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Legal Restrictions on Cellphone Use Gain Traction 526

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the hands-on-for-hands-free dept.
Carl Bialik writes "The Wall Street Journal is reporting that States are scrambling to impose tougher restrictions on cell phone use by drivers, addressing what safety experts say can be a deadly distraction. From the article: 'Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia have written legislation on the issue, mostly since 2003, [...] This year, other legislatures are tackling the subject, and two states have passed laws on it. [...] While no state has banned talking on a cell phone while driving, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Washington, D.C., have the most restrictive laws: Except in emergencies, motorists in those states can use cell phones only with hands-free devices, such as earpieces. Restrictions vary across other states. Some prohibit teenagers, bus drivers and drivers with learning permits from using cell phones -- even with earpieces.'"
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Legal Restrictions on Cellphone Use Gain Traction

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  • try children (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @07:43AM (#15147701)
    Anyone tried concentrating on the road with two sqabbling under-10's in the back? It's far worse than any phone conversation.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @08:09AM (#15147787)
      Then we need to ban children.
      • Re:try children (Score:3, Insightful)

        by thewiz (24994) *
        Actually, I find duct tape, velcro, and handcuffs effectively eliminate the distractions children can cause in the car.
    • Absolutely! In all seriousness, I think it should be completely illegal to leave a child on their own in the back seat. Is having someone sit in the back seat to watch them really too much to ask?

      I've seen three year olds break out of restraints and jump up and down in the back seat while two adults sit in the front seat and do nothing about it except the usual "sit down" [or else]" routine.

      In any case, it's very unfair to a child to take them on a long, boring trip where they are obliged to do the one thin
      • Re:try children (Score:5, Informative)

        by unapersson (38207) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @08:48AM (#15147933) Homepage
        "I've seen parent dump a two month old into the back seat whilst they sit up in front and then wonder why the child is howling."

        Airbags and carseats don't tend to mix very well. That's why you'll see most car seats strapped in the back.
      • "I think it should be completely illegal to leave a child on their own in the back seat. Is having someone sit in the back seat to watch them really too much to ask?"

        Well, I didn't need it as a kid, nor did my friends it turns out. Must be a parenting thing.

        I was just talking about this to friends the other day...I don't have kids, but, they do, and I didn't realize that by LAW in many places, a kid has to be strapped to a kid seat, etc. When I grew up, the backseat was my area. On long trips, I s

        • Re:try children (Score:3, Insightful)

          by stunt_penguin (906223)
          Fuck man, you just reminded me that I did this very thing when I was 5 or 6 years old- I used to get up in the back window of the car and just lie there. This thought now scares the living shit out of me as I can only imagine what'd have happened had we had even a small crash. A child in that window will strike any rear seat passengers in the back of the neck, possibly en-route to the back of the front passenger's seats (if they're lucky) and if they're really unlucky they'll somehow strike a combination o
          • Re:try children (Score:5, Insightful)

            by cayenne8 (626475) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @10:09AM (#15148665) Homepage Journal
            Actually....I remember at least one wreck we did have....and I wasn't hurt at all. Yeah, I got tossed into the back of the front seats, but, hey, kids are much more resiliant than people give them credit for I guess.

            Anyway, just was something I was pondering with a friend of mine the other day, about how things were so much different than when we were kids.

            The biggest one that got me was....that no one hardly seems to let their kids play OUTSIDE. Hell, during the summers, I'd leave home in the morning, and not come home till lunch, then out again till dinner. All my friends in the neighborhood ran like this together....each families house was all of our homes, and we'd all generally be at one of our houses....at the neighborhood swimming pool, or out biking, skateboarding, building forts in the wooded area beyond the developing subdivisions. All I hear today is "you can't let kids out, the predators will get them". I just have to wonder, are there really that more predators out there? Or do we just hear about it more as sensationalized news by 24/7 news stations that have to put something on the air?

            Also, when did kids get stupid? I was raised to where I did not trust strangers at all...and neither myself nor any of my friends would have been 'kidnapped' like you often hear of today.

            I dunno, like I said, I don't have kids...so, kind of like an unmarried marriage counselor talking here, but, it just seems to me that kids of today, don't get to be kids anymore and have the fun we used to have? We were all in good shape physically, because we stayed out playing every day during the summer, and after school. Hell, I was talking with a friend of mine, and kids in very low grades had homework that took HOURS after school and required parental attention...where did that come from?

            I just seems sad, that all kids have today are video games at home, and orderly outdoor activities like soccer teams and the like. It seemed so much more fun in my day to run with the kids in the neighborhood, figuring out stuff to do (some of it mischevious, but, not bad)...and doing physical exhertion activities while at the same time building social skills, and in many cases....making lifelong friends.

    • by Vo0k (760020) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @08:50AM (#15147945) Journal
      1) Check the rear mirror to see if nobody's tailgating you.
      2) Wait up the moment they are too distracted to pay attention to you.
      3) Push the brakes Really Hard.
      4) Say "Shut up".
      • Actually had to read this twice before I understood that the "shut up" was meant for the unruly back-seat kids, and not for the cell-phone yapping driver tailgating you ;)
      • by saider (177166)

        1) Check the rear mirror to see if nobody's tailgating you.
        2) Wait up the moment they are too distracted to pay attention to you.
        3) Push the brakes Really Hard.
        4) Say "Shut up".

        5) Listen to the children chant "Do it again!" for the rest of the trip.

        The best way to get the kids to listen is to simply enforce your threats. Mention that they get no dessert (or whatever) unless they calm down. It won't work immediately, but after a few lost treasures, they will start to figure it out. Also, reminding them of th
  • Anyone with a "Larry the Cableguy" ringer needs to be lynched!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    "The cellphone, like eating a hamburger, putting on makeup or talking to your friend in the back seat is a distraction," says William Cataldo, Macomb County chief of homicide and assistant prosecutor, who is handling the case.

    I ctually saw thing dingbat once driving her gigantic SUV, putting makeup on, and talking on her cellphone. I was running beside the road and she swerved, almost hitting me!

    90% of the time when I see someone doign something REALLY stupid on the road, they're on the cell!

    • by ettlz (639203)

      90% of the time when I see someone doign something REALLY stupid on the road, they're on the cell!

      I agree. Most times when I've been cut up or another driver has made a major foul-up, they're chin-wagging down a mobile. Talking on a phone not only distracts you from keeping track of hazards, it compromises control of the vehicle something rotten. One wonders how some of these characters are deemed fit to roam free with such a cavalier attitude, let alone take charge of a motor vehicle.

      • Still I think ban is something too strict. I have similar experience - on both sides of the issue. I once hit other car when my sister distrubed me from the back sit. And I was hit by guy talking on cell. (Most ridiculuos part of later accident was that guy did NOT notice he hit my car - he was busy talking and guess that - he hit me *second* time. Got to remake left side completely).

        I beleive that use of mobile has to be a weightening factor when accident happens. When driver gets into something while talk
        • I have friend who can multitask perfectly. He can drive car perfectly and at the same time keeping an eye on FM and talking to his friend on cell. If person *can* multitask - then why not?

          Because you're already multitasking whilst driving normally. You're required to control the car, watch the road, wathc other traffic, plot your course, anticipate traffic, obey signs, etc, etc, etc...

          And secondly, no one can multitask. There are simply people who can very poorly perform many tasks at once.
      • "I agree. Most times when I've been cut up or another driver has made a major foul-up, they're chin-wagging down a mobile. Talking on a phone not only distracts you from keeping track of hazards, it compromises control of the vehicle something rotten."

        No doubt!! I mean, it is hard enough to drive, change cd's, and shift as it is without spilling your beer. Having to hold to a cell phone just make it all the more difficult...

      • Talking on a phone not only distracts you from keeping track of hazards, it compromises control of the vehicle something rotten.

        That's true, but in tests leading up to the UK ban, it was found that drivers using hands-free kits are almost as dangerous as those on hand-held phones. The distraction is the main problem, not the fact that you've only got one hand on the wheel. It's not the same as someone sitting next to you, because usually someone sitting next to you can see both you and the road ahead, a

  • Hands free? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by homer_s (799572) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @07:48AM (#15147709)
    Except in emergencies, motorists in those states can use cell phones only with hands-free devices, such as earpieces

    I thought it was the distraction of talking to someone whom you cannot see that was the problem - most drivers can steer the car with one hand.
    So what now, ban drinking coffee in cars, applying lipstick while driving? After all, this also causes the driver to take one hand off the wheel.
    Don't they *think* before making these laws?
    • Re:Hands free? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Deaths Hand (93704)
      Over here in the UK, you already can be prosecuted for eating, drinking and applying makeup at the wheel, along with talking on your mobile phone without the use of a hands free kit. Most of these are covered under the catch all of "driving without due care and attention" but they have also passed a law specifically covering mobile phones.

      One woman [bbc.co.uk] recently came to light in the national press
    • most drivers can steer the car with one hand.

      Or with no hand at all... That's what you knees are for ;-)

      ban drinking coffee in cars,

      No, that one is only to protect Mc Donalds against frivolous lawsuits.

      • Re:Hands free? (Score:5, Informative)

        by stang (90261) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @08:51AM (#15147953)

        that one is only to protect Mc Donalds against frivolous lawsuits.

        Oh, Lord - not again. Please educate yourself [osmond-riba.org]. You need to find a better example of a frivolous lawsuit.

        • Oh, Lord - not again. Please educate yourself. You need to find a better example of a frivolous lawsuit.

          The fact that McDonald's had been told to turn down the heat multiple times, and ignored these requests, does not make the lawsuit any less frivolous. Coffee by definition can get no hotter than 100 degrees celcius at standard atmospheric pressure. Lots of people boil water in a kettle, then pour it into a mug and make tea. It is not unreasonable to expect coffee to be hot, particularly at a drive-thro
    • Drinking shouldn't be illegal, but I think applying lipstick while driving is quite moronic, since you're likely to be checking yourself in the mirror, rather than paying attention to your driving.

      Yes you can drive with one hand, though obviously you can steer faster with two hands than one, and in fact hold yourself back better than you could if you had to brake harshly whlie holding the phone.. handsfree kits are the sensible way to go if you need to use the phone a lot (and are kind of necessary if yo
      • Re:Hands free? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Pieroxy (222434)
        handsfree kits are the sensible way to go
        I actually tend to think that this is more dangerous. You see, there is actually two problems with cellphones and driving:
        A. One hand is taken. That forces the driver to use a pretty uncomfortable position to be able to drive and hold the phone at the same time.
        B. Talking to someone you can't see over a link that is not great. This is much harder that talking to someone in your car. And if you're really into the conversation, your reflexes are just numb.

        handsfree kit
        • Re:Hands free? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by somersault (912633)
          so you regularly turn to face someone in the backseat while you're having a conversation with them? I've been in a car where the handsfree kit was built in and run over the soundsystem, it worked great, probably better than trying to hear someone in the back. If you're going to ban speaking on the phone, you should ban speaking altogether to anyone in the car, and roadside adverts etc. I remember reading about an old VW advert, I think it featured an attractive young lady in lingerie, causing accidents (and
      • Seat belts hold you back better than two hands on a flexible ring of plastic. As far as driving with two hands, this may come as a surprise, but many people have vehicles which require one hand to operate a transmission. Gonna legislate mandatory automatic transmissions now, too?

        The problem is that people are incompetent, and don't take driving seriously. The combination is no good. Make it harder to get and keep a driver's license, and the problem will take care of itself - but that won't happen becaus
        • If you read my comment you'll notice that I mention manual gears at the end. I personally dont like holding a phone when driving, yes I did it once. I probably dont actually use 2 hands very often, but was just pointing out that it's safer to do so. Yes a seatbelt can hold you back also, but for an elder or weaker person then they'd probably be better off holding themselves back than having the air knocked out of them.

          Wow, thought you were talking about someone failing the practical 4 times there.. drivi
          • Doh. I missed the manual tranny mention. In my defence, that part (and the rest of the post) was using a general "you" and not the original poster. ;)

            Anyway, I think that if you're too fragile to withstand the forces your car will exert upon you via the seatbelt while you're braking, you're too fragile to safely drive (elderly or not). That nonwithstanding, if you're holding yourself back with the steering wheel instead of the belts, you're not in control of the vehicle - presumably at a time when you mo
      • handsfree kits are the sensible way to go

        I don't know how this myth [straightdope.com] got started ... perhaps it's just a convenient way for law-makers to appease people while still letting them have cell phones, perhaps it's just cluelessness, and perhaps it's the hands-free kit manufacturers.
        The growing evidence for those that actually read studies on this show no measurable difference between hands-free and holding a phone. The issue is apparently not one of dexterity, but one of concentration. That's why drinking a s

    • Don't they *think* before making these laws?

      It's an election year, and it's a "hot-button" issue. They don't need to think beyond "how can I use this in my campaign?"

      We already have laws covering inattentive driving, cell phone use is already covered under that. This is purely a law to help small municipalities generate revenue (it's a $100 ticket in NY, and you can't bargain it down or get the charges reduced) and get incumbents re-elected.

      BTW, the one time I actually did pull to the shoulder to make/tak

    • Perhaps one of our German friends can enlighten us, but when I was in Germany a few years ago, I seem to remember it being illegal to drive without both hands on the wheel.
      Now, I know that this is just one man's anecdotal eveidence, but I have noticed that the biggest danger to me (when i am out walking, jogging or cycling) are women in giant SUVs on the phone. (My wife is one of them) I have seen other scary drivers on cells, but in my area, it is the giant SUV women who are the worst. They seem to pay NO
      • Perhaps one of our German friends can enlighten us, but when I was in Germany a few years ago, I seem to remember it being illegal to drive without both hands on the wheel.

        How do they shift?

    • Why is the parent insightful?

      The problem with talking on a cell phone is not that it takes your hands off the wheel, but that it takes your brain off of the traffic around you. A fair number of studies have been done that show cell phone use has an effect akin to being drunk in some instances.

      When you begin a conversation on a cell phone while driving, your primary cognitive centers focus on the conversation because of the immediacy of the contact and the relative complexity of the conversation. The big p
    • Re:Hands free? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Quarters (18322)
      If you think "driving" is the same as "steering" then you don't have the mental faculties required to contribute anything sensible to this conversation.

      That you think applying lipstick is currently an acceptable act to perform while driving just reinforces my opinion of you.

  • by ArsenneLupin (766289) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @07:51AM (#15147718)
    In the accident, the 20-year-old driver fell asleep while talking on the phone, crossed three lanes of traffic and hit a car driven by a 55-year-old woman, who later died. Authorities lodged what they thought was Michigan's first cellphone-related negligent-homicide charge. Later, they added drug charges, after a medical exam allegedly turned up illegal drugs in the driver's system.

    Hmm, so the driver got into an accident while he was:

    • phoning
    • sleeping
    • driving
    • having drugs in the system
    Incidentally, he was also breathing, and (presumably) had a good meal within the last 24 hours.

    Now, in you're opinion which combination should be outlawed? Driving and Breathing? -> Don't think so!
    Driving and drugs? -> Makes more sense already.
    Driving and sleeping? -> Makes lots of sense!
    Driving and yucking on the phone? Hmm, with all the other stuff going on here (drugs, sleep, ...) I don't really think that this accident should be hold up as an example for the dangers of driving while phoning! I don't argue that phoning may distract you, but please, if you want to illustrate that point, please use an example where there weren't any other more likely causes! If anything, the phone keeps you awake!

    • Maybe the phone call persuaded him to take drugs, and finally made him fall asleep?
    • I think that in this case, driving and sleeping was probably the SOLE cause of the accident. If you're asleep, the distraction of a phone or any effects of the drugs on reaction time aren't going to make a difference.
    • by Vo0k (760020)
      Somebody was singing a lullaby on the phone and this catalysed the effect of the drugs and made him fall asleep! If not the phone, he wouldn't crash!
    • by Anonymous Coward
      As someone who rides a motorcycle and / or a bicycle when it's nice I've been nearly killed by many people. You know what people who violate traffic rules and nearly kill are often doing (in order):

      1) Yakking like idiots on a cell phone. (Yes this really is #1)
      2) Screaming at their kids
      3) Stuffing their fat faces
      4) Putting on makeup
      5) "Rocking / Jamming / whatever" out (mostly younger drivers)

      You'd be suprised at the attention you can gather with a 120 decibel European Hi/Lo horn. Funny thing is then they a
    • by Gulthek (12570) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @09:00AM (#15148020) Homepage Journal
      Cell Phones and Driving [iii.org]

      Highlights:

      At first safety experts focused on the problem as part of the larger one of driver distractions in general. These can include anything that reduces driver concentration on road hazards from drinking coffee to talking with another passenger. Now there is increasing evidence that the dangers associated with cell-phone use outweigh those of other distractions. Safety experts also acknowledge that the hazard posed by cell phone conversations is not eliminated, and may even be increased, by the use of hands-free sets.

      Motorists who use cell phones while driving are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves, according to a study of drivers in Perth, Australia, conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The results, published in July, 2005, suggest that banning hand-held phone use won't necessarily improve safety if drivers simply switch to hands-free phones. The study found that injury crash risk didn't vary with type of phone.

      A government study released in June 2005 indicates that the distraction of cell phones and other wireless devices was far more likely to lead to crashes than other distractions faced by drivers. Researchers for the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tracked 100 cars and their drivers for a year and concluded that talking on cell phones caused far more crashes, near-crashes and other incidents than other distractions.

      A study from the University of Utah published in the winter 2004/2005 issue of Human Factors, the quarterly journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, found that motorists who talked on hands-free cell phones were 18 percent slower in braking and took 17 percent longer to regain the speed they lost when they braked. An earlier University of Utah study by the same researchers found that drivers talking on hands-free cell phones were less likely to recall seeing pedestrians, billboards or other roadside features.
  • by technothrasher (689062) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @07:52AM (#15147724)
    In the accident, the 20-year-old driver fell asleep while talking on the phone, crossed three lanes of traffic and hit a car driven by a 55-year-old woman, who later died. Authorities lodged what they thought was Michigan's first cellphone-related negligent-homicide charge. Later, they added drug charges, after a medical exam allegedly turned up illegal drugs in the driver's system.


    So this kid took drugs and fell asleep while driving, and somehow the cell phone is to blame? I think I'm confused...

  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @07:53AM (#15147726) Homepage Journal
    1. Most of us were raised on cop shows where the good guys are always driving around calling around on their radio system. Now we have our own radio system we naturally want to use it. Police no doubt have policies about these things so perhaps they should publicise them: we don't use the radio/phone while driving and you shouldn't either. Or something like that.
    2. Here in Australia it is customary for people who have serious accidents in their cars to get breath tested to see if alcohol was a contributing factor. Perhaps the police should pull the phone records of the driver (happens all the time on law and order, shouldn't be that hard to do) and charge them appropriately if they were shown to be on the phone at the time of the crash.
    3. This really comes down to distractions in cars. Whether it be the kids screaming to be taken to macdonalds or the mother in law going off about something in the back seat or that idiot guy who is always on the fucking radio. There is a lot of distraction out there. Perhaps this needs to be looked into, otherwise the narrower issue of people talking on cellphones without using an earpiece will look pretty silly.
    4. Because of insurance you can go out and do a lot of damage with a car and pretty much get away with it. You can kill someone with a car and get less time in jail than if you did it with a gun. I think that needs to change. If it did people might start taking responsibility for their actions and they might start looking where they are going when they drive their car. That would make life a lot safer for bike riders like me.
    • You can kill someone with a car and get less time in jail than if you did it with a gun.

      I think the difference here is intent. Much easier to prove intent if you point a gun at someone... afterall why do you have a gun unless you plan to use it (I live in Australia).

      But, along the same lines, take two people with similar illegal levels of alcohol in their blood. They both drive home. They both run a red light. In running the red light, one of them runs down and kills a pedestrian.

      Assuming both were drunk en
      • "Should the size of the sentence really take that 'luck' quantity into account?"

        It does. Alcohol has different level of impact on different people. One might steer clear of the pedestrian, the other did not. We'll never know if the first one would, because with that "luck" no pedestrian happened. The other certainly didn't.

        One introduced certain, unknown though pretty high level of danger to the roads. He will be punished by suspending his driver and by a high fine. He will try to be more cautious and not d
    • Also it is illegal to talk on your phone whilst driving in Australia, unless you have a hands free kit. Its a sensible law, its just one less destraction and from what I personally can tell it seems to work, for the most part. Generally if you see someone parked on the side of a busy road they have just received a call. I rarely see someone driving while talking on their phone.
    • Most of us were raised on cop shows where the good guys are always driving around calling around on their radio system. Now we have our own radio system we naturally want to use it. Police no doubt have policies about these things so perhaps they should publicise them: we don't use the radio/phone while driving and you shouldn't either. Or something like that.

      Not exactly. I've spent some time accompany police on their shifts, and if you knew what they do while driving, it would scare the bejeezus out of yo
  • Are these attempts to increase safety, or a puritanical knee-jerk reaction? Hard not to notice that there are not similar laws against smoking/arguing/eating/etc. while driving, http://www.misc2.com/whisper.html [misc2.com] has a scenario on how this plays out long term...
  • by AtlanticGiraffe (749719) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @07:57AM (#15147741) Homepage
    Here in Iceland, hands-free equipment is now mandatory for drivers. It didn't seem to help at all. Later studies have showed that it's not the phone itself, but the conversation that distracts drivers. Holding the phone while talking, using an airpiece or just talking to someone that's sitting in the car with you all seems to cause the same amount of distraction for the driver.
  • by hughk (248126) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @07:58AM (#15147747) Journal
    Why introduce extra legislation?

    Many countries already have offences such as Driving without Due Care and Attention. This is fairly non-specific and can be used against any driver who endangers others by performing a non-driving activity (such as having their groin scalded by superheated coffee) whilst nominally in control of a moving vehicle.

    The same problem is had by those who fiddle with their GPS while driving, or even the entertainment system. Must we introduce specific legislation for each device?

    It should be noted that I do agree with the clampdown which is already in place in much of Europe. Handsfree units are convenient and quite comfortable to wear now, especially the lightweight BT varieties such as the Plantronics 640 [plantronics.com] which even my wife wears without problems.

    If you don't like the cost of BT, there are still wired headsets which often ship for free now or are a very low cost extra.

    • Because if you don't explicitly say "talking on your cell phone is illegal" people aren't going to realize that they can't talk on the phone. Remember, no one actually read the laws, so they don't know what "due care and attention" means. But when you say "we're passing an anti-cell phone law," people will actually understand that they can no longer use their cell phones.
    • The same problem is had by those who fiddle with their GPS while driving, or even the entertainment system. Must we introduce specific legislation for each device?

      There's been a lot on the news lately on people being distracted by navigation systems while driving. As these things can see if you're moving or not, they could be made in such a way that they don't accept input while driving. Anyway, if people were really honest to themselves, they would see that they're not driving as good while using their o

  • Whatever (Score:3, Funny)

    by wetfeetl33t (935949) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @08:00AM (#15147756)
    I'm fine with cell phone restrictions as long as I am still allowed to read the newspaper and watch TV while I drive.
  • The penalty... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gedeco (696368)
    In my country:
    The penalty for using a cell phone while driving is worse then the cost of a hands free set.

    Pick you're choice.
    • You've missed that part about human nature that turns your statement into:

      The penalty for getting caught using a cell phone while driving is worse then the cost of a hands free set.

      You see, that little "getting caught" part is the real wild card. Do you pay up the $$$ up front, or take your chances that you won't be snagged by law enforcement? Here in the US, most people exceed the speed limit - some by a large amount, but on an infrequent basis. Despite the knowledge that an extra 15 or 20 mph might only g
    • the cost of being caught on a cell while driving without a hands-free device in my state IS the cost of a hands-free device. you have on the order of 30 days to show the state a receipt for a hands-free device and they will drop the charge. of course, this only works the first time you're caught...
  • motorists in those states can use cell phones only with hands-free devices, such as earpieces.

    I'm in DC all the time, and from the number of drivers I've seen with a phone up to their head, there must be many many emergencies happening..ALL the time. Even though there's a fairly stiff fine, people seem to ignore this law, by and large, and from what I've heard, the cops do nothing to enforce it.
    • Right. This'll become just another of those laws that aren't enforced, but go into the pile of "if a cop wants to ticket you for something badly enough, he can probably find something". And everyone will magically feel safer. Kinda like the law passed in IL a couple years ago making it illegal to drive in the left lane on the interstate if you're not actively passing someone. People still do it, and it never shows up in the newspaper's "police beat" section as an offense anyone was ticketed for...
    • I'm in DC all the time

      Even though there's a fairly stiff fine, people seem to ignore this law, by and large, and from what I've heard, the cops do nothing to enforce it.

      I think part of the reason for that might be that the laws are not as restrictive in the surrouding states - it's fairly easy to start a conversation while it's technically legal (as far as I know) to do so in Virginia, but be in DC before you finish.

      Personally, i've had one situation where I got lost rather badly going somewhere in northern
  • Why bother? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Jeian (409916)
    It's also illegal to drink and drive, and we all know how effective *those* laws are.
  • People who talk frequently on the cell phone are almost as bad as people who drink and drive when it comes to getting in car accidents, yet we demonize drunken drivers and act outraged when the government wants to stop people from talking on the cell phone while driving. I teach criminology and the statistics show that the rate of traffic accidents while drinking and driving is slightly higher than talking on the cellphone, meaning talking on the cellphone is really dangerous.
    I think i
  • The bans are useless (Score:5, Informative)

    by gte910h (239582) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @08:18AM (#15147813) Homepage
    It's not the fact your hands are busy that makes you have an accident, it's that you're not paying attention to the road as much consciously and unconsciously.

    A study that proves it [bmjjournals.com]

    All the current bans are useless. We need to ban USE in the car, not USE WITHOUT A HEADSET. Hands Free doesn't help.

                            --Michael
  • I talk on my phone, without a hands free kit every day. Hands free kits are a pain in the ass. Usually I just keep my eyes peeled for cops and if I see one I drop the phone. Once I got a ticket, but I showed the DA that I bought a hands free kit and he dropped the charge for me. Also in NY it's -phone to ear- that actually gets you the ticket. So apparently holding a CB radio in front of your face while driving a sixteen wheeler, or browsing the web on your phone is perfectly fine. It's all bullshit.
  • by zerocool^ (112121) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @08:24AM (#15147836) Homepage Journal
    I'm reminded of previous stories on slashdot, fark, and others, reporting that Driving while talking on your cell phone is as dangerous as driving drunk. [allencount...ealive.org]

    Of course, the first thing I thought when I saw this wasn't "Oh, wow, cell phones are dangerous". It was "Well... Driving drunk is no more dangerous than driving while talking on a cell phone, and I do that all the time!".

    ~Will
  • I haven't seen anything about this: Have automobile accident rates climbed since cell phones become popular? I see so many people talking while driving, that I would expect accident rates would climb if the phone use was dangerous. If accident rates haven't changed, then it seems unlikely that cell phones are a problem.
  • From TFA: In states without laws, a number of municipalities have passed their own local restrictions.

    There are states without laws? Huh. I thought all states had at least a few anti-sodomy laws or similar on the books. But no laws at all. Weird.
  • In the UK (Score:4, Informative)

    by ledow (319597) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @08:35AM (#15147877) Homepage
    The US sounds a bit behind with this one.

    In the UK, for at least a year or so (probably more - my memory is flaky - there was a massive advertisement campaign from the government telling people how it was going to work for MONTHS on end, months before it became "law"), it's been illegal to operate any phone while driving - that means that the ONLY legal way to make/take a phone call in a car is with a hands-free kit that DOES NOT require the driver to push any buttons etc. to dial/recieve a call (i.e. voice activated dialling/answering with a hands-free earpiece / car stereo integration) and even that is greatly discouraged by the police.

    Needless to say, there's always someone who will wedge it between their shoulder and their ear but THAT'S always been illegal in the UK as far as I know (usually charged as dangerous driving - like the woman who was booked for doing her lipstick as she drove). However, now it's a specific "rule" that it's an offence to even USE the phone in the car unless you can do so 100% without removing your hands from the full control of the wheel (i.e. without touching the phone or any hands-free component (e.g. buttons, switches, wires, etc.))

    It's only common sense - look at the number of people who near-miss you every day on the roads and then count how many of them were on the phone / playing with their laptop on the passenger seat etc.
  • by caudron (466327) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @08:37AM (#15147885) Homepage
    ...all the other reasons these careless drivers cause road problems. Seriously, Cell phones are a good start, but how about addressing the hypocrisy of SUVs. A vehicle with a Gross Weight of over 3 tons gets special tax incentive for work use, so they all get claimed, but vehicles over 3 tons also get regularly banned from certain roads for being over weight limit, which these same owners pretend doesn't apply to them. Not to mention that they should require a trucker license to pilot such a beast, which they would need if the federal regulations weren't rewritten specifically to get these things into the hands of Soccor Moms everywhere.

    But that's not politically safe to talk about.

    How about minimum driving ages being changed? It shouldn' surprise anyone that kids under the age of 18 account for a HUGELY disporportionate piece of the accident pie. How about something like a learners permit (requiring a licensed driver in the car until 17 instead of 16. How about a restricted license (to work and back, etc...) until 18. Give these kids a chance to learn how to drive before we shove them off on their own. Seriously, now we give them a permit at 15.5 yrs and by 16 we shove em out of the driving nest to fly on their own. Them we get outraged at the damage they cause.

    But that's not politically safe to talk about either.

    How about some real draconian legislation to end drunk driving. If you are drinking and driving in this day and age, you, sir, are a fucktard. Seriously, have NEVER seen an afterschool special? Is your head planted so firmly in your own buttocks that you failed to hear the upteen warning shouted from every media outlet we can bring to bear on the topic? Of course not. That's why if you drink and drive, giving you any "1st offense" effect is a waste. You knew. You did it anyway. Manditory jailtime. Manditory removal of license...not restricted license, REMOVED license. It's a priviledge and you just lost it. STFU and pick up a bus schedule on the way home from the jail when you get out.

    But that also is not politically safe to talk about.

    How about serious legislation to curb car use in general. Something to give commuters and travellers a real alternative. People will bitch, though, because God forbid (no, literally God forbid---I mean car use is a right spelled out in the King James Bible, right?) anyone points out just how many lives are lost every year because the bar is so low on who we are willing to let careen through our neighborhoods behind the joystick of a 2+ ton screaming fast hunk of metal.

    But that's DEFINATELY not politically safe to talk about.

    Americans need to end their love affair with their cars.

    But I guess cell phones are a good start. :-\

    Tom Caudron
    http://tom.digitalelite.com/ [digitalelite.com]

    • How about minimum driving ages being changed? It shouldn' surprise anyone that kids under the age of 18 account for a HUGELY disporportionate piece of the accident pie. How about something like a learners permit (requiring a licensed driver in the car until 17 instead of 16. How about a restricted license (to work and back, etc...) until 18. Give these kids a chance to learn how to drive before we shove them off on their own. Seriously, now we give them a permit at 15.5 yrs and by 16 we shove em out of the
    • I hate to say it... but the only way we can truly give up our "love affair with cars" is if the country shrinks.

      I live in a rural area... and yes I do bike to work. However, there are some mornings that 35 minutes of biking can't replace the 12 minutes of driving. (Yes... I can hold 20+mph on a bike)

      I would love to live in an area with mass transit... but I hate cities and thus a small conflict appears. I would love to ride my bike every day... but time and Michigan weather prohibit that quite often. I wo
  • Talking on the phone while driving ought to be banned. It's highly distracting.

    Go ahead and eat french fries, sip coffee, listen to the radio while you're driving. None of these require your undivided attention. Talking to another person who is not in the same car *is* distracting and does require some significant part of your attention. It's extremely dangerous and should be illegal. Any competent driver knows this and can corroborate this statement.

    You're moving at 45 mph. Your primary mission

  • by sdo1 (213835) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @08:41AM (#15147901) Journal
    If talking on cell phones while driving is so dangerous, then why hasn't there been a very large and dramatic increase in accident rates to go along with the dramatic increase in cell phone usage?

    Answer... there hasn't been. In fact, the number of deaths continues to fall [cnn.com] in part due to safer cars, but also the number of accidents [iii.org] is falling too. Huh? I thought cell phones were such a serious problem that we have to pass laws to keep people from using them while driving? I'm sorry, but the data DOES NOT support such a conclusion. Incredible increase in cell phone usage. Small decrease in accident rates.

    I just don't get it. Law makers need a boogey man to go after... to make it look like they're doing something.

    It's not the phone... it's the driver. Some can handle a small level of multi-tasking... some can't. So the answer is to punish everyone and give the police something else to distract them from actually fighting crime and dealing with the truly dangerous people in our society.

    -S

    • Frankly I'm for mandatory re-testing every 5-10 years. You get one chance to pass and if you fail you have to take a weekend or two of drivers ed and retest. Fail again and you go back in the learner permit category.

      That would sufficiently piss off and scare people into ... KNOWING WHAT THE FUCK THEY ARE DOING.

      I swear half of the errors I see drivers make is simply because they forgot the lessons taught in drivers ed. Like checking before switching lanes, turning into the proper lane from a turning lane, not speeding, not tailgating, etc...

      Driving isn't hard once you get the feel for the wheel. It just takes vigilence to actually keep up on "10 and 2", checking the blind spots, etc, etc.

      Tom
      • I agree. I think the most dangerous people on the road, after teenagers, are definitely the over 65 set who simply renew their license by mail. I can't tell you how many times I've been cut off by or stuck behind some old lady who can barely see over the steering wheel of her big boat of a Cadillac cruising down an open freeway at 40 mph. There's no way some of these people could pass a driving test, if they were only given them.
  • by AdamWeeden (678591) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @08:52AM (#15147967) Homepage

    I know Mythbusters' results aren't highly regarded in the Slashdot community, but a recent episode [tv.com] they did showed that (at least for them) talking on a cell phone degraded their ability to drive in a similar manner that driving under the influence of alcohol did.

    They (Adam and Kari) basically drove a road course sober, with no distractions to establish a baseline driving skill level with such things as obstacle avoidance, reaction time, and parking being tested. They were graded on both time and accuracy. Then they attempted to talk to Jamie while driving, and were evaluated. Then they drank enough beer to be just under the legal blood alcohol limit in California (greater than .07 but less than .08), and were graded again. While both of them passed the baseline, they failed the cell phone test and the alcohol test, and the failures were similar (as far as degradations in reaction time and such). This correlated with research done by the nsurance Institute for Highway Safety who found that cell phone users were four times as likely to be involved in a serious crash. [insurance.com]
  • Except in emergencies, motorists in those states can use cell phones only with hands-free devices, such as earpieces. Restrictions vary across other states.

    Because we all know that it's having our hand on the cell phone that causes the distraction versus concetrating on the discussion being conducted on the phone (usually work related) instead of the road.

    If they really want to make is safer, since people will continue to use cell phones, hands free or not, they should lower the speed limits. That way, the
  • I know a lot of respectable companies have their own rules re. use of a phone while driving.
    Shell allowes only hands free calls but advises against any calls, BP bans all type of radio or telephone use while driving.
    I agree, people can wait for your answer till you are at a stop.

    Another good reason to have you're hourly coffee break :)

  • by aplusjimages (939458) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @09:11AM (#15148087) Journal
    I've seen people reading newspapers while driving. That's right a newspaper. That's right driving. Not parked and reading, I said driving and reading a newspaper with both pages spread out. I don't like cell phone drivers either, but why not address all distractions in one new law.
  • by The Asmodeus (18881) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @09:24AM (#15148199)

    I've heard that comparison several times and I thought it was just wrong. After all, I talk on the cell phone and my driving is pretty good. That is what I thought at least, until I started riding a motorcycle on the street. You notice everything when on a bike in the middle of a bunch of distracted car drivers, and soon I started noticing several patterns. The biggest was that people talking on a cell phone can be spotted easily.

    • They veer constantly between the lines. Sometimes it's just a little but they all do it. Most aren't even aware of it.
    • Their reaction time is slowed tremendously. The light turns green/red, someone stops in front of them, etc.. They are always just a bit late on their reaction.

    You all can tell yourselves that you don't do that. That YOU ARE a good driver, and you probably normally are. But so am I.. And so are probably 50% of the people I spot weaving and hitting the brakes 1 second later than they should.

    • by Garse Janacek (554329) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @10:35AM (#15148934)
      That's exactly why I don't believe all the people saying "Oh, but those are just the irresponsible people, I know that I'm still a good driver!"

      I used to ride a bike to school all the time. I was careful about it, and unlike most cyclists I actually obeyed traffic laws. Even so, there were several times that I had near misses. Every single one was a driver talking on a cell phone, and most of the times were at an intersection, and the driver wasn't paying enough attention to notice me -- maybe they would have noticed a car even though they're on the phone, but for a bike they wouldn't even stop.

      I also noticed a lot of symptoms like the ones you describe -- you very quickly learn to spot and avoid the cell phone drivers, because they won't respond as quickly as a normal driver.

      Maybe there are some people who can do it safely, just like maybe there are some people who can drive well after a few drinks. But you don't get to drive a dangerous machine because "maybe" you're one of the small minority that can do it without impairing your driving.

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