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Transportation Cellphones

Talking On the Phone While Driving Not So Dangerous After All 418

Dorianny writes "New research which takes advantage of the increase in cell phone use after 9pm due to the popularity of 'free nights and weekends' plans showed no corresponding increase in crash rates (PDF). Additionally, the researchers analyzed the effects of legislation banning cellphone use, enacted in several states, and similarly found that the legislation had no effect on the crash rate. 'One thought is that drivers may compensate for the distraction of cellphone use by selectively deciding when to make a call or consciously driving more carefully during a call.' Score this a -1 for common sense."
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Talking On the Phone While Driving Not So Dangerous After All

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 08, 2013 @05:04PM (#44513993)

    You fuckers need to keep your hands on the God damn wheel.

  • cognitive science (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Maj Variola ( 2934803 ) on Thursday August 08, 2013 @05:04PM (#44514001)
    You have limited infoprocessing resources. You spend some on a conversation, its less for driving. Conversations can be more distracting than ethanol. Its pretty simple. I've told my wife and kid to shut up when I'm concentrating on a new route. Know your limits.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 08, 2013 @05:25PM (#44514277)

    Not everyone needs to cause a violent collision and kill someone to discover that they too have limits.

  • by Areyoukiddingme ( 1289470 ) on Thursday August 08, 2013 @05:26PM (#44514295)

    Talking and texting while driving was made illegal. Accident rates didn't change. That doesn't say anything about how dangerous it is to talk or text while driving. Instead, it just says that the law is sporadically enforced, if at all, and universally ignored by drivers. Accident rates didn't change because talking/texting while driving rates also didn't change.

    I question how much free minutes changed calling patterns, too. I suspect cell phone companies offered that feature knowing there would be little or no change in calling patterns and they would continue to make nearly all the money they already were before the change, indicating that people aren't taking advantage of free minute time windows.

  • by narcc ( 412956 ) on Thursday August 08, 2013 @05:29PM (#44514351) Journal

    Because driving is an excellent time to push yourself to your cognitive limits?

    How about this? "Know your limits ... and stay well below them while driving!"

  • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Thursday August 08, 2013 @05:31PM (#44514365) Homepage Journal

    There's also another way to interpret the data—that the negative effects of using the phone more after 9 P.M. for fully awake drivers are cancelled out by the positive effects of ongoing interaction with another person helping keep sleepy drivers more alert. If this is the case, then banning cell phone use might actually cost lives....

  • by TheCarp ( 96830 ) < minus pi> on Thursday August 08, 2013 @05:35PM (#44514413) Homepage

    More likely those people are just not representative of drivers using cell phones. You notice them more, because of selection bias.

    Most cell phone drivers are the ones sitting in some random lane, not changing lanes, driving slow and making everyone pass them. They are sitting at red lights after the green, and letting people pass when they should go.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 08, 2013 @05:39PM (#44514453)

    Funny you are. US Air Force has done lots of research on pilot workloads, and voice alerts seem to win out over a cacophony of just different alert sounds and visual alerts.
    Even better if they can place the voices spatially, as it were. Of course, there is some prioritization of alerts too... a cacophony of voice alerts is as bad as a cacophony of sirens, buzzers, etc. (Spend time in an ICU to see what nurses have to decypher w.r.t alarms and alerts)

    Brain indeed has finite attention bandwidth, overall, but it is different for each input device or method and what is happening.

  • Re:Another one! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheCarp ( 96830 ) < minus pi> on Thursday August 08, 2013 @05:49PM (#44514581) Homepage

    Actually a friend of mine tells an amusing story of being in a class in HS where the teacher brought out the alcohol and driving stats and asked the class "What do these stats tell you?"

    Apparently the teacher didn't like it when he raised his hand and said something which I actually believe to be true: "It takes about 10 years to learn how to drive a car well".

    I would have laughed at you had you said that to me when I was in my early 20s. At this point, I would smack my 20something self for being stupid.

  • by X0563511 ( 793323 ) on Thursday August 08, 2013 @06:15PM (#44514879) Homepage Journal

    I talk all the time when I'm driving.

    You know what happens when something comes up that requires more attention? After the event has passed, I ask the person to repeat what they were saying... because I was concentrating on what matters.

    I can walk and chew gum. I can even run and chew gum! But I also have the sense to spit the gum out when I get winded...

  • by Duncan J Murray ( 1678632 ) on Thursday August 08, 2013 @06:24PM (#44515011) Homepage

    Just to list a few:

    For starters this is a retrospective, observational (being generous here) cohort study.
    I'd like a bit more technical detail on how they ensured that they were measuring mobile calls from cars (they have assurance from the telecommunications company)
    They note a 7% rise in what they believe to be car mobile phone calls at 9pm on Monday to Friday on a background of steadily decreasing phone calls from 8pm to 10pm, and they don't mention whether this spike is statistically significant.
    The spike in the rise of mobile car use is of a maximum of 1/2 hour before the level reaches pre-9pm levels, and continues to decrease. This interval is short - to notice an effect the recording of the car accidents in their source would have to be pretty precise. Any errors in the reporting of car accidents is probably going to make a 30 min window period difficult to measure.
    They haven't analysed the variation in traffic at different times in the evening, which makes comparison at different time periods difficult. If the traffic is less after 9pm, the rate of accidents per car could be higher.

    But the main problem is:
    To show 'no effect' you need to ensure that your study is powered to make this observation - which they have not done. A 7% rise in mobile usage over 30 minutes would need ?how many crashes to give a statistically significant result that rises above the noise.

    To be fair, they mention some of these issues as caveats, but I'm not sure they had enough statistics input for this paper. I would like to see the confidence intervals, how they were calculated, what software was used and what the p-values are. There should be a statisticians name on the paper. Certainly, you can't conclude that mobile phones are not dangerous while driving - you can only say that they found no evidence to show this in this particular study.

  • by narcc ( 412956 ) on Thursday August 08, 2013 @06:31PM (#44515085) Journal

    Translation: "I'm of a superior intellect and thus can do more things in tandem than other people. I can talk on the phone or text and drive safely because I'm well above average!"

    I would not want to share a road, or even a parking lot, with people like you.

  • by PRMan ( 959735 ) on Thursday August 08, 2013 @06:35PM (#44515145)
    Some people can. And maybe he can. But the law exists because 90% of people can't.
  • by TheRealMindChild ( 743925 ) on Thursday August 08, 2013 @06:50PM (#44515303) Homepage Journal
    Because then you look down to make sure it transcribed properly. Then you start screwing with the thing because it actually typed out "exclamation point". A pedestrian and a family of lawn gnomes later, you tell the cop in handcuffs "I wasn't doing anything wrong!"
  • by labnet ( 457441 ) on Thursday August 08, 2013 @06:50PM (#44515305)

    All this is why you turn down the radio when looking for an address in the dark.

    Wait, what?!? I have never turned the radio down when looking for an address in the dark. Is that a thing?

    Yes, that's a thing.
    I have done that with my wife and three boys, when in heavy traffic in an unfamiliar area.
    I also remember a time when I was invitied into the cockpit of a commercial jet for the entire flight (back in the day), and the pilots about 20mins out from landing saying, we can't talk to you anymore until after we land.
    The human brain can only process so much information at once.

  • by narcc ( 412956 ) on Thursday August 08, 2013 @07:15PM (#44515523) Journal

    The problem is that the majority think that they're included in your 10%.

    Driving is dangerous. Safety should ALWAYS come first. It sure as hell should come before your ego.

  • by johnlcallaway ( 165670 ) on Thursday August 08, 2013 @07:35PM (#44515713)
    So you never change the station on the radio?? Or glance down to see what your fuel level is?? Or how fast you were going?? Or read billboards or road signs?? Or even glance in your mirrors to check traffic behind you??? Or look beside you to see if you can change lanes? Or glance in your rear view mirror to see what your kids are doing?? Or at your passenger because they said something funny?? You never sneeze, because that means taking your eyes off the road. You just sit there with your hands at 10 and 2, sitting up straight, eyes looking ahead and watching the road only in front of you. You don't talk with anyone, not even asking directions because trying to find that next street would be too distracting. You don't use a GPS, because that would mean looking away from the road. Or the voice would be too distracting.

    Give me a break, you take your eyes off the road all the time and do other things that distract you. When you judge it is safe to do so because you have decided that you can look away at something and look back before anything happens in front of you. Because the closest car is 100 feet away and you have decided that you can look at your fuel gauge because even if they jam on their brakes the moment you look away, by the time you look up and see it you will still have time to stop. Yet someone could change lanes in front of you and jam on their brakes while you plow into them because you wanted to check how much fuel you had. How thoughtless and insensitive of you.

    I've turned off the radio because I was looking for something and it was distracting. I did it because I have this ability to judge what I have the ability to do, and when it's impaired. Maybe you think other people don't have that ability, but they do. Conditions change, and just because some people don't have the ability to talk on the phone safely, doesn't mean everyone doesn't. Nor does it mean that it's safe to do it anytime I want to. I spend as little time on the phone as I can, and only when traffic conditions allow for it. And I've put the phone down while talking with my wife because conditions changed and I needed to spend more time focused on driving.
  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Friday August 09, 2013 @06:05AM (#44518379) Journal

    the pilots about 20mins out from landing saying, we can't talk to you anymore until after we land.

    And they almost certainly could have landed the plane fine if you'd kept chatting. In almost every case, it would be completely fine. But very occasionally, they'd miss checking a dial or mishear ATC instructions and end up with a plane full of dead passengers, and they don't want to take that risk because, unlike many other people in this thread, they were behaving like responsible adults.

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