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Communications Science

Cellphone Drivers Drive Like Drunks 1032

TDavid writes "A University of Utah study claims that drivers who use a cell phone will be 'more impaired than drunken drivers with blood alcohol levels exceeding 0.08.' The study also says that use will turn a driver who is age 20 into age 70. Hands-free systems apparently don't help much either as they still require a driver to 'actively be part of a conversation.' What about in vehicle systems like OnStar?"
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Cellphone Drivers Drive Like Drunks

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  • by TeleoMan ( 529859 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @02:22PM (#11552668)
    Indeed. And /. editors spell like dumb.
  • Old People (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AsnFkr ( 545033 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @02:22PM (#11552670) Homepage Journal
    If it is a proven scientific fact that old people drive like they are drunk, why are they allowd to drive?
    • Re:Old People (Score:4, Insightful)

      by damiangerous ( 218679 ) <> on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @02:27PM (#11552759)
      Because the AARP is one of the most powerful lobbying groups there is, and they fight tooth and nail against anything that even resembles competency testing.
      • Re:Old People (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Max Romantschuk ( 132276 ) <> on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @02:57PM (#11553192) Homepage
        Because the AARP is one of the most powerful lobbying groups there is, and they fight tooth and nail against anything that even resembles competency testing.

        You don't have competency testing for the elderly in the states? It's standard practice here in Finland. If the doctor says you're not fit to drive your licence is taken away. There are periodic checkups, and they are mandatory.
        • Re:Old People (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Mr. Slippery ( 47854 ) <tms AT infamous DOT net> on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @03:12PM (#11553405) Homepage
          If the doctor says you're not fit to drive your licence is taken away. There are periodic checkups, and they are mandatory.

          Part of the problem is that here in the U.S., in many areas it is very difficult to live indepentently without a car. I don't just mean rural areas, I mean cities like my hometown of Baltimore with suck-ass mass transit. (Though some U.S. cities are great in this respect - I just got back from San Francisco with it's excellent Muni and BART systems.)

          Take someone's licence away, and thanks to our automobile-centric planning they quite possibly can't even get to the grocery store anymore.

          If the AARP was smart, they'd be lobbying for good public transportation - it would be a great benefit for senior citizens who can't drive safely.

          • Re:Old People (Score:5, Informative)

            by Psmylie ( 169236 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @03:42PM (#11553843) Homepage
            I agree, to a point... Where I live, there are options available(Metro Mobility, bus, etc.) which, although inconvenient, can get an older person almost anywhere. Yet, older folks around here still fight tooth and nail to retain their driving "rights". When a lot of elderly people say they can't survive without a car, they mean they can't live as convieniently without a car. Public transportation improvements alone are not enough, since many seniors would refuse to take it.

            As far as having elderly people drive... my Grandmother is already at the point where I consider her a hazard to public safety, even though she's convinced that she's a good driver. My Aunts and Uncles are afraid to pressure her into quitting driving (they might make her MAD or something! the horror!). I told them that I would talk to her about it, because her independance is not worth the lives of the family that she might kill because she got distracted at the wrong time or couldn't react quickly enough in an emergency.

            I've already told my own mother that I'm taking the keys away when she gets too old. If her reaction is any indication as to how it will go when I actually try, then I'm sure to be in for a fight on that one...

      • by merlin_jim ( 302773 ) <James DOT McCrac ... ratapult DOT com> on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @03:04PM (#11553285)
        Because the AARP is one of the most powerful lobbying groups there is, and they fight tooth and nail against anything that even resembles competency testing.

        Which is quite ironic, considering who we're talking about here
      • Re:Old People (Score:5, Insightful)

        by pavon ( 30274 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @03:07PM (#11553330)
        He is right, and the reason that they are such a strong lobbying group is because old people vote.

        Politicians care about one thing more than any other - getting rellected. If you look at all the lobbying groups that are successfull it is for two reasons - they have a large influence on a large voting block, or they make large contributions to the politician's campain funds. One of these is mostly good, as it represents the (politically active) people through proxy (and in a populace this large, it is impossible to get attention any other way). The other is mostly bad, as it only represents the will of a few wealthy contributers. Not all lobbying is equal.

        In this case it is simply democracy in action - the majority of voters think that old people should be allowed to drive, so they are.
    • by handy_vandal ( 606174 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @02:36PM (#11552922) Homepage Journal
      If it is a proven scientific fact that old people drive like they are drunk, why are they allowd to drive?

      Because they control the government: police, courts, armed forces, etc.

      Because they run the economy -- banks, corporate boards, regulations. (Alan Greenspan is no spring chicken [].)

      Because they can -- or think they can -- continue to drive forever, and they don't want to stop.

      I remember one old guy who'd been in an accident, mainly because his driving skills had eroded badly. When challenged, he stated that he would give it up when he killed somebody ... a joke, I think, but that's how much driving meant to him.

    • Re:Old People (Score:3, Insightful)

      by smchris ( 464899 )
      why are they allowd to drive?

      Silly question. BECAUSE THEY HAVE TO.

      How many world-class metropolitan cities in the U.S. have subway systems? How many lesser-class metros have comprehensive bus systems?

      And how many corner stores, how many neighborhood main streets, have been eaten by suburban WalMarts?

      For that matter, where is the nuclear family? You live in the same city as your parents? They live with you? And will your kids be there for you?

      The U.S. transportation system is a basket case.
      • Re:Old People (Score:3, Interesting)

        by saforrest ( 184929 )
        [And what transport system has? But no matter.]

        I don't know how many times I've heard people of a market-libertarian bent denigrate the public transit system because it "costs too much" while upholding the wondrous laissez-faire wunderkind that is the highway system.

        A state subsidy is a state subsidy; though it's funny that accusations of socialism are tossed about only for public transit (or public healthcare).
      • Re:Old People (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @03:05PM (#11553301)
        Yeah, but high quality public transportation is bad for the auto industry.

        Thats why Ford spent so much money lobbying to stop public transportation development in LA and Chicago.

      • Nuclear family (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Cro Magnon ( 467622 )
        Availability of family makes a HUGE difference. My mom never got a car because we used to live close to decent shopping, and by the time most of the shops closed, I had a car. I live about 5 minutes from her and drive her where she needs to go. If I wasn't nearby, it would be a lot harder for her to get by without a car.
    • Re:Old People (Score:3, Insightful)

      If it is a proven scientific fact that old people drive like they are drunk, why are they allowd to drive?

      I can think of three reasons:

      1. They paid for the road, built the road, designed the road....

      2. Safer drivers don't vote.

      3. We, as a society, choose to accept the added risk out of respect for our elders.

    • by starm_ ( 573321 )
      Everyone is so negative that they missed the positive point of this study. The great thing seems to be that driving drunk isn't as bad as we thought it was! The study states that it just about as dangerous as driving while speaking to someone else. That is good news for all of us alcohol consumers!
    • Re:Old People (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sierpinski ( 266120 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @03:49PM (#11553926)
      On a side note, people claim that restricting the elderly from driving is age discrimination. However, we already practice that by not allowing 13-year olds to drive. The restrictions need to focus less on age (although I don't disagree with the minimum age requirements) and more on driving ability. I've seen dozens of first-hand accounts of where some very old person got in an accident either because they had horrible reaction time, or just plain didn't see something that they should have seen easily.

      There was a news-documentary a few years ago about this elderly guy wearing a neck brace. He was totally unable to move his head to the left, at all. The reporter was in the car with him, and he asked her to check left. She asked what he does when hes alone in the car, and he replied that he just listens and hopes for the best.

      I also witnessed an elderly woman who was standing in front of me at the BMV line fail her eye test 14 times (I counted) before she finally passed. I took my eye test, filled out my paperwork, and started pulling out of my car before she even finished getting IN her car.

      The problem is, no legislation will ever pass to restrict this, for two reasons:

      1) Most of congress would probably fall into this category
      2) The highest percent of voters is the elderly. They would never vote to have their own licenses put in jeopardy.
  • Difference (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NETHED ( 258016 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @02:23PM (#11552672) Homepage
    Then what is the difference between talking to someone in your car, and talking to someone on a hands free headset.
    • Re:Difference (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      A person in the passenger seat can generally point out if you are about to rear-end someone...
      • Re:Difference (Score:3, Interesting)

        by EinarH ( 583836 )
        He _can_ do that, but how often do you think that happen? Passengers alerting the driver would result in fewer accidents with cars with more passangers.

        I remember this study, can't find a link, 4 years ago or so in Europe, that showed that the "mobile phone-talking will lead to death and destruction. TM" idea is very overrated.
        Out of several hundred serious car crashes that occured due to distractions (not lack of sleep, drugs, alco, suicide, overall fucked up skills, weather etc.) ~60% were caused by tal

      • Re:Difference (Score:3, Insightful)

        "A person in the passenger seat can generally point out if you are about to rear-end someone..."

        I find it worse with the person in the car. A cellphone I can drop or tell them to hold on if traffic gets rough. With someone in the car you can't make them shut up or stop blocking your view.

        That's the problem with these types of studies. It's nice to compare the effects of cell phone use with the nominal "no distraction" case, but doesn't answer the right questions. At least this one compared it to dri

    • Re:Difference (Score:5, Insightful)

      by david.given ( 6740 ) <dg.cowlark@com> on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @02:26PM (#11552753) Homepage Journal
      Because the other person in the car is exposed to the same environment you are, and you are aware of each other's body language. It's a small matter, but a crucial one: it requires far less attention to communicate with someone who is physically present than with someone who's a disconnected voice on the other end of a telephone line.

      For example, if a truck suddenly pulls out in front of you, you will suddenly focus on it; your passenger will tend to notice this and stop talking. Someone on the other end of a phone won't.

      • by ad0gg ( 594412 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @02:29PM (#11552807)
        My passenger is blind you insensitive clod.
      • by Beatlebum ( 213957 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @02:31PM (#11552832)
        >> For example, if a truck suddenly pulls out in front of you, you will suddenly focus on it; your passenger will tend to notice this and stop talking

        You're obviously not married.
      • It's a small matter, but a crucial one: it requires far less attention to communicate with someone who is physically present than with someone who's a disconnected voice on the other end of a telephone line.

        I disagree- but possibly because I have Asperger's. It takes a lot more energy and attention to communicate with somebody physically present due to the increased data from body language, than to talk to a disconnected voice on the other end of a telephone line. Still- I find that saying "oops- hold o
      • Re:Difference (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ivan256 ( 17499 ) * on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @03:22PM (#11553569)
        For example, if a truck suddenly pulls out in front of you, you will suddenly focus on it; your passenger will tend to notice this and stop talking. Someone on the other end of a phone won't.

        Apparently you've never experienced small children in the back seat; a situation that can be as bad, or worse than a driver on the phone.

        The real issue is not that people drive poorly when they're on the phone, the issue is that people are allowed to drive at all without better training and testing. Being slightly impared wouldn't be such a big deal if you could drive properly in the first place. Not only that, but if you were better trained and a better driver you would potentially be able to deal with the phone conversation in a way that wouldn't impair your driving.

        Instead of driving test focusing on worthless crap like how many points you get on your license for passing a school bus, you should be forced to prove you can handle a variety of traffic situations, and you should have to get a perfect score. Once you've passed the test, traffic law enforcement needs to stop focusing on the easily prosecutable offences like speeding and start giving tickets for failure to signal, following too close, incorrect yielding of the right of way, blocking traffic because you never learned how to parallel park correctly, etc. Additionally, instead of just a vision test when you go to get your license renewed, you should have to prove that you retained some of those skills in order to retain permission to use the roads.

        Taking the cell phones away from drivers is a symptom fix. We should attack the root of the problem.
        • carry a flyswatter in the front seat.. so you don't have to reach so far to swat the screaming kids.. trust me you only have to do this once.. (i'm not a kid but i used to be one)


      • if a truck suddenly pulls out in front of you, you will suddenly focus on it; your passenger will tend to notice this and stop talking.

        Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?
    • Re:Difference (Score:5, Insightful)

      by American AC in Paris ( 230456 ) * on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @02:30PM (#11552823) Homepage
      Talking to a passenger isn't as distracting as talking on the cellphone, but it is certainly more distracting than not talking to anybody.

      A passenger is aware of the traffic situation. If you suddenly stop talking to a passenger, they'll look and see it is because a bunch of brake lights just came on up ahead, you need to pay attention to traffic, and the passenger should just sit quietly until it's smooth sailing again.

      In a cell phone conversation, the person you're talking to has no awareness of what traffic conditions are like. You, the driver, could suddenly need to jam the brakes and swerve to avoid somebody drifting into your lane--and the person on the phone would just keep on chirping away about how "so anyway, then I said that there's no way my card is overdrawn because you paid those bills, right, and so..."

      It may not command all of your attention, but in an emergency traffic situation, every slightest bit of attention that gets pulled away from the road can make the difference. A cell phone conversation can make the difference between missing that other guy's bumper by inches and getting clipped into an uncontrolled spin at 60 miles per hour.

    • spectrum (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Doc Ruby ( 173196 )
      When you talk with a live person in the car, you're getting a lot more input from your senses. Our minds (and probably brains and other organs) are evolved to interact with a live person, while doing other things simultaneously (cooperative work). Talking on the phone is an abstract activity, and further occupies many of the higher functions, like imagination, that driving also requires. So it's easier to concentrate on driving, while also talking to a live person, than while talking on the phone.

      BUT, eve
    • Re:Difference (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @02:39PM (#11552978)
      > Then what is the difference between talking to someone in your car, and talking to someone on a hands free headset.

      I'll bite. "A combination of shared situational awareness and greatly increased audio bandwidth".

      Shared situational awareness: If I'm talking to a driver and I see a hazard, I'll either STFU if it appears the driver has noticed the hazard, or I'll road hazard: tire fragment ahead on left mention it in midsentence if it looks like it's something out of the driver's field of view.

      Increased audio bandwidth in meatspace relative to cellphonespace: When I'm talking to someone in meatspace, I'm getting a full uncompressed analog signal of that person's voice. Real easy for my brain to parse that into words, because that's what my ears evolved to receive, and what my brain evolved to parse.

      When I'm talking on the cellphone, I'm getting the analog voice, downsampled to 8 KHz analog bandwidth for the POTS connection, and then digitized and recompressed to what sounds like a swishy watery-sounding MP3 at 16 Kb/s (with squelch/dropouts for near-silent bits of the conversation, to save the phone company even more bandwidth). Ugh.

      Even off the road, my brain has to work a lot harder to reconstruct that into human speech than it does in meatspace. A fraction of a second pause, a few milliseconds of a breath that don't make it past the squelch, all of those things make a difference. Was that stunned silence? Was it "whoa?" [as in whoa, that's stupid], or was it "whoa!" [as in whoa, that's brilliant].

      Our brains evolved to detect those nuances in meatspace speech. The nuances can sruvive text transmissions like email, because we've trained ourselves (unless we're insensitive clods!) to manually reinsert them. It all gets stripped out at downsampled, 16 KHz compressed audio, with bandwidth-saving squelch.

      And that's why your driving-brain runs out of CPU cycles more quickly when talking on a cellphone than when talking to a passenger.

      • Re:Difference (Score:3, Interesting)

        by RedWizzard ( 192002 )

        Increased audio bandwidth in meatspace relative to cellphonespace

        This is the key, I think. I have a friend who has quite a strong accent, to the point where I have to concentrate more than usual to understand her. On the phone (landline) it's much worse, and it's the audio quality that is the problem. Cellphones are worse again - I find it's necessary to concentrate harder on a cellphone conversation than a regular conversation, thus they are more distracting while driving.

  • I was hoping the effects would cancel each other out, two wrongs don't make a right?
  • Also in the news today: Slashdot Editors Post Stories Like Drunk.
  • That should read:

    "Cellphone Drivers Drive Like Women."
    • by ad0gg ( 594412 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @02:39PM (#11552980)
      In many studies, it is shown that women make more errors than men in driving. Men on the otherhand are more risk takers and their accidents are usually associated with excess speed which has a higher percentage of fatalities. That is why men pay more for insurance.

      "This supports the suggestion by Storie (1977) that men are more at risk from accidents involving high speed while women are at more likely to be involved in accidents resulting from perceptual judgement errors."

      Social Research Centre Study []

      • I'd like to see if there was any work done describing how gender affects the ability to drive and talk on the cell phone. I've heard that women are more adept at multitasking and it would be interesting to see if their reaction times are better while talking on the phone than men's.
  • turn SOME drivers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by xThinkx ( 680615 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @02:24PM (#11552693) Homepage

    Let's be fair here, cell phones turn SOME drivers into worse-than-drunk drivers. ANYONE with a .08 BAC is going to drive poorly, only some folks who talk on a cell phone while they drive will drive poorly.

    I'm going to be preemptive here, the solution lies in education, training and responsibility, not prohibition.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      only some folks who talk on a cell phone while they drive will drive poorly.

      Ah, but I bet you drive poorer when using a phone than you drive when not using a phone.

      I don't care if it still doesn't knock you into the general level of "poor" driver, if I'm driving around you I want you at your best.

      I'll grant you the same courtesy.

    • by hazee ( 728152 )
      The trouble with this is that everyone then claims that it's other people who are affected, in much the same way that most drivers tend to think they are "above average".

      Rather than hoping that a load of people are going to admit, first to themselves, and then to the rest of the world, that they're really crap drivers when on the phone, better to just ban it for everyone.

      It's not so different to alcohol - some people may be able to drive OK with high levels, but is it really worth taking the chance? Would
  • I know where I am at one of the things they have attributed to traffic increase is people on their phones. They drive slower so there is more conjestion.
  • by k4_pacific ( 736911 ) <k4_pacific@yahoo ... om minus painter> on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @02:24PM (#11552696) Homepage Journal
    I bought a hands free system so I could talk on the cell phone in the car and IT DIDN'T WORK. As soon as I turned it on and let go of the steering wheel, the car drifted off the road and hit a Big Boy statue. What a rip off.
  • OnStar (Score:3, Insightful)

    by b0lt ( 729408 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @02:24PM (#11552699)
    OnStar is nothing like a cell phone. If you're using OnStar, you have most likely already crashed. It's a system for helping you when you're in trouble, not a cell phone with speaker phone enabled. Slightly useful service :)

    • Re:OnStar (Score:3, Informative)

      by rjstanford ( 69735 )
      Actually, OnStar provides outbound celphone like service, for an additional fee. It has the advantage of working damn near everywhere, even in cel dead spots. It has the disadvantage of being expensive.
    • Re:OnStar (Score:3, Informative)

      by the pickle ( 261584 )
      Actually, that's exactly what OnStar is -- a cell fone with a speakerfone. It just happens to be hooked into some sensors that tell it to fone home in "emergency" mode if certain sensors are triggered. But it has the capability to act as a normal cell fone, too. The minutes/service are just fantastically expensive, so you never hear about it.

      (FWIW, Verizon is now offering OnStar coverage piggybacked onto a regular Verizon plan for an extra $10/month.)

  • Order today (Score:5, Funny)

    by AtariAmarok ( 451306 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @02:24PM (#11552705)
    Click here [] to order the ideal telephone for the "drunk talker" driver.
  • Mothers aren't allowed to drive with children in the car?

    Partitions between the driver's and passenger's side seats so that I don't distract myself by talking to the person in the car next to me?

    Ban the car stereo?

    Wouldn't it all be so much safer if we were all kept in our homes so that our annoying presences won't cause unhappy things in the lives of all those other, perfect people out there?
  • The study focused on cell phones but really anything that distracts you from the road will most likely have the same results. ie eating and driving, changing cds, kids in the back etc..
  • by jhines0042 ( 184217 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @02:25PM (#11552712) Journal
    Driving while talking on the cell I almost ran a red light.....

    I'm usually a very good driver. On the cell phone though.... Ok... From now on, no more talking and driving.

  • One reason (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lord_Dweomer ( 648696 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @02:25PM (#11552721) Homepage
    I'm sure one reason for this is when you've been drinking, and you make the decision to drive, you make DAMN sure you are doing all you can to focus on driving.

    When people are driving with cellphones, rather than realizing how hindered their attention is, they just continue on thinking their fine, because hey, they're not drunk!

    And yes, I realize this is not the exact thought process, but my point was that for the vast majority of people, they do not see in-car cellphone use as a huge risk compared to say...drinking while driving. And good luck convincing people otherwise. People aren't going to like being told that they cannot talk to other people while driving. Thank god for cordless headsets and speakerphone.

  • by revery ( 456516 ) <> on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @02:26PM (#11552735) Homepage
    Nokia and Apple team up to create the iFlask. For all your driving impairment needs.

  • by sczimme ( 603413 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @02:26PM (#11552742)

    Clicky. []

    The folks at El Reg had a question:

    "Which means that a 70-year-old yakking away on his cellphone has the reaction times of a 120-year-old, or have we misunderstood this rather poor analogy?"
    • Being a safe driver is more than just reaction times. It's being able to anticipate the need to react. IMHO, this is not something that is maximized after only 4 years of driving. The evidence that this is true comes from the insurance industry, who charge very high rates for anyone under 25. Why? Because even though a 20 year old (on average) probably has better reaction times than a 25 year old, the 25 year old has more experience to know to avoid certain situations that require the use of that react
  • Pull 'em over! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bluesman ( 104513 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @02:28PM (#11552787) Homepage
    If police would do their jobs instead of sitting on their asses at speed traps, we wouldn't need cell phone laws, or studies like this.

    Inevitably, anyone on a cell phone is breaking about 15 other driving laws because they can't concentrate. The drunkenness or cell-phone conversation is not the problem -- the swerving and going 20 miles an hour under the speed limit in the passing lane is. Pull them over for those things, and the idiot cell phone holding driver would quickly become a thing of the past.

    • Re:Pull 'em over! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by hawk ( 1151 ) <> on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @03:08PM (#11553341) Journal
      I am a lawyer, but this is not legal advice. If you get legal advice on the web, you're not fit to drive with or without a cellphone.

      The phrasing of the results suggested that the impairment is only slightly more than a .08 BAL.

      While I was handling DUI cases, the BAL was .10. Very few of the people that were near that level were initially pulled over for the DUI, but instead for other offenses--the intoxication is noted due to attitude, slow response, fumbling for the registration, and the like.

      The weavers that are pulled over for DUI are in the .20 range, suggesting that the officers wouldn't have the cues to pull these folks over in the first place.

      hawk, esq.
  • by syntap ( 242090 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @02:33PM (#11552857)
    I have always maintained that handsfree doesn't do squat... it's the split mental attention and not having both hands on the wheel.

    Try this easy test... during the superbowl, call someone up on your phone (with headset or without, doesn't matter). During the conversation, after every play, write down the number of yards gained/lost and the number on the jersey of the player that gained/lost them. You'll probably experience "slave can't serve two masters" syndrome and have to dedicate more attention to one or the other, either by having to say "hold on" or "um, what was that?" to whoever you are talking to or missing play stats to keep up with the conversation. Unfortunately, priority in a car most often goes to the conversation.
    • Reading, writing, and talking all engage the language processing portions of your brain. Humans are effectively single-processor when it comes to language skills. Long ago, the military/intelligence agencies researched having people listen to two conversations at once (one thruogh each ear) to pick out useful portions of tapped phone calls. They found that it couldn't be done, and was actually less effective than just listening to one conversation. Your brain is just not wired to do two different things
  • Utah?? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Reignking ( 832642 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @02:36PM (#11552916) Journal
    What does anyone in the state of Utah know about drinking?
  • Common sense (Score:4, Insightful)

    by daveo0331 ( 469843 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @03:04PM (#11553280) Homepage Journal
    How many times are we going to debate whether or not cellphone driving is dangerous? I think the answer is, it depends. Some situations are more dangerous than others. If you're in a situation that demands a lot of attention (driving through downtown, lots of lights, lots of lane changes, whatever) you probably shouldn't be on the phone. If you're crawling along in traffic at 5mph, or driving across Nebraska on i-80, you can probably get away with making a phone call. Here's some tips:

    If you're in a situation where you can't talk and drive at the same time, don't make phone calls and don't answer the phone. Your phone has voicemail and caller ID for a reason.

    You are not available 24/7. If someone can't understand this, this is their problem. If it's your job to be available 24/7, get a hands free device or something.

    If you have a passenger, have them make phone calls if possible.

    Avoid lane changes while on the phone (unless you have tons of room). Even if it means following that truck at 60mph for a minute or two.

    If you suddenly need to pay full attention to driving, do so. Being impolite is better than totalling your car.

    If you were in a traffic jam, but aren't anymore, it's OK to tell the person on the other end of the line and say you need to hang up.

  • by blair1q ( 305137 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @03:06PM (#11553316) Journal
    There should be a law against "Driving while Not Me", because everyone else on the road is a menace.
  • No Kidding (Score:5, Funny)

    by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @03:11PM (#11553391) Journal
    Cell phone users also act like drunks. They stand in public places, yell very loudly and think that their conversation about whether it's pizza or Chinese tonight is so important we must all hear it.

    The only thing missing is public urination, but I'm sure that's an add-on service.
  • This is troubling. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sbaker ( 47485 ) * on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @03:11PM (#11553399) Homepage
    I've certainly tried using a cellphone in the car and it's really aparrent to me that I'm not driving as well as I should. So my cellphone stays off in the car. I'm a big time supporter of banning hands-on cellphone use by the drivers of moving vehicles.

    But these studies that show that hands-free devices are also unacceptably dangerous make me worry about having another person in the car with me? If I have an 'active conversation' with a passenger as I drive, am I at the same risk as with a hands-free cellphone?

    I've never used a hands-free cellphone - but I certainly don't *feel* like my driving is suffering when I talk with a passenger as I drive.

    So if that's an accurate observation - and a hands-free phone conversation is somehow worse than chatting with a passenger - then what makes the difference?

    Is it that a passenger notices when driving conditions require more of my attention and stops talking? Is it something to do with the quality of the audio from the phone? What?

    Seems like a study of *THAT* distinction would provide interesting data on the nature of the problem.
    • I have done a little bit of reading into acoustics as it relates to various codecs and the mental processing involved in listening to audio that has been mangled in certain ways. It simply comes down to the fact that you must concentrate very hard to interpret a voice that has had all freqencies above 4kHz cut off, a notch cut out around 1.8kHz, and then had the resultant audio compressed down to something in the 5 to 13 kbps range (depending on the technology your phone uses).

      Not only does it sound bad, b
  • by PortHaven ( 242123 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @03:12PM (#11553406) Homepage
    A rant...

    A rant... (mainly cause it seems like they keep re-publishing this identical article every 3 months, and it gets annoying)

    "If you put a 20-year-old driver behind the wheel with a cell phone, his reaction times are the same as a 70-year-old driver," said David Strayer, a University of Utah psychology professor and principal author of the study. "It's like instant aging."

    In fact, motorists who talk on cell phones are more impaired than drunk drivers with blood-alcohol levels exceeding .08, Strayer and colleague Frank Drews, an assistant professor of psychology, found during research conducted in 2003.

    What this really says article says...

    Is that Elderly are a helluva a lot more dangerous than drunk drivers and should really be taken off the road.

    Secondly, there is much question as to the validity of the tests.

    "The study found that drivers who talked on cell phones were 18 percent slower in braking and took 17 percent longer to regain the speed they lost when they braked."

    The first part is in deed a concern. The second is not. The 17% increase length to regain speed is most likely due to a cell phone user being extra cautious after such an ordeal and double-checking before they regain speed. This is NOT a bad thing.

    Anyways, how much time are we talking here?

    "The numbers....come down to milliseconds"

    "The new research questions the effectiveness of cell phone usage laws in states such as New York and New Jersey, which only ban the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. It's not so much the handling of a phone, Strayer said, but the fact that having a conversation is a mental process that can drain concentration."

    First off, we have to start admitting that not everyone can multi-task. We also need to see the statistics on an individual level. If 1/3 showed minimal impairment, and 1/3 showed no impairment, and 1/3 showed dramatic impairment. What is the breakdown?

    I know plenty of drivers who are often 'distracted drivers'. Particularly when they have people in the car. How do these statistics compare to the same driver with a passenger? with four passengers? And I am sorry....a cell phone user is NOT more impaired than a drunk driver. It is political BS. I refuse to buy it and no statistic will prove it to me. Simply put...I see tons of people driving on the cell phones - and driving fine. Sometimes a momentary reaction issue...yes. But when I see a drunk driver they are all over 2 or three lanes. They nearly hit everyone. They often run off the road. Somehow it is hard for me to accept that I can see a 100+ cell phone users who are supposedly "more impaired" and they don't perform as poorly as drunk drivers.

    So let's look at the truth instead of the non-stop media propaganda bullcrap.


    According to the American Automobile Association, wireless phones were not among the top five contributing factors in auto accidents. From the more than 32,000 accidents analyzed, wireless phones contributed to 1.5 percent of accidents, according to the AAA research published in May.

    The most distracting was an outside object, person or event, which contributed to 29.4 percent of accidents analyzed. AAA also determined that cassette or CD players were more distracting than cell phones, resulting in 11.4 percent of accidents analyzed.

    Distractions from another occupant in the vehicle, such as a chatty passenger or baby, contributed to 10.9 percent of accidents. Eating or drinking contributed to 1.7 percent, according to the AAA study.


    Well, 1.5% compared 11.4% for CD players. Sure seems like car CD players should be banned before cell phones does it not. Let's ban whiny babies from cars as well.

    In truth, I spend much of my time driving on the cell phone. And drive much better than most of my local area residents. Furthermore, it has helped me remain awake and vibrant on long road trips.

    In truth, I've been bitched out on a few
    • by Idarubicin ( 579475 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @04:44PM (#11554625) Journal
      Is that Elderly are a helluva a lot more dangerous than drunk drivers and should really be taken off the road.

      Dangerous drivers--be they drunk, elderly, or just distracted by their phones--should all be off the streets. I don't see any reason to privilege one group of dangerous drivers over another. The fact that drunk and dangerous elderly drivers still seem to be on the road doesn't support the notion that other dangerous drivers should be ignored.

      Simply put...I see tons of people driving on the cell phones - and driving fine. Sometimes a momentary reaction issue...yes. But when I see a drunk driver they are all over 2 or three lanes. They nearly hit everyone. They often run off the road. Somehow it is hard for me to accept that I can see a 100+ cell phone users who are supposedly "more impaired" and they don't perform as poorly as drunk drivers.

      As another poster has already asked--how do you know that you didn't pass hundreds of drunk drivers who were staying in their lanes, driving along, but with much slower reaction times? Unless they're actually holding up flasks, you can't measure blood alcohol remotely. As a frequent pedestrian in a large city, I will gladly submit my own (subjective and anecdotal) opinion that drivers on cell phones are less aware of their surroundings.

      And I am sorry....a cell phone user is NOT more impaired than a drunk driver. It is political BS. I refuse to buy it and no statistic will prove it to me.

      And I am sorry...tobacco use is NOT more likely to kill me than the local nuclear plant. It is political BS. I refuse to buy it and no statistic will prove it to me.

      Seriously--people are really bad at assessing risks. This is the type of question that statistics are designed for. Relative risks, odds ratios, confidence intervals. Feel free to provide specific criticism of the study methodology, and note where errors or biases may have been introduced. Don't try to tell me that anecdotal evidence is inherently more reliable for risk assessment than large-scale statistical analysis.

      "The numbers....come down to milliseconds"

      If you pull the study (it's online here [] in PDF format) then the total difference is reaction time is on average 130 ms, or about 12 feet at 60 mph (3.5 m at 100 km/h).

      The key? is to know if you can multi-task or not. If you can't multi-task than DON'T USE A CELL PHONE AND DRIVE AT THE SAME TIME unless it's an emergency. A little common sense, and a little less stupidity will bring the human race a long way!

      The problem is that people tend to be very poor judges of their own abilities. Ask anybody--they will tell you that they are an above average driver, but that there sure are a lot of idiots out on the road. People don't notice their own bad habits, unless and until they actually hit somebody. That's the whole point of a distraction--it means that you don't notice when you're making mistakes. I'm not saying that the parent poster is a bad driver, but that I don't trust people in general to be able to make that assessment.

    • by delmoi ( 26744 )
      is that a 0.08 BAC level is not very dangerous at all. Prettymuch anything is more dangerous then that, including actualy drinking, a regular beverage.
  • by CharAznable ( 702598 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @03:14PM (#11553436)
    Well, I have a Treo 650 and it's great because I can post on Slashdot while I drive and it's actually quite safe bec[NO CARRIER]
  • by fluxrad ( 125130 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @03:41PM (#11553832) Homepage
    Im drvnig riht now, an posting to salsgdot though my wirless servic. i dont oarticulaly see the diifficulty. mabe otjers just dopnt have good drving skils.

    In all seriousness, though, this simply comes down to personal responsiblity. When I'm driving and I have to take a call, I let the person on the other end of the phone know that they're only going to get the attention of the small part of my mind that isn't focused on driving. If I'm in a heavy traffic situation, I tell the person on the other end I'm going to have to call them back. In other words: take some fscking personal accountability for your actions or stop complaining that we live in a nanny state.
  • by datawar ( 200705 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @03:57PM (#11554033)
    Wow, I drive like a pro when talking on my cellphone! That must mean I'm pretty good after taking down half a fifth of Jack Daniel's too! Sweet!
  • Moot point (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zorander ( 85178 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @04:06PM (#11554172) Homepage Journal
    A drunk can't drop the phone or hang up and suddenly have his BAC drop back to normal if a situation starts to arise. It's rare that an accident is sudden, usually multiple things have to go wrong ahead of time for it to happen. Even on a cell phone you can notice this if you're not a complete retard. The drunk is impaired no matter what. He can't react to a stimulus and shed his impairment in a matter of seconds.

    Why not drop all these nonsense and give reckless driving tickets to those who are driving recklessly. If someone elderly/on a cell phone/looking for an address/etc. is swerving or being troublesome then cite them for what they did wrong. If they can handle themselves in these situations then they're not harming anyone.

    Funny how preemptive war is automatically bad, but preemtive limitations of our rights are a-ok.

    • Re:Moot point (Score:3, Informative)

      by Have Blue ( 616 )
      On the time scales involved in car accidents, the time spent hanging up or dropping your phone could easily make the difference between stopping a few inches short and a destroyed car/passengers. Someone who is being a menace to other drivers should be stopped before something bad happens, the same way that someone waving around a loaded gun in a populated area should be subdued and arrested even though he's "just" exercising his second amendment rights.
  • I see it a lot (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DustMagnet ( 453493 ) * on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @06:17PM (#11555596) Journal
    I'm amazed how more and more when I see someone driving like a drunk, they are on a cell phone. I'm not talking about 2 am when the streets are empty, since half the people look drunk at that time. Remember lack of sleep kills more people than drunk driving. I'm talking about people driving like drunks during rush hour!

    It used to be you'd see people reading, brushing their teeth, checking their hair or even dancing. Now all the drunk looking drivers are on cell phones, except the very rare very extreme alcoholics (I hope they die alone).

    I drive a long distance on a nasty interstate, through a couple of major cities, so I've seen all kind of driving styles (even seen a drunk hit someone) and cell phone problems are getting worse and worse. I don't think this problem will solve itself without some kind of government involvement. I wish we had a hand signal for "hang up and drive, you look drunk."

    I admit I have my own problem, but I've finally convinced my wife that just because she wants to have a fight over the cell phone and I hang up, it isn't personal, since if she wants me to live long enough to fight again, I need to hang up and drive. I've exaggerating, I've never really had a girlfriend.

  • 20 vs. 70 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GunFodder ( 208805 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @06:23PM (#11555654)
    I don't know if a 20 year old driver is less scary than a 70 year old. They both have poor driving vision and reflexes; the main difference is that the 20 year old drives faster. Why didn't they talk about good drivers, like middle-aged longtime commuters?
  • by ApheX ( 6133 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @06:32PM (#11555750) Homepage Journal
    Lets just ban having any passengers in the vehicle too as they also require me to be 'part of a conversation'. Also - we need to ban stereos in cars too, as they are going to take your attention away too.

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