By on April 24, 2013

As part of their campaign against “distracted driving”, NHTSA has released new voluntary guidelines governing the use of in-car infotainment systems.

Among the core of the recommendations, as reported by Automotive News

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration specifically recommended disabling several operations unless a vehicle is stopped and in park:

• Manual text entry for the purposes of text messaging and internet browsing

• Video-based entertainment and communications such as video phoning or video conferencing

• Displaying certain types of text, including text messages, Web pages, and social-media content

Also recommended are guidelines for how many times drivers can touch a screen within a set time limit (6 touches for 12 seconds) to change things like the radio station or temperature.

Meanwhile, Juan Barnett over at DC Auto Geek has been compiling data on “distracted driving” for some time now, and when one really dives into it, it’s clear that cell phones and hand-held devices are really a minor issue in the grand scheme of things. Barnett previously lent TTAC a handy infographic that breaks down the causes behind “distracted driving”, while a recent guest post at Jalopnik provides a more in-depth examination of NHTSA’s own data.

Barnett shows that NHTSA’s data is full of vague catch-all categories, but the number of distracted driving events related to cell-phone use could be as high as 12 percent at best – and that’s when all cell phone category events are aggregated. Texting, as a specific category, accounts for just 1 percent of all distracted driving events. 39 Americans died from texting and driving in 2011, while 45 Americans died from syphilis, a disease that is generally considered a non-entity.

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102 Comments on “NHTSA Releases New Distracted Driving Guidelines As Data Presents A Very Different Picture...”


  • avatar
    RaptorConner

    In park? That would be difficult for me, none of my cars have that feature…

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    Voluntary guidelines? So manufacturers can just laugh and ignore?

    Sounds good to me.

  • avatar
    PhilMills

    TTAC’s editors focus (in my opinion) too much on the relatively small number of *deaths* attributable to distracted driving as a reason to totally discredit any need for distracted driving regulations.

    Does anyone have data showing the number of accidents, value of property damage, health care costs and lost wages due to non-fatal injuries and other non-death-but-real-consequences events that can be pinned on distracted driving?

    I would bet that those numbers would be MUCH more convincing of a need for some changes.

    Just because I’m not dead doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be pissed off that somebody rear-ended me at n stop light because they were checking Facebook instead of the traffic around them. Thousands of dollars in car repair, thousands of dollars in medical bills as a result of a text message… apparently not something TTAC’s editors think is worth worrying about.

    • 0 avatar
      thirty-three

      +1

      It’s also important to include all of the near misses and other stupidity caused by people using their mobile phones while driving. Things like sitting at a short green light until it turns yellow cause traffic to back up and tempers to flare.

      • 0 avatar
        PhilMills

        I’m very aware of how many of those “near misses” would be “expensive accidents” if I’m in my car or probable additions to the fatality statistics if I’m on my motorcycle if I were not paying extra attention to the behavior of the drivers around me to account for all the idiots.

        The two most common near-miss scenarios I tend to see from cell-phone users are:
        1) Lack of lane control – they’re not watching the road (in many cases not even steering) and drift off into the next lane, the median, the bike lane… This is usually followed up every 15ish seconds by a panicked over-correction.

        2) Lack of reaction time – “doot do do… been checkin ma’ Facebook for a while; I probably should look up and OH SH*T! Brakelights I would have seen five seconds ago if my head wasn’t staring down at this hilarious cat picture! SCREEEEETCH! CRASH!”

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        This would happen much less frequently if people didn’t think it was impolite to use the horn here. Don’t just sit there expecting the idiot to suddenly pay attention before the light cycles, let them know the light is green.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      @ PhilMills, +1

      That 12% figure calculated by Barnett and regurgitated by Kreindler is extremely dubious. As Barnett himself writes: “1,398 or 44% of total distracted driving factors were Not Reported. This means that distracted was noted in the Police Activity Report, but doesn’t specify the distraction factor. All of these cases could be texting or they could all be day dreaming. No one really knows.” (See http://thedcautogeek.kinja.com/why-america-should-but-cant-regulate-daydreaming-and-d-478355678.) In other words, the percentage of fatal accidents that involve cell phone use theoretically could be as high as 56%. Yes, the percentage involving daydreaming could be even higher, but I doubt it. My suspicion is that the involvement of cell phones in accidents (fatal and non-fatal) is under-reported.

      Kreindler’s comment below that “[i]f anything the post is about how the statistics being collected on it are exceedingly poor” is laughable. Really? Is that why he earlier states that “it’s clear that cell phones and hand-held devices are really a minor issue in the grand scheme of things”?

      Between the political undertones of Shmitt’s, Baruth’s, and Kreindler’s writing and Dykes’ obsession with infotainment systems, I’m coming to the conclusion that if the title doesn’t start with “Piston Slap” or “Junkyard Find,” I should just avoid the post altogether.

  • avatar
    Amendment X

    You put “distracted driving” in quotes like you don’t think it’s a real thing. Do you people actually drive, or do you spend your days armchair quarterbacking with the rest of the trolls on the Internet?

    It takes only one drive home from work to realize that AT LEAST half of the driving population is on cell phones while driving. People looking down, driving under the speed limit, swerving all over the place. Just because this activity is not causing mass deaths doesn’t mean it is undeserving of further investigation.

    It stands to reason that you would see a greater share of ACCIDENTS caused by distracted driving than deaths, as phone use is more common at lower speeds, or while stuck in traffic. All it takes is a split second and WHAM — you’re stuck in another car’s rear bumper.

    I also question the means of data collection in this study. Do you know how distracted driving accidents are usually reported? When you fill out an insurance claim form, many companies now ask you whether a cell phone was used immediately preceding the accident. The terrified insured could always just LIE and say that no phone activity was involved. We really know little about the statistics of distracted driving.

    Whether this issue deserves government regulation is a completely different discussion. But in the mean time, stop acting like the problem doesn’t exist.

    • 0 avatar

      Nobody is saying it doesn’t exist. If anything the post is about how the statistics being collected on it are exceedingly poor.

      • 0 avatar

        You are saying the contribution of mobile devices is trivial. You write:

        Meanwhile, Juan Barnett over at DC Auto Geek has been compiling data on “distracted driving” for some time now, and when one really dives into it, it’s clear that cell phones and hand-held devices are really a minor issue in the grand scheme of things…

        …39 Americans died from texting and driving in 2011, while 45 Americans died from syphilis, a disease that is generally considered a non-entity.

        This is baloney.

        Furthermore, I have serious problems with NHTSA. A couple of years ago I tried to get statistics from them on traumatic brain injury. They didn’t have any. Now, I would consider traumatic brain injury (TBI) potentially a fate worse than death. To wit: a friend of my parents, a Harvard professor, was reduced by TBI from a car crash, to having the intelligence of a four year old child. His wife spent his last ten years caring for him like a kid who was never going to grow up.

        To try to paint texting while driving as not unsafe is just plain irresponsible. The Virginia Tech 100 car study found that any operation that takes your eyes off the road ahead for 2 seconds increases your chances of a crash by 19-fold. They found further that the more operations you had to do with your eyes off the road (like each typing of a letter on your mobile device) the more time, and the more danger.

        • 0 avatar
          Landcrusher

          David,
          I agree that texting while driving is unsafe, and distractions should be avoided. Now, I just skimmed this section of comments but I can’t find anyone seriously stating texting while driving is safe. Every time this discussion comes up, there is someone, this time you, accusing those critical of the hype over distracted driving of saying its not unsafe. Sometimes, they accuse the other side of wing pro texting.

          I often accuse members of the social right wing of killing unborn babies because by continuously using poor rationale and bad tactics, they are actually hurting the pro life cause. The only real work on that front being done by those offering counsel and assistance to mothers to consider adoption or other paths.

          If the distracted driving crusaders continue using hype and bad arguments to respond to criticism of studies and legislative proposals, then it’s they who need to carry the blame for getting in the way of solutions. The body count comes with that.

          You are a bright guy. If you really believe this is a real problem, perhaps you can set a better example

    • 0 avatar
      carrya1911

      Anecdote is not a synonym for data. Hence one’s personal pique based on what they see in a daily commute is a poor basis for social policy.

      • 0 avatar
        Amendment X

        Enlightened critique, carrya1911. Perhaps you could delve into theories on confirmation bias, heuristics, and proper methods of collecting empirical evidence. Also please let me know when you are old enough to get your driver’s license.

        • 0 avatar
          carrya1911

          Well with all that education one would figure you could understand the gross sampling error one makes when making pronouncements on what HALF the driving population is doing based on observations during their commute.

          • 0 avatar
            Amendment X

            The crux of my argument is that distracted driving is perceptible on a daily basis; there isn’t an available statistic in the world to conclusively prove that it is happening at a specific frequency… including my personal observations. Your very own Derek Kreindler admits that fact readily.

            While everyone is offering valuable discussion on this matter, you focus your attention on a concept we already understand. Nice.

        • 0 avatar
          carrya1911

          The “crux” of your argument was a ridiculous question about putting quotes around the notion of “distracted driving” as if anyone was denying the existence of it as a phenomenon rather than questioning the definition being assigned to the term by people gathering statistics. It’s only after calling people “armchair quarterbacks” and “trolls” that you bothered to try and make a valid point.

          A number of us drive plenty, and we’ve seen people driving distracted. Have you ever attempted to render first aid to someone critically injured in a distracted driving incident? Actually had to gather the bits of their torn anatomy together so they could be put into a body bag?

          When you’ve had to clean another human being’s blood off of you after trying in vain to save their life in the wake of a distracted driving incident it rubs the wrong way to hear some dude in blog comments making such ridiculously incendiary statements.

          Nobody ever argued people weren’t driving distracted, sport. The argument is about how much of a problem the electronic bits of distraction are actually causing versus lower tech methods of distraction and whether or not laws and regulations will fix it.

          Speaking as somebody who’s personally witnessed the immediate aftermath of several low-tech distracted driving incidents that resulted in fatalities and serious injury, blaming the electronics seems misplaced to me.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            “Whether this issue deserves government regulation is a completely different discussion.”

            “The argument is about how much of a problem the electronic bits of distraction are actually causing versus lower tech methods of distraction and whether or not laws and regulations will fix it.”

            Aren’t you both making a very similar argument here?

          • 0 avatar
            Amendment X

            Carrya1911, with regard to your last 4 paragraphs, please see your earlier comment about anecdotal evidence. Thanks.

          • 0 avatar
            carrya1911

            The reason for pointing out that I’ve actually collected body parts and put them into body bags and attempted to save people’s lives was to point out that contrary to your ridiculous assertion, some of us have a far more visceral connection to the consequences of distracted driving than you can possibly imagine…and yet you climb on your high horse and act as if anyone who poses the question is clueless.

            I find that type of hubris insufferable.

            So the next time you feel the urge to say something that stupid, rethink it because I assure you there are people out there who understand the issue with far more clarity than you can possibly imagine.

          • 0 avatar
            Amendment X

            Once again you have incorrectly stated my position.

            Putting “distracted driving” in quotes is one of many things the editors of this site have done to demonstrate an unnecessarily cynical attitude toward this, as even YOU stated, is a clearly-perceptible problem, even if it is lacking accurate scientific data.

            Instead people like you spend their hours nitpicking common-sense arguments, clinging to technicalities about what evidence is anecdotal and what isn’t. We aren’t basing any policy off of the observations in this forum. We are simply stating our experience with distracted driving, and based on the posts here, there is clearly a widespread (and you guessed it… anecdotal!) consensus that cell phones are a major hazard to drivers, pedestrians, and motorcyclists.

            What is your position, besides wasting my time?

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      Anyone who doesn’t believe distracted driving is an issue should ride my motorcycle for a week and get back to me.

  • avatar
    lon888

    I’m with the posters here. Just because a person doesn’t die while using a cell phone while driving, it doesn’t mean they’re not a hazard. Many, many times I’ve nearly been rear ended or ran off the road because some idiot can’t get off their phone for their commute. Using a cell while driving is truly dangerous even though the deaths are very low.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    As with the recent contretemps regarding gun owner registration or whatever and a nutjob’s slaughter of children at an elementary school, the question that too few people seem to want to ask, much less expect, is that there be a reasonable link between the proposed regulation and the problem it is supposed to solve.

    The same issue exists here. I don’t think anyone doubts that distraction causes accidents. 35 years ago, I was rear-ended while stopped by a driver who told me she had turned around to attend to her screaming baby in the back seat. As numerous studies have shown, with cellphones, the biggest problem is the distraction of the conversation itself, not that the driver is holding a phone up to his ear, and that even a conversation with someone in the car has an almost equal distracting effect.

    My own observation — which is duplicated by nearly everyone here who posts on the subject — is that handheld cellphone conversation is rampant, notwithstanding laws that prohibit it.

    There is a lot of new stuff in a car that is distracting. Frankly, having used them, I would say that navigation systems are distracting: you’re always looking at the map display to see what’s coming next.

    And having used them in a couple of rentals, I would say that touchscreens that are used to operate vehicle functions, like heating and cooling of the cabin, are somewhat distracting to use. But so are “old fashioned” knobs, buttons, dials the like. In some cases, with those systems, they are placed in a way that forces you to look down to see, for example, what temperature you are setting for the cabin.

    Ultimately the use of all of this stuff, including text entry, really depends upon people having common sense. Trying to legislate out of the need for car operators to have common sense is a fool’s errand, as is enacting legislation that will have minimal effect on the evil that supposedly is being addressed.

    • 0 avatar

      +1

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Generally agree, but expecting common sense does not justify selling a product that is unnecessarily hazardous. (Every product/service has risk, but it is unwise to add more for no good reason.)

      I don’t shy away from my disdain for touch screens. I think they are bad products that have no place in cars. But it isn’t just the physical interface, it’s the operation of the controls:
      - No task should require navigating menus during normal operation (such as manually tuning the radio).
      - Controls should provide ample feedback, e.g., a blower knob that tells you what is selected just by its orientation as opposed to a single button that cycles through settings.

      Touch screens fail epically hard in these areas, but traditional systems may fail, too. The NHTSA’s recommendations seem reasonable, and I have no problem with them. Personally, I would go farther and include more specific guidelines to aid simplicity & consistency.

      • 0 avatar
        photog02

        redav- yes on both of your points. But the problem is, NHTSA is typically not able to address technologies, instead having to speak to the overarching concepts of interaction. One of the best examples is the Mercedes-Benz dual-view screen that can provide a different image to the driver and passenger (prohibited under current regs). NHTSA attempted to regulate the interaction, while the technology kept moving ahead.

      • 0 avatar

        +10

    • 0 avatar
      FordMan_48126

      DC Bruce – read your article. Genrally agree with your points in the article and in your posts here except for the following:

      Car manufacturers only build what people vote for with their dollars. That’s why forcing higher EPA gas mileage on consumers is and will always be futile….and why we see a proliferation of in vehicle fucntionality for connectivity and other electronic devices. It is because people want what they want. Government can never legislate out what people want (see Prohibition…how did that work out?)

      However, were car makers can help is add technology to add a layer of saftey to counter distractions. You asked what they could do – optical recognition that senses where the head is positioned and where the eyes are looking every few seconds. Ford and GM are already working on such systems, and Ford even has rolling stock examples of vehicles with such technology already out in the feild for testing. Such saftey devices are packaged/wrapped up in a suite that include collision avoidance, lane determination to gentley correct & steer a vehicle back into the intended lane, alertness/awake determination, etc. This next generation of saftey applications will go a long way to address the attentivness issues, no matter what causes it (mobile devices, in car devices, or plain old inattentiveness).

      So, while commone sense is always the best medicine, as someone whom works in the car industry car makers can and should do more. It is my personal opionion this is a bigger issue to be resolved than fuel economy…

    • 0 avatar
      rodface

      DC Bruce, thank you for this comment (and all others, for that matter).

      I agree that distraction from driving causes accidents. However, I happen to think that humans are actually particularly adept at the act of driving, and that this is thanks to our ability to become easily distracted. Many things that promote safe driving, such as obeying traffic signs, monitoring the surrounding vehicles, and anticipating their future movements, require varying degrees of distraction from the simple act of keeping the car between the lines. But are we really that good at driving?

      In 2010, the total population of U.S. drivers drove a combined 2,967 billion miles. During that period, there were 1.11 fatalities per million vehicle miles driven. The total fatalities were 32,885. The total deaths as a percentage of the total population of the U.S. in that year is 0.011%. As a percentage of the total vehicle miles driven, it is 0.0000011%. Due to the sheer size of the population, the number of deaths is not negligible; the rate at which they occur, though, is. It is impressive that the number of fatalities has gradually decreased over the past 10 years, even as the number of vehicle miles driven has increased by roughly 10%.

      I believe that achieving statistically significant improvements in the death rate will require a paradigm shift in how we drive. If operator error, rather than mechanical failure, is the major cause of driving fatalities, then that shift will come from removing the operator from the equation: a self-driving car.

      Source: http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Main/index.aspx

    • 0 avatar

      @DC Bruce

      Knobs you can find and manipulate without having to take your eyes off of the road. Touch screens need to be eyeballed.

      Of course you can’t legislate common sense, but texting while driving is an addiction. Legislation made driving while drunk rare compared to what it used to be, and legislation against texting while driving could do the same. Of course, the cops have to be encouraged to go after it, instead of the usual sitting by the side of the road with the radar on.

  • avatar
    carguy

    DC Bruce – a lot of things in and around the car are distracting, nobody is arguing that point. But when manufacturer’s start advertising car-Facebook integration it is time to draw the line as to what is reasonable and what are glaring and unnecessary distractions. Will such rules eliminate all distracted driving related accidents? No but they will reduce their growth and this is a perfectly reasonable policy.

    In much the same way that background checks for guns would not eliminate gun crime but it would reduce it.

    The argument that:
    a. Any new rule that will not eliminate 100% of the problem is not worthwhile is nonsensical. If that were the case we would have no laws at all.
    b. The argument that bad people will break the law anyhow is also nonsensical. By extension of this argument we shouldn’t bother outlawing murder and rape as murderers and rapists will do it anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      We already require background checks for most firearm purhcases. The idea that we don’t is a myth.

      Fatality rates and even the number of accidents have been declining since about 2009, so the idea that distracted driving is causing both to increase is false.

    • 0 avatar
      eamiller

      I’ll knock your straw men down one at a time.

      a. This argument is specious because you must analyze the benefit of the law vs. unintended consequences (I’ll address this in b). The data doesn’t support the laws as has been presented numerous times. However, politicians need support for their soap boxes and this is an easy target. This additional law is also unnecessary as we have sufficient coverage in other driving laws.

      b. Texting while driving laws have had a direct and measurable unintended consequence. Since people will engage in the behavior regardless (and this behavior is NOT tantamount to rape or murder and shouldn’t be treated as such), these laws just drive people to hide their behavior in ways that is MUCH more dangerous. What you get is people who are trying to text with their phone in their lap instead of in the relative view of the windshield. I don’t think anyone would argue this is a benefit.

      If dumb laws don’t work, then they should be stricken from the books. In every measurable way, texting while driving laws don’t work. you can’t legislate people’s behavior completely, as copyright law has shown.

      • 0 avatar
        CapVandal

        I tend to agree that we have too damn many laws.

        However, we have only 2 large mobile phone companies (ATT, Verizon) and they currently have (or could easily have) the technology to determine if a phone is in a moving vehicle.

        All they would have to do is not deliver text messages to a moving vehicle.

        Unintended consequences? Back seat passengers couldn’t text. People riding public transportation couldn’t text, &c.

        It would need to be a law — just an administrative directive.

        • 0 avatar
          carguy

          +1 There are plenty of ways to prevent people from using cell phones or other distracting devices while driving that have very few unintended consequences. Requiring carriers and car makers to disable these functions while the car is running would be a good start.

  • avatar
    lowsodium

    Guess I will have to keep clinging to my old cars.

  • avatar
    cargogh

    Crap, if all of this is true, my bigger concern now is syphilis.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I don’t come here as frequently as I used to, but I could swear this same infographic was posted a couple weeks ago.

  • avatar

    Continuing with the near-miss comments, I’m sure this study does not include how many accidents may have been caused by a negligent driver who themselves had a near miss. For example, a driver may be looking at their phone and swerve into another lane, looking up, they correct and near miss another car and then they are on their way. The other car may swerve and loose control, causing an accident without the original distracted driver ever stopping.

    I’m also not much of a fan of this report because regardless of the low accident/fatality rates are from mobile devices, Its still important to know not to text and drive.

    • 0 avatar
      carrya1911

      No one has argued to the contrary. The complaint that the data isn’t perfect neglects the truth that rarely is there such a thing as perfect data. Assuming the perfect data set existed and it really did take into account all the non-fatal accidents caused by people texting, you’re proceeding from the assumption that the distracted drivers wouldn’t be distracted if they just couldn’t text. It’s madness. Many years ago I was on a trip for work and I encountered people reading books and newspapers while piloting massive SUV’s at 80 MPH. Not just a few. *Many*

      I’ve seen people distracted by food, drink, children, personal hygiene, climate controls, radios, you name it.

      The bottom line is that there are many things that can distract drivers, especially if it’s a particularly stupid driver. There is no law that can eliminate or even ameliorate that risk. The person who is too stupid to pay attention to the road because they’re looking at their cell phone or in-dash entertainment isn’t going to suddenly become less of an idiot if you ban texting and infotainment systems. Attempting to deal with a fundamental flaw in human nature with a legislative solution…and I hate to be the guy that breaks this to everyone…*will never work.*

      Yes, people should know not to text and drive. They should also know not to drink and drive, and yet they do it. All the time. Hell, do you know how many cops I know of that have been busted out of their job getting caught driving drunk? Guys who have written tickets for DUI and who have worked fatal DUI accidents still get stinko and then get behind the wheel. Some of them behind the wheel of a cruiser while in uniform.

      Human nature is what it is. It can’t be fixed with legislation.

  • avatar
    mmdpg

    I remember reading studies that say talking on a cell phone, hands free or not, is signifigantly more distracting than talking to a person riding in the car. People with you in a car are watching the road too and will stop talking if they see a need for braking or avoiding an accident. Also, when on a cell phone your mind is on the conversation and not on your surroundings, you are placing yourself at the mall, at home, at the office with whoever you are talking to. It takes a second or two to “wake up” and get back to being in a car, that’s almost the definition of distracted driving.

    On a side note (old guy yelling “Get off my lawn!”) who is everyone talking to or texting that is so important? Are people buying a house, closing a big deal, talking to their doctor at 6:30 in the morning driving to work? Can’t they just leave the phone off or let it go to voicemail, get to work and start your day?

    • 0 avatar
      photog02

      People with you in a car are watching the road too and will stop talking if they see a need for braking or avoiding an accident.

      That does not apply to younger drivers. They are safer when they drive alone, and safest when an adult is in the vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      Ion

      How distracted am I if I talk to not existant people while driving?

  • avatar
    photog02

    And these guidelines look eerily similar to the guidelines published by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

    I will say that our federal approach to transportation problems is very much driven by the appearance of problems and not the actual presence of them. This infographic does a great job of highlighting this. However, it is hard to make a compelling argument about a more serious problem, such as drowsy driving, when you cannot parade sobbing families in front of committees or cameras talking about how a sleeping driver killed their kid. Once we have a blood test for drowsy driving, maybe. But until then, the spectacle is what motivates the DOT.

    • 0 avatar
      carrya1911

      I believe it was JB who noted the puritanical reflex desire to regulate other people’s behavior as being a primary instinct behind many pushes for regulation. Memory is a bit fuzzy, so forgive me if I’m attributing it to the wrong writer.

      …but whoever wrote it, they were right. Nothing needs mending so much as my neighbor’s behavior, you see. See someone texting? They’re a rotten bastard risking everyone’s lives…but little ol’ me driving when I’m on a bunch of different prescription meds? *THAT’S DIFFERENT!!!* Not having the sack to take grandma’s keys when she’s clearly become a danger to herself and everyone else on the road? *THAT’S DIFFERENT!!!*

      And so it goes. The general point here being that the urge to regulate is often driven by a completely irrational viewpoint based on pique rather than the realistic risks. It’s often driven by somebody being pissed off at someone else’s behavior and trying to make a federal case out of it.

      Woman I used to work with had a son that was killed by a “distracted” teen driver. His Ford Escort was no match for a Ford Excursion doing 65 MPH through a red light. Impact on the driver’s door. She has become an “activist” to get “distracted driving” banned. Nevermind that the teen who killed her son was 1.) Drunk 2.) Violating the terms of her learner’s permit 3.) Didn’t have permission to be driving the big Ford and that later the same teen was picked up again for DUI.

      The cell phone didn’t kill her son.

  • avatar
    ash78

    My first comment is that “no seatbelt” is not a causal or precipitating reason for a traffic fatality. It’s part of the death equation.

    And how do you separate the rest? Drunk, distracted, texting, AND no seatbelt? Are you counted 4 times?

    Fatalities are horrible, but they aren’t the sole issue. Any major collision could result in a fatality but for the grace of God (and ever-improving passive safety features). All serious accidents should be counted here, IMHO.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Its well and good to have regulations and controls in place, irrespective of the situation.

    Believe it or not most developing economies have adopted the regulations that govern most of the developed economies (OECD).

    The difference between the developed and not so developed economies is education and enforcing compliance to regulations.

    This feature of regulations can also be seen in developed economies as well.

    Most if not all vehicle manufacturers have warnings, cautions and note in owner manuals for safe operation of a vehicle. There lawyers made sure of that.

  • avatar
    ChrisKeeley

    I am solidly in favor of this sort of thing. I honestly wish it was mandatory rather than voluntary, as well – I hate “big government” but this particular issue is too massive to ignore. Several studies have been done that found cell phone use (ESPECIALLY texting) to be much more harmful than driving at the legal limit for alcohol.

    This is sort of a personal issue as I’m a motorcyclist, full time, no car – and my bike is QUIET and I abide by the law while riding, for reference. Bozos who can’t rip themselves away from their phones or infotainment systems are by far and away the most dangerous idiots on the road. I already have enough people trying to merge into the side of my bike because they don’t see me without their attention being further divided by electronics.

  • avatar
    Kinosh

    One (possible) big issue here is that distracted drivers don’t act like drunk ones. Texting while driving is not going to give you the impulse to take a curve at 5x-10x the recommended speed.

    I have to imagine that a large number of the “drunk” also falls under the “no seatbelt”.

  • avatar
    wsn

    If that’s the stat they collect, I can only conclude that police didn’t do a good job catching the offenders.

    I would suggest that treat mobile device the same as alcohol. If a car is suspicious, or already in an accident, there should be a mandatory check of previous wireless communications.

    It can be all transparent: officer enters GPS coordinate of the car, wireless service providers return the voice/text data for any device that is located there. The technology is there. Only needs some political support.

    • 0 avatar
      replica

      What if a passenger is using my phone?

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        If the passenger is of a different gender or age, it’s pretty trivial to find out and prove that the driver was using it. For the 10% that it’s not trivial, just give them benefit of doubt.

    • 0 avatar
      carrya1911

      Speaking as someone who has a little bit of familiarity with search and seizure…are you REALLY suggesting that a cop should have the ability to pull you over and search your phone on the side of the road because he/she suspects you’re driving while texting?

      If so, you’re opening a pretty damn big can of 4th amendment worms you won’t ever be able to stuff back in that can.

      This is exactly what I’m talking about. Yes, distracted driving is a problem. Is it a sufficiently large problem that you’d throw away 4th amendment protections in the car? If so, where does it stop? What if an officer suspects you’re distracted by putting on makeup? Should he/she be able to search the vehicle for Revlon and then book ‘em Danno if they find it?

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        There is no “search and seizure”, if you read my post. The officer pull out data directly from service provider to his own device (by GPS positioning). The mobile device is in the driver’s possession the entire time.

        • 0 avatar
          carrya1911

          The data directly from the service provider *IS* search and seizure. If I want data from your service provider, whether it’s your Gmail or your text records, current jurisprudence says I have to get a warrant.

          That is as it should be.

          4th amendment protections extend to more than just physical control of property.

          • 0 avatar
            wsn

            You certainly didn’t interpret the 4th amendment right. A warrant is not needed, if there is reasonable ground to start the search.

            Just treat driving while using mobile device the same as driving under the influence of alcohol in terms or legality.

          • 0 avatar
            carrya1911

            If I’m not interpreting the 4th amendment right, then I’ve wasted a hell of a lot of time getting warrants for text records, email, and other electronic communication for cases involving everything from drug trafficking to child pornography. I can’t simply say “I think Bob here has child porn on his computer” and then start searching. I have to articulate reasonable suspicion in an affidavit and get a magistrate to sign the warrant before I can search or I have to actually see what I reasonably believe is child porn on the computer before I can search. And even if I do see what I believe is CP on the computer I’m still going to get a warrant in case the grounds for my search is challenged later in court.

            What you are discussing is basically akin to a wire tap…monitoring electronic communications. Absent exigent circumstances or some very specific national security concerns, police cannot simply monitor your cell signal looking for any sign you might be texting behind the wheel without completely flushing current understanding on the 4th amendment.

            Another point of correction: *I* don’t interpret the 4th amendment. The USSC ultimately interprets the 4th, and current jurisprudence doesn’t allow for what you proposed.

            I encourage you to do some reading on the jurisprudence surrounding 4th amendment issues with electronic evidence. You’ll find it quite surprising.

            As for treating it like drunk driving, you apparently have the incorrect impression that I can just bust somebody for DUI. If I see them breaking traffic laws or operating a vehicle dangerously I can pull them over. If I suspect they are under the influence of something I have to administer a roadside test and then perhaps a blood test…and just this week the USSC ruled in Missouri v. McNeely that a warantless blood test is a violation on 4th amendment grounds.

            If the state can’t draw blood without a warrant it is highly unlikely they’ll be able to spy on your electronic communications without a warrant.

            …and as I said before, that is as it SHOULD be.

          • 0 avatar
            wsn

            1) Drawing blood poses physical pain and can be abused. A wireless data search should be compared to a breath test. Supreme court didn’t ban that, I suppose.

            2) I never said a wireless check would be done out of the blue. It should, of course, be done where an alcohol breath test is applicable.

  • avatar
    Darkhorse

    I wonder then why all the aircraft pilots that ever flew survived. You want distraction? Try flying solo in IFR conditions. Switching radio frequencies, setting transponder codes, talking to ATC, staring at attitude indicators to see if you’re still right side up.

    I was a military pilot many moons ago and part of the training was how to be aware of your situation given all of the distractions. Maybe high school and private drivng schools could make this part of their ciriculum?

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      Pilots must pass certain tests and qualification. They are probably in the top 10% in terms of coordination, response and intelligence.

      But with personal vehicles, will you ban people from driving whose response time is at the bottom 10%?

      • 0 avatar
        wsimon

        Would that really be such a bad idea? A vehicle is a very large, high velocity object that, in the wrong hands, can easily result in fatalities. I worry that with all of this conversation about how bad distracted driving is, people will forget that poorly skilled drivers are by far a larger danger to the public at large. Banning usage of electronic devises while driving will have nary the impact that a harder, more intensive, and most importantly a car control-focused (none of this rolling-back from a stop sign uselessness that we focus on now) driving test would have.

        • 0 avatar
          Kinosh

          Flying has much larger risks and much less day-to-day utility than driving does. Off the top of my head, pilots have to worry about weather and weather forecasting, the absolutely ancient navigation system (VORs anyone?), and the fact that mid-air breakdowns require a bit more than just “pulling over”.

          Pilots are not in the top 10% of coordination, response, or intelligence. The NASA near-miss and accident database is FULL of stories that would make you wonder how these people got a license.

          I speak as a VFR-rated private pilot.

  • avatar
    carrya1911

    For the sake of spurring further discussion, I do know of a death directly attributable to texting. A pedestrian was killed by a bus…only it was the pedestrian that was texting. She was listening to her MP3′s and typing up a text when she walked into the street without looking and literally ran into a bus. She fell down and the bus driver swerved. Unknown to him, that put the fallen girl’s head directly in the path of the rear tires. Her phone landed in the grass and was unharmed.

    It was a messy scene that, for reasons which mystify me, many of her classmates seemed to want to get closeup pictures of. It took threats of physical force to get the camera vultures to stop trying to take pictures of what remained of the poor girl’s destroyed skull.

    Other “distracted driving/operating something with wheels” deaths I’m aware of:

    - Bus driver sees an Abe Lincoln impersonator, focuses on that, jumps the sidewalk and kills a pedestrian.

    - Bicyclist listening to Radio Head speeding down a hill doesn’t see someone at the bottom of it, collides into the girl, and her head ended up being bounced off concrete at what turned out to be terminal velocity.

    - Truck driver going through a college town sees pretty girls in their late teens wearing swimsuits catching rays on the quad. Doesn’t stop at a red light and ends up destroying another pretty girl in her late teens who was crossing the street with the lights.

    - Skateboarder was trying to do some slick tricks on the rails of some stairs that spilled out right next to a street…and ended up underneath an Audi when the trick went wrong. Particularly bad place as shrubbery prevented the Audi driver from any hope of seeing what was happening on the stairs until a human being appeared as if from out of nowhere and even with the Audi’s good brakes it wasn’t enough to prevent terminal injury.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Well, if they’re not killing a bunch of people, I suppose cell phones aren’t a problem.

    I’ll just ignore the incident 2 days ago when a driver pulled out into traffic in front of me for a left turn. One hand & ear glued to a phone, she was unable to check traffic or steer the car into the middle turn lane before I had to come to a screeching halt to avoid broadsiding her. She was still perpendicular across the freaking travel lane trying to one-hand steer. Didn’t even see me until I blew the horn feet from her door, and then she was PISSED. At me. But it wasn’t a fatality was it? Pretty damn close (for her), but not quite.

    This is not uncommon. The worst non-aggressive non-elderly driving I see on the road is being done by people on phones. And I’ll bet they don’t even know they are doing it.

    I understand & agree with the reluctance to implement draconian law enforcement techniques to stop it, but regardless of how you cut the statistics, cell phone use while driving a car is a self-absorbed, obnoxious thing to do.

    • 0 avatar
      carrya1911

      Do you believe there’s a significant difference between the task load of someone holding a cell phone to their ear vs. using a hands-free system?

      How about a significant difference between the task load of someone holding a conversation with a person inside the vehicle vs. doing so over some form of electronic communication?

      Note that I’m kind of giving away the answer by using the term “task load”. Task loaded individuals lack situational awareness. This makes them easy prey for criminals if they’re at the ATM goofing with their phone or arguing with their spouse instead of noticing the gangnbanger encroaching on them, and it makes them bad behind the wheel because they aren’t paying attention to where they’re steering a 2 ton missile.

      You can be more task loaded with a passenger in the car than another guy who is checking his voicemail while holding the phone to his ear.

      Focusing on the device is the wrong approach…it’s the state of being distracted from the primary responsibility of piloting the vehicle safely that’s the issue. And even then, the amount of attention required to pilot the vehicle safely varies from moment to moment, drive to drive. Conditions dictate the level of attention needed to accomplish the task safely.

      I’ve yet to meet *anyone* who has never had an inappropriately task-loaded moment behind the wheel.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        I’m guessing you are a fan of one particular form of task-loading that I won’t mention specifically, otherwise I cannot fathom the motivation behind the amount of time and effort you have put into parsing & dissecting every argument and tangentially defending cell phone use on this board today.

        All you’ve done in your reply is argue that cell phones are one of a number of distracting activities that lead to poor driving, and yet you somehow think it’s a refutation to my complaint that cell phones are a distracting activity that leads to poor driving.

        • 0 avatar
          George Herbert

          I think there is an insidious combination of “brain busy” and “hand busy” with cellphones, that magnifies things.

          Actually holding the phone up – and simultaneously doing something else physical, like manipulating steering wheel and shifter – is a big deal. There’s a reason that professionals who use radios a lot tend to handsfree.

          Police don’t, but probably should, in their cars. Handsfree plus a push-to-talk on the steering wheel would be a good thing. And less of that typing license plates while driving, and more speech recognition for that sort of thing.

          Pilots do. And have for many decades.

        • 0 avatar
          carrya1911

          I was asking legitimate questions because I thought that’s what the point of the commentariat was?

          I haven’t defended anything. I’ve merely pointed out that I have firsthand experience with the consequences of what could legitimately be termed “distracted driving” and only in a relatively small number of instances has the carnage involved an electronic device.

          The problem with distracted driving is distracted DRIVERS…and I’m legitimately wondering where we draw the line on attempting to regulate the possible distractions that a driver might be exposed to.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            Except I’m not arguing for regulation. Like walking around with your finger digging around in your nose, I’d rather have societal mores shame people into putting the phone down.

            If fear of regulation is all your position is about, you could have just read the last statement of my comment more carefully and saved yourself over 200 words of unnecessary typing.

  • avatar
    wsimon

    The problem with distracted driving legislation is that ultimately, regardless of any potential good intentions by those who enact it, this will become just another profitable distraction for police to use instead of doing something about our inexcusable violent crime rate. We need less police spending the majority of their time at the side of the road, not more.

  • avatar
    redav

    Worthwhile info related to the topic–more evidence saying that it is not the hand motions of using a phone that cause problems.
    http://www.chron.com/cars/article/Siri-Vlingo-are-no-better-than-texting-and-4456612.php

    • 0 avatar
      carrya1911

      Precisely my point. Experiments have been done that demonstrate something as seemingly simple as holding a conversation can have the same detrimental effect on driving that texting does. Any number of things can become a sufficient task load to produce a distracted driver…so how far down the rabbit hole of regulation do we want to go in the effort to combat it?

      If we argue that texting behind the wheel is bad because it distracts, I can produce experiments that will show having a conversation with a passenger in the car is just as distracting.

      Reason should rule when it comes to making social policy…but unfortunately that’s not how it works most of the time.

  • avatar

    Before texting became popular, I remember driving by some people who were reading books while driving… you just can’t legislate everything…

  • avatar
    pacificpom2

    The NHTSA can only make guidelines whilst the people demand total freedom from government interference. The exact opposite are the people who let their governments take their money and licenses in the name of safety, the same governments that will fine you for not having a pool fence around anything deeper than 6 inches. Whilst these are two extremes, what can you do? Let them text/be inattentive and kill because that’s their freedom to do so. Fine let them, but at least start ramping up penalties so that inattentive driving starts equating to homicide. Then it becomes self regulating. Only the hard core idiots will be left and then Darwinism can take over.

  • avatar
    jstew89

    I actually had a good friend that was killed in an accedent while texting in 2011. I never realized that she was such a rare statistic

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    Although I’m not implying that its any safer, I’m surprised by how many people I see driving late-model high end cars (i.e. Lexus, Jaguar, BMW, etc.) with a phone in their hand stuck to their ear. Don’t these cars have bluetooth? I could see it being unavailable or optional on the lower end stuff, but these high-end rides have had bluetooth for some time now. Are people just unaware of how to set it up? That seems like the only plausible answer to me, otherwise why not use it if you are going to make a call anyway?

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    They can make as many laws as they like, won’t affect me because I choose not to talk or text on the phone while driving, set my GPS while stopped in a safe place and even will ignore or tell passengers to be quiet when road conditions are tricky. My car, my rules. Basically I choose to pro-actively reduce distractions. I would rather not have the multitude of challenges that go with a car crash, thank you.

    • 0 avatar
      pacificpom2

      Excellent attitude, we need more of your type driving. Unfortunately it’s the other morons out there that don’t give a rat’s ass about your (and others) safety, as long as they are free and happy and blissfully unaware that other people are sharing the road with them at the same time.

  • avatar
    Ion

    I’ll touch my damn screen as much as I like

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I don’t care about deaths. Thousands of people die in accidents, but there are hundreds of thousands hurt and millions of dollars lost and wasted. We are only looking at one piece of the puzzle

    • 0 avatar
      360joules

      In healthcare we call it “Mortality vs Morbidity.” People survive trauma that was fatal 10-20-30 years ago. They may not thrive, but they will survive.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        I think people focus on deaths because info on fatalities is by far the easiest to come by. But when you look at total # of accidents, things are not really better. We have the same # of accidents per year as we did in 1990, despite cars being safer and better equipped to avoid accidents. And the # of accidents is huge. 11 million accidents a year, on average. A far far cry from the 30-40 thousand deaths- which along with injuries have been declining precipitously thanks to better safety technology. So the cars are getting better but we are getting worse.

        • 0 avatar
          Landcrusher

          Number of accidents is a lying number. If you want to lie, quote it loud and often. It’s rates which tell the truth. If you want to lie, you scream and yell about about the texting epidemic. Then, you can ticket people checking their phone at stop lights and take their money in the name of safety. The result will be a bunch of people joining the TEA party movement so it won’t be all bad.

          Or, if you really care about safety, you can use effective and truthful means to reduce a bad thing without lies and demagoguery. Improving society and the roads at the same time would be better don’t you think?

        • 0 avatar
          carrya1911

          Those numbers don’t surprise me because the primary factor for accidents in 1990 is the same factor for accidents in 2013: People.

          If the idea that technology in the car was causing lots more problems is true, I would expect to see more accidents…not the same number. Better handling, ABS, warning systems and the like are all good but we’d probably have a hard time identifying numbers of accidents avoided by that safety technology. Even if we could, I doubt it would account for a significant enough number to show that there’s a massive number of accidents caused by electronic forms of distraction vice other forms.

  • avatar
    CapVandal

    Wow ….

    1. We got into this via technology. Let’s get out of it the same way and require mobile carriers to *not* deliver text messages to moving vehicles. Or something similar.

    2. We definitely need better user interfaces. I bought a new cd/receiver and it has a zillion menus and only one f**** button.

    3. Build what the public wants? Henry Ford said if he had asked his customers what they wanted, they would have said faster horses (ok … probably he never really said it). The man/machine interface has fallen way too far behind growth of digital communication and entertainment technology.

    4. It is sort of bizarre that younger people are so enamored with texting when they could actually just TALK to the other person. This is just me. Texting and twitter may disappear for something else before any laws get implemented.

    5. I got rear ended on a perfectly clear day, 4 lane road, minimal traffic. I was doing the speed limit in the middle lane, so maybe it was a little bit my fault. I normally don’t drive the speed limit, but I was going to a dental appointment. I am pretty sure she was distracted by her cell phone. However, there was no proof of distracted driving and it never hit any database.

    • 0 avatar
      WildcatMatt

      The problem I have with #1 is, what if it’s an emergency? If I’m on the freeway headed to dinner with my wife and the babysitter wants to text me that the kid fell off his bike and they’re headed to the ER, if traffic is moving I won’t even know there’s a problem until I reach the bottom of the off-ramp.

      I mean, I know my parents and I did just fine 35 years ago with only the one rotary phone on the wall at home, but part of the reason I carry a smart phone is so I can be reachable when I choose to be.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        What’s wrong with calling? Smart phones still take calls, right?

        A brief phone call, even without bluetooth integrated with the car audio, should be less distracting that reading a text message. And it is definitely less distracting than trying to reply to one.

  • avatar
    CapVandal

    And furthermore ….

    Per Wikipedia …. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_traffic-related_death_rate

    The US has about the same number of traffic related deaths per 100,000 as Cambodia.

    Here is what they are saying about Cambodia:

    http://latitude.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/12/development-and-its-discontent/?gwh=75775239C69A38F35927ED0C8374B295

    I have actually ridden on motos (eg Honda Super Cub) in Phnom Penh at first it is shockingly frightening. You can’t figure out how anyone lives through it. But the main reason there isn’t absolute carnage is that the speeds tend to be quite low due to crowding and awful streets — mostly the former.

    And also, people don’t drive that much.

    And Americans drive a hell of a lot of miles.

    I don’t have any answers, but will note that driving in the US is both pretty safe yet also too dangerous.

  • avatar
    Type57SC

    Those bullet point recommendations all seem reasonable for the driver infotainment. The multiple touches one could go too far if the OEMs lock out more than X touches/ Y time but as long as it’s just influencing how many correct touches (how deep in the menus) it takes, then that’s okay with me.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      There is nothing a driver needs to be doing on the road besides driving. Texts, tweets, emails, Facebook, celebrity gossip, Youtube videos about cats, none of this stuff is important enough to warrant effort from OEMs and even allowance from the NHTSA. I have been driving for a paltry 11 or so years and never needed any of this crap

  • avatar
    Junebug

    My new car has a touch screen (2012 Camry SE) and after learning the basics of how to use it, I found that using the touch screen while driving distracted me a lot more than I liked, and I was just changing the damn radio station! Old cars you had 5 pre-sets and could feel the buttons and knew where each one was. I switched to using the steering wheel controls, much better and I use blue tooth when I need to call anyone.
    Another point someone mentioned was the one about medical science being able to keep you alive now where as years ago it was the eternal nap. I’m not suggesting we go back to bleeding or anything, but, my own father was “saved” after a major heart attack. He was almost 93 and had terminal pancreatic cancer. After a week in the hospital, he suffered 20 days in a skilled nursing home, dying a little each day. I know, I went to see him every single day. He was angry and wanted to die, I told him the doctors saved his life after the heart attack – he replied, they didn’t do me any favor. He was right, if we’d left him alone he’d have passed away in his own bed and that would have been that. The last month of his life was horrible, expensive and useless. At some point, we need to figure out that quality of life means a lot more than quantity. And yes, if I’m ever in a bad crash – please, if I’m fucked up, just let me die. I have no desire to be a burden on my family and besides, they could use the insurance money.

  • avatar
    etho1416

    How did they compile these stats? I sincerely doubt most people would admit to texting or talking on the phone while driving. If the cops or another car were involved in the accident they would certainly not admit to it to avoid being blamed for the accident by the cops or insurance companies.


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