By on July 24, 2014

texting behind the wheel of death

If any legislators were hoping banning cell phone use behind the wheel would cut down on accidents and fatalities linked to distracted driving, it may have been all for naught according to a handful of studies on the matter.

Autoblog reports the most recent study, published in Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, looked over the before and after regarding California’s 2008 ban in the year it went into effect. The findings? After six months, cell phone-linked accidents fell from 66.7 per day to 65.2. Another study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Highway Loss Data Institute looked over claim rates in 2009 and 2010, finding that ban or no ban, the song remained the same.

As for why this is so, associate professor of economics Daniel Kaffine of the University of Colorado posits drivers are either ignoring the bans outright, using hands-free technology that still distracts drivers, drivers are distracted by other things — ranging from the radio to the kids fighting in the back — and/or cell phone use isn’t as bad as once perceived.

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79 Comments on “Cell Phone Bans Failing To Curb Accident Rates...”


  • avatar

    Scientific studies show that texting while driving is okay so long as you look up at the road every once in a while.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      “Scientific studies show that texting while driving is okay so long as you look up at the road every once in a while.”

      you forgot to add while you swerve from lane to lane in between glances.

  • avatar

    Distracted driving comes in many shapes and forms as the above states.

    Not just Texter’s: but people will have to look behind themselves to check on the children and for other reasons.

    Many new cars are coming with collision avoidance.
    My cars sound a loud beeping warning when you are quickly approaching a car that is slowing down or stopped.
    Gives you roughly 2 to 3 seconds worth of time to apply the brakes.

    Naturally you will probably only have this feature if you have front parking sensors and adaptive cruise control.
    Some cars have the ability to apply the brakes all by themselves.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      Volt has collision avoidance as an option, but not adaptive CC or automatic braking. It’s nice to have (as is the lane departure warning) but I can’t recall any particular instance of it alerting me to something I wasn’t already aware of.

      OTOH I can imagine both of those, coupled with cruise control, being very helpful for impaired drivers in maintaining their lane and having some warning of collision (at least on higher-speed roads).

    • 0 avatar

      We’ve banned texting in Mass ($100 fine) but I don’t think it’s being enforced. I see texters frequently.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    We’re a communicating species. Most driving is boring. Bring on the autonomous cars ASAP so young ladies like the one I saw texting in stop-and-go traffic can do their chatting.(red 3 series BTW) Enthusiasts like me need to settle.

    • 0 avatar

      No wonder “auto enthusiasts” want us to have more manuals. Make it so we can’t do anything but drive the car…

      …and that’s exactly why automatics won the war.

      • 0 avatar
        mitchw

        Don’t look at me. I drive stick, but could care less what transmission someone has. Can they control their car and be safe and courteous on the road? The manual/auto debate is just tiresome internet click bait; leave it to Jalopnik. Driving is boring if all you’re doing is getting around. Enthusers are losers in this argument.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        You still think people don’t text & shift at the same time? You must not be as coordinated as the latest crop of phone addicts.

        • 0 avatar

          How could people text and still row their own gears???

          How many hands do these people have?

          • 0 avatar
            Quentin

            Most interstate/highway driving requires little to no shifting after you’ve gotten up to speed.

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            I can text, talk, dial, drink a big gulp, eat fries, fiddle with my nav system (and my girlfriend); while still driving a peaky S2000 with a stick fast enough to be annoyed senseless by your average safety nazi in a Volvo. And I’m an old fart whose neither particularly good at driving nor multitasking.

            If distractions cause accidents, bump speed limits to the point where a modern car must be driven with some semblance of attention paid, in order to keep up. Or, get rid of taxes, and let the roads deteriorate to the point of needing attention at today’s speed limits. Either way is a win, for anyone but the busybodies and revenue collectors.

        • 0 avatar
          mitchw

          Like I said, tiresome.

          • 0 avatar
            tankinbeans

            mitchw, thank you. I’m happy I learned how to drive a manual and now don’t have to worry if I’m ever out with friends, who drive manuals, that suddenly become ill (or inebriated) and can’t drive home. I don’t have to worry about not being able to make it home, but I’m not of the “manual or nothing” set.

            As far as I’m concerned, if everybody gets where they’re going and I don’t have to take evasive action due to some nard I’m good.

            That being said, my phone is always in my pocket when I’m in the car, and is always on silent. If I get a text Mrs. Sync (what I call Ford’s infotainment woman) tells me and reads it to me. If it’s important enough to respond quickly I will call the person, as Mrs. Sync tells me who it was too.

      • 0 avatar
        TheyBeRollin

        If you can’t text and drive a manual car, you must be over 40, at least. My transmission never hindered my ability to text, it was the laws that did it.

        Most people that don’t do it blatantly are far worse drivers than those that held them at the tops of their steering wheels before the ban.

        Drivers were better shortly after the ban, but it was worse than before the ban after 6 months.

        • 0 avatar
          niky

          If you’re over fifty, actually, you should be able to drive a stick while changing out of gym shorts, eating a burger and drinking from a Big Gulp all at the same time… because you’ll have started driving before seatbelts became mandatory.

          If you’re over forty, you should still be able to eat, drink and text at the same time, while driving a stick.

  • avatar
    FractureCritical

    the first rule of writing a law is that whatever you write has to be enforceable, or it’s not a law.
    Or conversely, it’s not a crime if you can’t get caught for it.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      My anecdotal experience here in IL is that people are ignoring the ban, and since enforcement is so difficult, I expect that CA’s ban is equally ignored by CA drivers.

    • 0 avatar

      The law obviously CAN’T enforce anti-texting laws. There aren’t enough cops for that and cameras can’t tell what you’re looking at.

      If texting-while-driving is illegal, then ANY FORM of distracted driving should be. But I can’t imagine the government EVER passing laws against:

      ” the radio to the kids fighting in the back ”

      Either car companies have to put more advanced anti-collision systems in cars, or we could let the FREE MARKET take care of it…

      INSURANCE is a great mitigator of risk. If these people have accidents, their premiums will go up. If they have too many accidents their insurance will become impossible to afford and they’ll be off the road until they get their B.S. together…

      • 0 avatar
        FractureCritical

        you expect the average person to weight future consequences of thier own potential mistakes?

        you sir, are a comedian of the highest order, and I applaud your wit.

      • 0 avatar
        Kendahl

        If they can no longer afford insurance, many will drive without it. That’s why it’s wise to have your own insurance to cover damage done by uninsured and underinsured drivers.

        • 0 avatar

          “If they can no longer afford insurance, many will drive without it.”

          If we MAKE EXAMPLES OUT OF THEM And LOCK THEM UP they probably will think twice about that as well.

          POLICE are a great mitigator as well.

          OF FREEDOM!

          • 0 avatar
            Quentin

            Incarcerate people for driving without insurance? Let’s think about this objectively instead of an emotional outburst. The net result of driving uninsured is potential monetary loss. People don’t die from driving uninsured. People don’t get in wrecks from driving uninsured. People that are uninsured that get in a wreck cause financial loss for someone else. Taking people that likely already can’t afford insurance and putting them in the clink does not add value or make up for the lost value caused by them getting into an accident without insurance. Fine them, garnish wages, whatever. Putting them in jail simply takes a situation where monetary value has been lost and wastes more money.

            Drunk driving or reckless driving are different animals because they can directly lead to loss of life. Driving uninsured isn’t inherently unsafe; it is just being a jerk to your fellow driver because you aren’t being responsible for your liability.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      As a crime it can be useful in establishing liability in the event of an accident. For example, some stupid broad texts, hits a motorcyclist. If her phone and carrier records can be examined and her illegal behavior determined, then additional (and richly-deserved) penalties and insurance liability can ensue.

    • 0 avatar
      cartunez

      “When law and morality contradict each other,” wrote Frederic Bastiat, “the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law.”

    • 0 avatar
      wumpus

      Except if an insurance agency is able to deny a single claim after pulling cell phone records, these laws will never, ever go off the books.

      Who am I kidding, laws banning chewing gum won’t go off the books, but you get the picture.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    If they put cell phone jammers in cars, the accusations of stepping on the First Amendment will run rampant.

    Let Darwinism run its course. No other country on this earth expends so much energy trying to save people from their own stupidity.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      “If they put cell phone jammers in cars, the accusations of stepping on the First Amendment will run rampant.”

      No, it’s that the FCC has issues with jammers, and for good techhnical reasons.

      “Let Darwinism run its course. No other country on this earth expends so much energy trying to save people from their own stupidity.”

      The issue isn’t the driver texting behind the wheel, it’s whom he/she might injure or kill. That’s hardly fair.

      Now, that said, these laws don’t work. Distractible drivers will be distracted. This is why the solution isn’t enforcement or training, it’s autonomous systems that make driving safer.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      I might accept this idea if the Darwinian effects were limited to the driver and the random stationary inanimate object, but a couple of tons of metal moving at speed is indiscriminate in the havoc it wreaks.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      …No other country on this earth expends so much energy trying to save people from their own stupidity…

      You clearly have never been to Western Europe, or Singapore.

      • 0 avatar
        Zykotec

        So very very sadly true. Most of Western Europe is bad enough,but us Norwegians, with roughly 50% of our workforce in public service or government jobs, try really hard to save everyone from themselves. Some things we just choose to tax instead, so if people don’t wanna stop hurting themselves, they can at least pay for their own treatment (alcohol, tobacco etc.) On the other hand, we don’t have much law enforcement, and they don’t use much ‘force’ anyway.
        We don’t have straight roads, and most people still drive manuals, so texting really doesn’t work very well, allthough, most kids I know, can easily text without seemingly devoting any attention to their phone at all, except for some finger movements. (with ‘kids’ I mean 30 or younger)
        Driving uninsured will cost you your registration or even license though (+ a ticket)

  • avatar

    Cell phone use and DWI are the same in terms of your ability to respond to an emergency situation, how many times it happens that you drive behind a car that is going too slow and not in a strait line, then you pass that car and sure enough the driver is on his cell.
    We have the ability to do 2 things at the same time but it’s only due to the fact that we are able to switch our attention from task to task extremely quickly, on top of that, the person we are talking to is not in our car, our mind keep going back and forth between 2 places so there is not much of a difference between hand free or hand held phone.

    source:
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=95256794

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Despite their claims at expertise through experience, people do not multitask well. And driving is so ubiquitous that people are numb to its real hazards.

  • avatar
    fatalexception04

    What I don’t understand is that most newer cars today come with bluetooth standard, yet the drivers of those types of cars are yapping away on their cell phones. And for older cars, a bluetooth kit or device is easily installable. Perhaps if there was an incentive from the insurance companies for a discount like they do with DRL’s then more people would use such devices?

    • 0 avatar

      Ya! you can see a brand new BMW driver holding a phone to his ear, my last 5 rental cars had BT, and none were luxury cars.

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      I dunno. I have seen people in newer cars, which I know for sure have Bluetooth, still driving with a phone glued to theor head.

      I wonder if it is learned behavior which hearkens back to the bygone days where having a cell phone was a status symbol.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        No, it’s that

        a) Bluetooth is a flakey system that doesn’t always work well (seriously: my job is network engineering and I had to get a BMW dealer to sort out pairing on an exec’s 750i).

        b) Headsets and hands-free speaker systems flat-out suck

        c) Automotive in-car electronics’ UI are not very good. Uconnect is probably the best of a bad lot, and it’s a very bad lot.

        People pick up the phone because it’s easier by a *wide* margin.

        • 0 avatar
          kvndoom

          The fact that many suck is on the manufacturer of the electronics, not the technology itself. Most cars I’ve seen try too hard to push voice-activated everything, instead of easy button pressing. Making a BT call with ones hands should be as simple as pressing a “phonebook” button then touching the contact you want on a touchscreen. In most cars, you have to wade through a plethora of menus to manual dial.

          Catering to the lowest bidder has its consequences.

          • 0 avatar
            psarhjinian

            “The fact that many suck is on the manufacturer of the electronics, not the technology itself”

            No, Bluetooth is an awful, awful protocol. The mechanism for exchanging objects like addressbook entries is a complete mess.

            There’s about three or four different methods to use a phone in a car: A2DP+AVRCP or HSP (headset) for voice, using the phone) or rSAP (using the car’s GSM radio, but the phone’s SIM)

            A2DP works pretty well. AVRCP is sometimes (often) buggy, so while the audio works, controlling it and mixing it with music playback is iffy at best. HSP works, but it’s limited to just phone, and use, is timing sensitive, and gets interrupted easily.

            rSAP is a trainwreck. European automakers use it. Apple avoids it like the plague. There’s security and interop problems with this, and it’s guaranteed to be obsolete or incompatible with the frequency bands in some areas.

            Then there’s phonebook profile. It works if you have a clean contact list. Many people don’t; their lists are miles long and might be involved in a multi-party sync relationship with their email system. How do you handle synchronizing all that with a ICE designed with just barely enough memory and CPU to start up.

            BT has a “design by committee” feel that’s rivalled only by HTML/DHTML/XHTML/CSS. There’s a reason why Apple, Google and others are rushing to shove the whole stack aside.

        • 0 avatar
          LeeK

          To which I would add pairing up cell phones in some cars is an ordeal involving secret codes, consulting the often incomprehensible manual, and making repeated attempts after multiple failures to get the phone to pair. I hope it’s getting easier with newer model cars, but doing in rentals and my own personal cars has been a chore.

          I think a lot of people just don’t bother: the automotive equivalent of a VCR clock flashing 12:00, 12:00, 12:00…

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            It is that difficult with some systems? With MFT I just click on add phone, make sure bluetooth is turned on, and it discovers and pairs my phone automatically once I confirm the codes are the same.

          • 0 avatar
            Flipper35

            Ours was pretty easy and it is the cheap Uconnect system without the touch screen.

          • 0 avatar
            psarhjinian

            “It is that difficult with some systems?”

            Yes. Sometimes the phone won’t pair, or it won’t load your address-book, or it conflicts with the phone’s voice-assistant.

            Or it works, but intermittently.

            Or it doesn’t work when you get a new phone.

            Or it only works with certain phone firmware revisions (as in “Only old ones”) and the automaker has no intention of updating the ICE to work with your phone’s new firmware.

            Bluetooth is a clusterfuck.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I agree that BT can be a CF. For my typical uses of it, it isn’t that problematic. Streaming music played through BT enabled speakers has been fine, and MFT pairs well to my phone.

          • 0 avatar
            APaGttH

            Very easy on G8. Simpler systems like Microsoft Sync in Ford products (not to be confused with MyTouch) and simple Bluetooth built into OnStar (no OnStar subscription required to use Bluetooth, the Bluetooth is built into the OnStsr module) just work. I haven’t run into a rental sled in a hole with a convoluted pairing procedure. Now actual reliability is totally different…

            My Garmin Nuvi on the other hand, just about useless between lost pairings, massive latency, not syncing address book half the time, and completely crappy audio quality.

          • 0 avatar
            zamoti

            I disagree that BT is hard to set up and/or flaky. I’ve done it quickly in BMWs, Mazdas, Kias, a Chevy Equinox, rental Volvo and a Dodge Charger. Some systems had touchscreens, (Dodge) others have no tactile input at all aside from the phone button on the wheel (Mazda)–and no display.
            The BMW was the most irritating because it was an 04 with early iDrive, but certainly not that hard. In no case did it drop or have a hard time across a variety of devices such as old Blackberry(s), new Blackberry, and Androids of various flavours.
            When you’re renting, I can see that some may be more challenging than others, but when you OWN the damn car, there is zero excuse for not pairing your phone.
            Now if only a wheel-based mute button were more common, I’d be really happy. I thought I was on mute for a conference call on the way home the other day as I issued forth a slew of expletives at another driver who had just pulled out in front of me. Not very professional. I was just glad the boss neglected to attend that call.

        • 0 avatar
          tekdemon

          Well, I don’t know about 750i’s but my aftermarket hands free bluetooth system is super easy to use. When I get in the car it’ll automatically connect to my phone…that’s it. I’ve tested it with multiple phones as well and on the iPhone it’s even better-if you were wearing a bluetooth headset of some kind the iPhone will automatically switch to the car when you get in, and then when I shut off the car the iPhone switches back to the bluetooth headset (no I don’t actually wear a bluetooth headset all the time but I have a pair of bluetooth headphones that also works as a headset).
          I have been in newer cars though where the systems were just plain super confusing to use. Had some issues with a Volvo where if my headphones were paired the Volvo couldn’t pair media or voice or whatnot but would only pair one of them, etc. But overall it was mostly an issue with a really confusing UI than bluetooth in particular.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      Same reason so many VCRs had built-in clocks that flashed 12:00.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      It’s not the act of holding the phone up to the ear that’s the distraction. It’s the conversation. And I don’t want every incoming call answered. I’ll put it on speaker to not have to hold it right on my ear, sometimes. But otherwise, it’ll take my ticket like a man. BT is for girls. And trans’.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Most Blue tooth systems suck, that is the reasons people do not use them, I have been in 5 or 6 rentals in the last month and the only one who had a decent system was a Dodge mini van the rest were bad to useless with my iPhone

  • avatar
    redav

    I’d rather see a study a bit more basic–what effect do laws have on behavior, do cell phone bans reduce in-car cell phone use, and what types of laws are more/less effective.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    You wonder just how stupid people can be, them you read it takes a study to conclude the obvious reaction to the implementation of a half-baked law.

    This should mainly be a time set aside to question anyone that thought such a law would have actually worked before it was introduced.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    It’s OK. Just one more tool to give to law enforcement to get you pulled over and into your car based upon their personal observations and discretion. Shouldn’t be a problem. Keep passing those safety laws. Remember, before the law was passed, all the “studies” showed how desperately the law was needed. Remember?

    I think you shouldn’t be allowed to eat, drink, read a gps map, yell at your kids, look at a billboard, look at anyone’s tits etc… We need tons more laws. More, more, more. You just cannot be too safe. That is what the government is for, after all.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Which Lexus model is that? Deep set gauges and similar wheel to my 01 GS. But it has more buttons so it’s newer – but not as new as the revised wheel the GS got in 06.

  • avatar
    SteelyMoose

    Interesting that a quote that essentially constitutes a guess (not even a testable hypothesis) regarding human behavior is attributed to an “assistant professor of economics” makes no sense at all. Next week: global economic forecasting from a psychology grad assistant.

    Talking to someone on the phone engages significantly more attention resources in the brain compared to talking to someone in the passenger seat, due to our need to maintain an “avatar” of the person to which we’re speaking on the phone. That leaves fewer resources for scanning the environment for threats while driving, especially considering that the brain does not multitask at all – rather, it switches _full_ attention between tasks rapidly.

  • avatar
    srh

    Headline could be “cellphone bans fail to curb cellphone usage”.

  • avatar
    J.Emerson

    When the first seatbelt laws were introduced, the effect was much the same. It took decades to produce a major shift in behavior, and consumer education was a large part of that; not just the law. Cell phone use is still culturally acceptable in a way that DUI or ignoring seat belts is not.

    I would expect that cell phone use will decline as in-car systems improve, attitudes shift, and law enforcement efforts gradually discourage usage.

    • 0 avatar

      This.

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatic

      I remember during the 60′s as DWIs started to be discouraged. The main argument I remember hearing is “My drinking does not effect my driving” or “I drive while drunk better than most of the other drivers on the road”. Limits were 0.15% to be legally drunk. As MAD got traction that this type of behavior was not acceptable peoples attitudes changed. Limits were lowered to 0.12% then 0.10% and are now mostly 0.08%. There are few people who would advocate going back to the old days when DWI was considered funny or harmless.

      I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m sick of the selfish thought that my communication is more important than the life of the motorcyclist I hit when I crossed the double yellow.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    How about we just make (or enforce!) a law against having/causing accidents, and punish people who violate that, and stop trying to make asinine rules about what you can and can’t do behind the wheel. “Oh, you rear-ended that guy? $1k fine.” Not “Oh, you’re sitting in traffic holding a phone? $100 please.” It’s a stupid ineffective money grab as it’s currently set up.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    I pointed out some years ago that the real-world fatality rates for those who were on the phone were below those of those who weren’t.

    Those on the phone are driving more slowly and making fewer lane changes than those who aren’t. When they hang up, they speed up and make more lane changes. Guess which combination of those behaviors is most closely correlated with higher crash rates.

    If drivers who were less distracted put their attentiveness to good use, then that would help. As it turns out, they do the opposite. Driverless cars are the hope of the future because they don’t require humans to become better people in order to work effectively.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      If speed limits weren’t set so low to create monotony and bordeom, people would be more attentive. Is there anything duller than driving down an empty interstate at 55/65 mph? Let us go 80 or 90 and it’s not so bad.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Attentiveness doesn’t reduce crash rates because at least some drivers take more risks when they pay better attention.

        They don’t need to be more attentive, they need to be pacified. This notion that “better” drivers will crash less is a kneejerk myth that isn’t supported by data. Risk aversion reduces crash rates, but that’s a function of personality, and something that can’t be taught.

        • 0 avatar
          S2k Chris

          ALl you have to do is look around the average corporate meeting to see how many people grab their cell phones and start texting/surfing/fbing/gaming as soon as they get bored, and I’m bored as fck driving along the highway at anything under 80. It’s actually uncomfortable.

  • avatar
    don1967

    The safety nannies’ biggest PR mistake was probably its zero-tolerance attitude towards cell phone usage. Making it an offence to touch your Samsung while driving is like making it an offence to have a sip of beer before driving. This sort of thing just doesn’t fly with thinking people.

  • avatar
    chris8017

    This is somewhat off topic but I wonder if anyone has filed a lawsuit against a cell-phone carrier or manufacturer claiming there device maimed or killed themselves or others due to use while driving. I mean if people do it to cigarette companies why not cell phone companies?

    Pretty soon there will be a new law that every time you power on or wake-up your cellphone it must display a NHTSA message saying “Warning: This device should not be used while operating a motor vehicle as it could lead to injury or death.” Below would also be a picture of a maimed person from a car wreck…just like the cancerous lung photo you have to see on a pack of Marlboro smokes or the surgeon general warning (which version depends on which state you purchase your cigs).

    Nothing takes away the joy of an after work smoke like a government mandated picture of a cancerous lung…or the NHTSA message warning you of impending death while you rapidly click ‘accept’ to see the sext message you’ve been waiting for all day while doing 90mph down the freeway.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      “I mean if people do it to cigarette companies why not cell phone companies?”

      Cell phones have “legitimate” usages, cigarettes really don’t. There’s a difference between making a product that, when used incorrectly, can harm you, and making a product that, when used, can harm you.

      • 0 avatar
        don1967

        By definition the primary purpose of a mobile phone is to make phone calls while mobile. chris8017′s observation is (sadly) right on the money.

        • 0 avatar
          S2k Chris

          “Mobile” doesn’t mean “behind the wheel of a car” it means “not at home with your land line”. You had a point 15 years ago when car phones reigned supreme, but those days are over.

          • 0 avatar
            don1967

            If “those days are over” then why are we having this conversation? And which dictionary are you using to look up words?

            The fact is that cell phones remain widely accepted and widely used as in-car devices, despite the increasingly-known dangers and the growing PR campaign against them. In this regard they are exactly like cigarettes.

  • avatar
    DrGastro997

    This law isn’t going to do much. State police can jack up their SUVs to look into cars but it’s doing nothing here in Chicago. Seems to me more people are using mobiles during commutes, especially in Chicago’s crawling traffic. There has to be a better way…


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