (or a customer who accepted a call from the driver), they are not aware of the traffic situation and they are less tolerant of strange lapses in the conversation. For that reason, the driver feels compelled to carry on the conversation even while they are taking evasive action. Their attention is divided, and they are liable to choose to share my lane.

I have witnessed this activity frequently.

The worst case I saw involved a fool who was trying to schedule a meeting in his day-planner while on the phone in the center lane (and the left lane and the right lane). He should have been ticketed (or shot out of hand) regardless of any phone laws, but I have been forced out of lanes by a lot more phone callers than makeup appliers. (And I have been driving for 33 years, so the makeup appliers have had a lot more opportunity to get me.)

If you want a concession, I will say that I don’t think we need a national or any state-wide bans on car phones. They are generally not a problem in lighter traffic. As you noted, however, the entities trying to ban car phones are cities with their higher traffic. I back them 100%.


Tom~

Tom~

Thanks for posting to my little thread. I was getting ready to post something like:

“ So, it’s now 2 hours since posting this thread and no response.
I guess I should have titled it ‘They’ll get my cell phone when they pry it out of my cold, dead (mangled) hand’ or something (a la the gun control debate).

Or mentioned religion or sex, as in ‘Are cell phones while driving worse that, say, BJs?’ ”
Oh, and thanks for your thoughtful comments, too. :slight_smile:

I definitely prefer BJ’s to cell phones while driving.

WAG:

Seems to me that the act of holding the phone is not the dangerous part. Lots of people hold cups, change, a garage door opener.

Nor is the problem the talking. If someone is sitting next to you, you can chat all day long.

But while on the telephone, the speaker focuses on the voice on the other end to the (partial) exclusion of all else. With no visual cues (and only minimal tonal cues, although it’s better than it used to be), one must pay much closer attention to a voice on the phone than on someone next to them, even if that person isn’t in line of sight. That results in the “telephone stare,” where I watch the wall blankly while I talk on my phone. Some people like to visualize the person they’re talking to

If one is staring into space or imagining another person, there’s not much room left to see that damn Explorer agead who’s about to cut you off.

/WAG

-andros-


“Listen Children Eternal Father Eternally One!” Exceptions? None!
-Doc Bronner

First, I remember hearing a bit on the radio a while ago talking about driving problems - one of the officers they interviewed talked about pulling over a woman who had apparently been driving erratically. Turns out she was putting on her pantyhose. Sigh. Second, this is not intended to be a slam toward drivers of one or the other gender, it just seems to me that people of all makes, models, genders, etc. do all kinds of stupid things while they’re driving. Cell phones are on the list; arguably not better or worse than anything else, but … you have to start somewhere.

So, to get to your question: Yes and No. No, cell phones should not be outlawed - yes, stupid driving habits should be. How do you do this: a large percentage of people are idiots and unless you systematically define what and what is not acceptable, people will do whatever the heck they like and clog the system with all kinds of irrelevant law suits. People can and do cause accidents with cell phones, these accidents should be controlled. Some drunks can drive home from the bar for years and years with no problems, some can’t. We’ve made some small progress with drunk drivers, people still get whacked and try to drive. At least if a drunk causes an accident, it’s obvious that it was their fault … So, if someone takes a call, starts writing notes anywhere a writing surface presents itself, weaves left and then right (repeat as required), and takes another car off the road; toast 'em with the full weight of the legal system behind you. If you get a call and then handle the situation responsibly, go for it.

I own a cell phone, if it rings while I’m on the road I will: answer it; explain that I’m driving, please bear with me; find a spot to get off the road; get out a pen and find a piece of paper to take notes on. Or, just let the stupid thing ring - once I’m where I was going I’ll check messages and call them back … IT’S ONLY A PHONE, PEOPLE.


Dilbert: But that would be dating myself
Dogbert: Well, it’s not like anyone else would date you

tomndebb wrote:

Funny, I couldn’t stand the thought of having to watch BJ and the Bear while driving. :wink:

Me too. When I talk on the phone, my husband * never * runs his hand through my hair and whispers endearments… :wink:

As for me, I never shave while I’m driving. The shaving cream makes my fingers real slippery, and I can’t operate my espresso machine in the passenger seat.
:slight_smile:

Guess I’d better read the thread now.

Using headphones when driving is illegal, so why not phones too? Me? I’d have to use a TTY when driving. That means typing typing typing, ah, anyone care to drive with me?

Dear Wireless, I think this is an issue where many things are brought to bear. I read a poll recently on the net that asked what was the best invention and the worst invention. The answer? Cell phones.

I would say that the people that use them irritate me and it would be better that they use a hands free speaker type. I have discussed this issue with quite a few people that I know before you posted and most of them wanted the phones banned. They all gave a variety of reasons, some of them good, but AFAICS it was a case of class envy. There is a lot of that going around these days as evidenced by the issue of SUV’s as well. Passing laws is NOT the answer. This country uses the passing of legislation to punish as much as it does to protect and I am tired of living in a society were we find the criminals (those who diagree with us) and “punish” them from mere ideological perspectives. WE DO NOT NEED ANY MORE LAWS! Enough! We are under enough of a burden as it is with everybody fighting to get their own special interests passed into law to persecute those that don’t agree with them.
I just reread what I wrote and I should add that I DIDN’T mean laws that are just. I am speaking about unjust laws and laws that are trivial. I mean, the thinking that says, “Hey, I know, let’s pass a law because some people can’t chew gum and drive!” No more gum chewing idiots to content with! Oh (big) Brother!

The use of cell phones while driving increases the likelihood of a traffic accident by a factor of four, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. There are also studies from Norway and Japan which support the mounting evidence that the habit of doing two things at once exceeds the abilities of most drivers. While I am not aware of any studies on shaving and applying make-up while driving, I suspect those activities also increase risk.

<p align=“center”>Tris

The use of cell phones while driving increases the likelihood of a traffic accident by a factor of four, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. There are also studies from Norway and Japan which support the mounting evidence that the habit of doing two things at once exceeds the abilities of most drivers. While I am not aware of any studies on shaving and applying make-up while driving, I suspect those activities also increase risk.

oops. Please delete the post where I blew the link HTML.

<p align=“center”>Tris

I can’t resist putting in my two cents as usual.

First, I had a cell phone for a while and found that it was nearly impossible to operate the car while I was talking on it so I stopped trying to do both, except in light traffic on the highway (as do a lot of people.) I think there should be a law which covers all sorts of distractions while driving–cell phones are an ideal example because the time of an accident can be correlated to the time of a call…likewise with putting on lipstick. (Think about it :slight_smile: ).

Second, I think the Executive Branch should document their rational better just like the Legislative Branch and Judicial Branch does. For some things they do, of course, but I’m specifically referring to the selective use of laws.

Some laws are enforced 100%. Murder, theft, yada yada yada–all examples of laws which are wholeheartedly shunned by the legal system.

Other laws, however, are used as a tool to prevent dangerous situations and close loopholes. A lot of times they’re cited as stupid laws.

For example, in Rochester, NY, I was once told by a cop (as an instance of a stupid law) that it’s illegal to exit your car into traffic (i.e. parked on the road and out the driver side). It’s completely uninforced, except when someone swings their door open into oncoming traffic and causes an accident–at that point, it’s their fault, because it’s illegal. It could have included a slew of circumstances (i.e. while parked, while driving, while backing up, etc.) but instead it’s just a blanket law which is used by the police selectively to stop dangerous and stupid behavior.

I think we need a law which would probably be amended several times which is a “selective enforcement” law that itemizes the activities that are deemed too distracting to do in a car while also trying to drive, and cell phone usage is one of them. If you’re not bothering anyone, you won’t get in trouble. If you’re being a danger to yourself or others or are in an accident, you can be additionally charged with driving while distracted. (Hmm…I like that…“DWD” :slight_smile: )

Oh, and Car Talk, the NPR program with Tom and Ray Magliozzi has a Don’t Talk and Drive campaign which you might be interested in.


Hey, aren’t you supposed to be at work?

My experience with the “officer’s discretion” policy in New York State (as a person stopped, a legal aide, and, years ago, a civilian employee of a sheriff’s dept., so I have a pretty broad perspective) was that it was appropriately used. In most cases the law was written broadly so it would apply to a variety of circumstances, then was used by the cops as grounds for ticketing when the particular thing outlawed by it was causing a dangerous condition.

I rode in a taxi where the driver had a mostly-hands-free cell phone/speaker phone installed. The dialing controls were on the steering wheel, like many cruise controls are. While talking on it, he didn’t seems any more distracted than if talking to a passenger.

But I’ve seen plenty of hand-held cell phone drivers causing lots of near-accidents. The first was when I barely was able to brake for a jerk who ran a red light while making a wide right turn. The image that stuck in my mind was him chatting away as he negotiated a right turn into the far-left lane.

I don’t condone road rage, but I sure understand it.

“I think it might stem from latent resentment of the (no longer valid) stereotype of ‘yuppies and their damned cell phones in their BMWs’. (FYI - The fastest growing groups of mobile phone users are moms and kids. There are now nearly 80 million mobile phone subscribers in the USA.)”

“I totally HATE people who talk loudly on their phones in restaurants or other places or who let them ring in the theatre, church, concert, etc. I’m a big proponent of cell phone etiquette, but that’s another thread, and probably more suited to the BBQ Pit.”

Re: loud cell-phone users. Here in Chicago, the commuter rail system puts out a passenger newsletter called “On The (Bi)Level” which includes a page of passenger complaints, SOUND OFF! (with its masthead slogan “…setting new standards of thoughtlessness, grouchiness, pettiness, elitism and self-absorption.”) One of the constancies in life is that every issue of OTB will contain at least one Sound Off! about cell phones. Usually, the letter-writer either wants designated cell-phone-free cars or wants wireless use banned on the trains altogether. For some reason, two people talking in person to each other on the train doesn’t bother these people, but a person on a cell-phone does. It’s true that some people talk loudly on cell phones, but there are plenty of people who don’t. Yet a person talking in a regular voice on a wireless is more likely to get dirty looks from other passengers than two people talking loudly in person.

As you noted, some people seem to have a hatred or at least dislike of cellphone users out of all proportion to the effect of loud talkers, etc. I know some (older) people who still think that people carry a wireless on their belt and make calls as they walk down the street just to impress people. As if anyone would be impressed, cell phones being common now! One complaint printed in OTB was that people placing calls, as opposed to receiving them, would always start off with “Hi, it’s X here. I’m on the train,” which irritated the letter-writer because he/she already knew the person was on the train. Uh, the person on the other end of the call DOESN’T know that. And since the call is usually to let someone know they’re late, saying that they’re on the train makes sense.

PunditLisa wrote:

I used to run my fingers through my SO’s hair (back when I had one) and whisper endearments to her while she was on the phone. Heck, I used to engage in more (ahem) intimate activities with her when she was on the phone, too. She said it made it too hard for her to concentrate. :wink: