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More Than 1 In 4 Car Crashes Involve Cellphone Use 367

Posted by samzenpus
from the keep-your-eyes-on-the-road-your-hands-upon-the-wheel dept.
schwit1 (797399) writes "Texting and driving is dangerous but a new survey finds talking on a cellphone while behind the wheel may be even worse. The National Safety Council's annual report found 26 percent of all crashes are tied to phone use, but noted just 5 percent involved texting. Safety advocates are lobbying now for a total ban on driver phone use, pointing to studies that headsets do not reduce driver distraction."
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More Than 1 In 4 Car Crashes Involve Cellphone Use

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  • by Lodlaiden (2767969) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @07:06PM (#46597843)
    Some people are more prone to be in / cause an accident period. Distracted driving increases the likelyhood of an accident, be it texting, be-bopping to music, talking on the phone, enjoying the company of the fellow passengers, or just plain dealing with kids.

    There's a reason the pilot of a plane is sectioned away from the screaming babies.
    • They need to compare it to how often drivers use their phone in their car. I know the first thing I do on my commute is make calls. I'm not very social but it wouldn't take much for me to be using the phone 25% of the time while I'm driving.
    • There's a reason the pilot of a plane is sectioned away from the screaming babies.

      I thought it was 'cause he didn't have a first-class ticket.

  • by dfetter (2035) <david@fetter.org> on Thursday March 27, 2014 @07:08PM (#46597861) Homepage Journal

    not the holding of the device, as anybody who'd thought this through even for a second was saying back when "hands-free" was being touted as a safety feature.

    • by lgw (121541) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @07:36PM (#46598135) Journal

      Holding the device always makes it worse, especially when dialing. Especially in a stick-shift.

      Many drivers communicate all the time while driving, on the radio or more modern cell-phone based alternative. They have before cell phones existed. It's the driver who's dangerous, not the phone.

      • by MrKaos (858439)

        It's the driver who's dangerous, not the phone.

        Phones don't kill people, conversations do.

        • by lgw (121541) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @07:57PM (#46598377) Journal

          The joke falls flat because every single professional driver with a dispatcher (from taxis to police to heavy trucks) has conversations while driving, often involving reaching for a map. It comes down to the driver.

          • by rmdingler (1955220) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @08:15PM (#46598537)
            The professional driver remains compensated for his windshield time only so long as he's relatively problem-free on the road.

            Unlike your amateur drivers, a single DUI or license suspension ends your budding career. The weak have already been weeded out to some degree.

            The threshold for reproduction is marginally less for drivers of POVs.

          • The joke falls flat because every single professional driver with a dispatcher (from taxis to police to heavy trucks) has conversations while driving

            I don't understand your point. Are you saying that professional drivers don't have accidents?

          • by Pharmboy (216950)

            Actually, you are saying that PROFESSIONAL drivers have conversations and don't get into abnormal amounts of wrecks. Ok, I believe that. The bad part is that most drivers are amateurs.

            I drive two hours a day on the interstate (not a "professional", just reasonably cautious with phone features built into car and never text and drive). You would be amazed at how many "professional" truck drivers I see crossing the line while fiddling with a phone. Whether they are texting or calling, I don't know. I don'

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      I call BS on that, or having passengers talking to you cause accidents.

      Ham radio operators talk on the radio all the time and dont have accidents at that rate, Semi truck drivers use a CB heavily and also dont.

      Hell us kids throwing crap and constantly yelling "DAD HE IS HITTING ME!" should have had my family dead in a ditch 80X a year.

      The problem is not talking it's the morons texting and checking email/facebook.

      • by Rich0 (548339) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @08:15PM (#46598533) Homepage

        Ham radio operators talk on the radio all the time and dont have accidents at that rate,

        Two things.

        First an anecdote - I know a ham who did HF CW in his car while driving.

        Second, I really wonder how they defined a cell phone as being involved in an accident. Did they just record any accident where a phone was someplace visible to the driver? Did they record any accident where a call was in progress? Did they try to determine if the call itself contributed to the accident? Did fault come into it? If you're parked talking on the phone and somebody rear-ends you, does that count as a phone-involved accident?

        These stats might be really telling us that lots of cars have cell phones in them.

        • by mysidia (191772)

          These stats might be really telling us that lots of cars have cell phones in them.

          Not just Agreed.... that is probably exactly what the stats are telling us ---- And not, how dangerous (or benign) cell phones are.

          Imagine how many accidents there are where the vehicle radio or air conditioning is turned on!

          Just because two things are happening at the same time, doesn't mean they are related.

        • by zotz (3951)

          Second, I really wonder how they defined a cell phone as being involved in an accident. Did they just record any accident where a phone was someplace visible to the driver? Did they record any accident where a call was in progress? Did they try to determine if the call itself contributed to the accident? Did fault come into it? If you're parked talking on the phone and somebody rear-ends you, does that count as a phone-involved accident?

          These stats might be really telling us that lots of cars have cell phones in them.

          Ah, someone who thinks along the lines I do. The one I get here in the islands on US AM radio speaks of 1 in every X fatal accidents involves a pedestrian. (I think X=4)

          So I say, right, so when a pedestrian jumps in front of a car causing teh driver to swerve and plunge into a deep roadside canal and die, are they counting that as a fatal accident involving a pedestrian? What about one where two cars collide head on and a pedestrian is "involved" as the only witness?

          all the best,

          drew

      • Many magic tricks work based upon how predictably easy it is to distract humans.

        Passengers are also paying some attention and CAN more than compensate for the distraction they create. (NOTE: I used the word "can.")

        It only takes an instant of looking at the wrong place to miss the magic trick. Same with driving except the result is not enjoyable.

        Many of the stereo systems I've seen are a disaster, you could die just trying to change the station and when new they have too much of a learning curve - plus all t

        • Passengers are also paying some attention and CAN more than compensate for the distraction they create.

          So, if the driver talks to someone, he is so distracted as to be unable to pay proper attention to the road..

          But if a passenger talks, he can still pay attention to the road.

          Something is inconsistent here....

      • I call BS on that, or having passengers talking to you cause accidents.

        According to studies [wikipedia.org], passengers can observe when it is safe to talk and therefore conversations with them are less of a risk than conversations on a cell phone.

        Ham radio operators talk on the radio all the time and dont have accidents at that rate, Semi truck drivers use a CB heavily and also dont.

        I don't think you're interpreting the results correctly. Of all the accidents Ham radio operators or truck-drivers get into, what percentage involve their radio(s)? That's the question.

      • I really don't think a cell phone is any more dangerous than any of these. The only problem here is complainers.

        http://tech.slashdot.org/comme... [slashdot.org]

        IMO roll out the self driving cars and be done with it.

  • by geneing (756949) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @07:10PM (#46597877)
    The main question is if the total accident rate has increased since cell phones became ubiquitous. As far as I know the answer is "no", the accident rate actually went down. "Tied to" doesn't mean "caused", or "increased the chance of". Usually "tied to" is a lazy qualifier from a lazy researcher or journalist.
    • Fatalities went down, did indeed the ratio/amount of traffic accidents go down? I doubt that.

      The accident ratio went down because of:
      safer cars
      safer roads
      better street signs
      speed limits
      traffic jams
      Pick your reasons.

      Certainly not because people now use cell phones.

    • by mspohr (589790)

      It doesn't matter if the total accident rate has increased or decreased. There are lots of things that can cause the total accident rate to increase or decrease.
      The problem is that there is solid research showing that you are 4x as likely to have a crash when you are using a cell phone (McEvoy et al (2005); Redelmeier & Tibshirani (1997)). This has been measured with actual data from emergency department visits and property damage only accident reports.
      The report also states that 9% of drivers are using

      • by bsane (148894)

        It does matter- take away phones and you could see the total number of accidents stay the same- now with phone distractions replaced with 'HE CAME OUT OF NOWHERE!' ie: not paying attention.

      • >The problem is that there is solid research showing that you are 4x as likely to have a crash when you are using a cell phone (McEvoy et al (2005); Redelmeier & Tibshirani (1997)). This has been measured with actual data from emergency department visits and property damage only accident reports.

        That is not solid research. That is bad sampling.
        Sampling only the journeys that ended up in an accident is the most heavily biased sampling you can perform.

        Just because it sounds official doesn't mean they u

    • This is a very stupid and misleading statistic. I've seen statements like this on Slashdot before, and in my local paper, so I did look up the numbers, and the accident and fatality rates have both been dropping steadily since before handheld cell phones even existed. Almost 100% of the population has cell phones, and they are being used in some manner or another off and on continuously throughout the day. So of course they are being used during a significant number of accidents, because they're being us

    • by ultranova (717540)

      The main question is if the total accident rate has increased since cell phones became ubiquitous.

      Unfortunately we'd still need to control for other variables, such as various driver-aiding subsystems. The sad fact of the matter is that the chaotic nature of reality makes establishing almost any relationship beyond "tied to" impossible.

  • sort of like how the old 55-mph universal speed limit did.
  • by zenlessyank (748553) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @07:16PM (#46597937)
    Most people can't drive properly and legally as it is.
  • How many people-hours are spent texting while driving vs. talking while driving? The fact that only 5% are linked to texting doesn't say anything about the "specific danger" of texting, that is, the danger of texting normalized to some sane metric (people-hours spent texting, number of people who routinely text and drive, etc.). Since most people wear seatbelts, one could say that a very high percentage of accidents involve seatbelts, but that's not exactly a useful statistic. Apologies if this info is prom
  • http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehicl... [cdc.gov]

    So:
    30% Alcohol related
    25% Cellphone related
      5% Texting (separate?)
    -----
    60% of accidents could be eliminated if people would stop using cellphones, texting and driving drunk.

    That would be really nice.

    • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland.yahoo@com> on Thursday March 27, 2014 @07:25PM (#46598041) Homepage Journal

      Actually better done and accurate studies would be even better.

    • by Obfuscant (592200)

      60% of accidents could be eliminated if people would stop using cellphones, texting and driving drunk.

      That assumes that cellphones, texting, and driving drunk were the causal elements in the accidents and not just contributing or correlated with. I.e., I'm talking on a cellphone when an 18 wheeler runs a red light and t-bones me. Would not being on the cellphone have prevented that accident? Probably not.

      And it also ignores the fact that eliminating some causal elements doesn't mean it eliminates the accidents altogether. I'm using a cellphone and am distracted, crash. Prohibit cellphone use, I may switch

  • Statistics suck (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @07:23PM (#46598015)

    You know what is more dangerous than cellphones in cars? Breast. No lie.

    It is a fact that in over 50% of all accidents there were at LEAST 2 breasts in the car at the time. Often times 4 or more! Breasts are twice as likely to be involved in any accident that cellphone or penises. I call for an immediate ban on breasts in moving vehicles. They can be near them while the car is at rest, preferably at a car show, both otherwise they more dangerous than drunk driving!!!

    That's, of course, unless you want to actually use statistics for something other than alarmism.

    • It's even worse in two car accidents. Fully 75+% of those involve breasts.

      Sense not 100% of accidents are 1 car; the majority of accidents are breast related.

    • While your logic is sound, your proposal is ridiculous. How many car crashes are there where all occupants are naked while wearing a ridiculous hat? Not very many. Clearly, we should mandate that *everyone* drive naked (and wear a ridiculous hat).
    • by willy_me (212994)
      I have observed that breasts outside the vehicle and penises inside the vehicle is also a bad combo. Especially on those hot days when people tend to perspire. I suppose the only solution is to keep both breasts and penises out of vehicles.
  • they base this on? every other 'estimate' was based on a guess'

    Literally, based on guess. Not based on call or text logs. Just there where x amount of accidents, 70% have cell phones, so we will just say a 3rd of those were caused by cell phone use without even checking if they where that many on the phone.

    I don't believe 26% of accidents where cause by cellphones, and I won't until some actual good studies are done.

    • by mspohr (589790) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @07:40PM (#46598175)

      If you'd bothered to RTFA where they explain the research and the methodology, it would have answered your questions... Yes, it's based on actual "good studies" and no, it's not just a guess.
      Here's a clue for the clueless: McEvoy et al (2005); Redelmeier & Tibshirani (1997)

  • by GameMaster (148118) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @07:33PM (#46598109)

    What I want to know is what percentage of accidents involve at least one vehicle containing at least one passenger beyond the driver of that vehicle. I don't know for certain, but I'd imagine it's something up around 80%-90% or more. I think it's pretty safe to assume that if there is a passenger in the car, the driver probably spends at least some of their concentration paying attention to that person and/or talking to them. Just think of it, we could eliminate almost ALL accidents if we just outlawed the carrying of passengers... /s

    • yes but another passenger is another set of eyes on the road. Ever been in a car where the passenger alerted the driver "see that stop sign your about to blow through?"
    • What I want to know is what percentage of accidents involve at least one vehicle containing at least one passenger beyond the driver of that vehicle.

      Even worse, in 100% of cases a human was (perhaps nominally in some cases) in charge of the vehicle - a problem we do appear to be finally making some headway on solving.

    • by Rhywden (1940872)

      A normal passenger shuts up when he senses a dangerous situation, or may even alert the driver to a situation.

    • Careful studies of actual evidence have been done on this. No one has found an actual correlation.

    • by mcrbids (148650)

      Actually, I remember reading a study a while back covering this very subject. In fact, having passengers in the car engaged in conversation actually improved driver alertness because the passengers would pause talking, stiffen, make a sharp breathing noise, or other indications of tension causing the driver to be on alert even when otherwise oblivious to the driving risk.

      In practice, it's like having "more eyes on the road" even when they aren't driving.

  • by TechyImmigrant (175943) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @07:41PM (#46598191) Journal

    This is the same bad statistics that gets repeated every 3 or 4 months on Slashdot, from some stupid newspaper article.

    Looking at the number of accidents involving phones tells you nothing.
    It could be that a greater proportion of non-accident journeys involved phones.
    It could be that the accident rate would be higher without the phones because people are taking more care driving to compensate for operating a phone.

    How about taking a random sampling of car journeys and seeing the relative prevalence of phone use between accident and non-accident car journeys? It would have to be a very large study because the accident rate relative to the car-journey rate is very low. It would have to be a random sampling from a larger sample population to suppress confounding effects.

    Good statistics over human behaviors with small effects is very hard to do because it requires big studies. But we know exactly how to do it.

    • by Entropius (188861)

      Politicians like narratives, not statistics. Solid statistics, especially if they don't support banning things or passing rules that make you look more important, don't tend to advance your career.

    • http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/P... [dot.gov]

      An NHSTA sponsored study says at any given moment during the day, 5% of Americans are driving while using a cell phone.. The study has some caveats - it relied on phone surveys, visual road-side observations, and only goes up to 2011, so may be significantly under-reporting cell phone usage. I estimate that number is closer to 10% based on casual observation while driving. So in a two -car accident that gives a 10% chance of a cell phone used in one of the cars. If the

  • by troll -1 (956834) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @07:52PM (#46598317)
    The NSC cites McEvoy et al (2005); Redelmeier & Tibshirani (1997) as the source for the 1 in 4 stat. I don't see a ref Saurabh Bhargava and Vikram S. Pathania (2013) http://tech.slashdot.org/story... [slashdot.org]. Correlation does not mean causation, folks. Let's not forget that.
  • Bring Darwin Back! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ichijo (607641) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @07:56PM (#46598367) Homepage Journal

    We need to replant trees by the sides of roads. You know, the ones they dug out because drivers kept hitting them. This will give inattentive drivers something better to crash into than other road users, hopefully removing only one set of DNA from the gene pool.

  • Mainly, how prevalent is cell phone use when driving?

    Just to make up some numbers to illustrate the point, say 50% of the time drivers were on their cell phones. If cell phones were linked with just 25% of accidents, then that would actually mean cell phones made driving safer. The 50% of cars where the driver used a cell phone accounted for 25% of accidents; the 50% of cars where the driver didn't use a cell phone accounted for 75% of accidents.

    I'm pretty sure cell phone use does increase the accid
    • by Entropius (188861)

      People who are good at thinking clearly about statistics don't often find their way into the telling-other-people-what-to-do business, sadly.

  • Its all bs (Score:4, Informative)

    by Lawrence_Bird (67278) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @08:18PM (#46598569) Homepage

    Back in the 70s the same people would say cigarette smoking caused crashes because a large % of drivers smoked. Studies have shown that talking on a cell phone is as 'distracting' as talking to somebody else in the car. And given the exuberance to ban cell phone use, can we tackle the most serious problem facing drivers?

    Driving with children isn’t just slightly more dangerous; it’s a full 12 times more dangerous, according to the study. When researchers installed cameras in the cars of 12 families over a three-week period, they found talking on the phone only accounted for one percent of distractions. Distractions from children, meanwhile, accounted for 12 percent of all distractions. Over the course of an average 16-minute trip, parents that had kids present spent three minutes and 22 seconds with their eyes not on the road.

    Last I checked driving fatalities have been on a downward slope forever. Please stop the safety nanny crowd before it is too late.

  • People dumb enough to text while driving often end up wrapping their cars around stationary objects. I can't find any way to get this information in more than just word-bite style delivery without paying money for it.
  • Like "alcohol-related' accidents, where the police are required to check a box if either driver, whether to blame or not for the accident, and whether or not either is actually impaired, if they had a drink earlier in the day.

    Same goes here, I suspect, padding the numbers because somebody was having a conversation at some point in their drive, and considered "involved" even if the driver who had the call wasn't to blame for the accident.

    All this does is serve the personal agendas of "safety experts" who hav

  • What fraction of driving time do people spend on the phone? If people are on the phone 25% of the time (which seems reasonable, looking at folks on the Beltway) then this statistic is expected.

    These safety trolls need to do a proper study: "what fraction of drivers who crash were on the phone" compared to "what fraction of drivers who didn't crash were on the phone". Talking with a headset on is less distracting than talking to someone in the passenger seat, as there is no other person to look at.

    At the ver

  • The Slashdot summary says "safety advocates." The first link says "safety advocates" but doesn't specify who those are.

    WHO IS LOBBYING FOR A CELLPHONE BAN ON THE ROADS?

    Please advise. My bet is the [required mandatory] insurance lobby.

    E

  • by jxander (2605655) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @09:06PM (#46598897)

    I don't see a solid definition of what constitutes a crash involving a cell phone.

    If the phone is strapped to the dashboard streaming music with the screen off... does that count? The phone is "in use"
    If I'm driving and my passenger is texting... and someone runs a red light, hitting us. Does that constitute a crash involving a cell phone?
    If my phone is providing turn by turn directions for me, does that make the cut?
    If I'm stopped a a red light and talking on my phone, when someone rear ends me...?

    Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera...

    Ambiguous syntax implies intentionally loose constraints, imo.

  • by Orgasmatron (8103) on Thursday March 27, 2014 @09:58PM (#46599203)

    This is a page out of MADD's playbook.

    Accident report forms are used to collect statistical data. Like a game of Telephone, as you get further from the event, the more the "data" reflects the currently prevailing biases.

    Here is an example, one that has been documented by researchers trying to figure out where bullshit MADD claims were coming from:

    Drunk pedestrian steps out in front of a car, gets hit and killed. The "Fatality" box gets checked, of course. The pedestrian's alcohol box also gets checked.

    Now a researcher comes along and compiles them into alcohol-involved vs alcohol-free.

    Then a second researcher comes along and looks at the alcohol-involved accidents and counts how many of them were fatalities. Sadly, this guy doesn't bother looking at the primary data, he just assumes that the alcohol involved was in the blood of the driver that caused the accident.

    Bam! A drunk pedestrian has morphed into a drunk driver. And since there is lots of money to be had by producing statistics that support neo-prohibition, and none to speak of for honest research, the "researchers" are rewarded for their apathy.

    Now imagine a checkbox on the accident report form labelled "cell phone present"...

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