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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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  • Re:Hands free? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Deaths Hand (93704) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @07:54AM (#15147730) Homepage
    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
  • 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.
  • Fix the real problem (Score:1, Informative)

    by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot AT keirstead DOT org> on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @08:00AM (#15147757) Homepage

    Seriously, talking on a cell phone while driving by itself is not dangerous. Distracting yourself while on the road is. Drinking coffee , applying lipstick, eating a big mac, fiddling with the stereo, any or all of these can be just as distracting as yapping on a cell, or even more so.

    Legislation singling out cell phones does nothing to combat the real problem - a 8am - 8pm working world where you need to squeeze the most out of every second, and damn the consequences.

    What should be done is harsher peanalties in the case of accidents. Person gets into a minor fender bender because they were yapping on the phone? What happens now? A minor increase and insurance premuim, and they're back on the road. What should happen - take away their license for 3 months and send them to traffic school - they obviously don't know how to drive properly without distractions. Go after the problem drivers, rather than ticketing the guy who can hanle calling his wife via voice-dial for 15 seconds to let her know he is on the way home. He is not the threat - the threat is the 21 year old power-suit who is spending more time putting on her Chanel while looking in the rear-view than watching the road.

  • 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
  • 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 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

  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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]
  • 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 Kombat (93720) <kombat@kombat.org> on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @09:26AM (#15148219) Homepage
    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 you. I assume most jurisdictions are like mine, where the cops have a regular radio (AM/FM/CD) and their dispatch radio, plus a laptop. Around here, the cops don't have partners, so they're in the cars by themselves. While driving, they tune the radio to find a station playing music they like, talk to dispatch with the handheld radio while doing mentally complex tasks (recalling a suspect's description, giving their location), often while doing dangerous and demanding driving tasks (i.e., trying to surreptitiously follow a suspect and needing to cut in front of other drivers or run stale yellow lights so as not to lose him). In addition, they may be typing license plate numbers into their laptops and trying to read the results (again, while navigating city traffic!) Incredibly, their laptops even run an instant-messaging application that allows them to type in messages to dispatch or other officers, so they're often driving down the road, while typing a chat message into their laptop. And these people are hunt-and-peckers, not touch-typists.

    I don't think it's a good idea for the general public to adopt the police's policies.
  • Car TVs (Score:2, Informative)

    by slashdotmsiriv (922939) on Tuesday April 18, 2006 @04:28PM (#15152393)
    "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. "

    Then, they should definetely legislate about the use of Car TV's. Many of them are placed in the visual field of drivers, and are already responsible for many accidents. Actually some early studies indicate that they are much more distracting than cellphones . This totally makes sense since you really need to take your eyes of the road to see that interesting scene on the screen.

Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. -- Albert Einstein

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