The Truth About Cars » Hands-Free The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 20:36:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Hands-Free California Court Criminalizes Using Cell Phone While Stopped Thu, 17 Nov 2011 15:33:42 +0000

In a decision with wide-ranging implications for people who might check their email on an iPhone while stopped at a traffic light, the California Court of Appeal ruled Monday that it was a crime to use a phone at any time behind the wheel of a stationary or moving vehicle.

Three days after Christmas in 2009, a motorcycle cop in Richmond pulled up to a red light and noticed Carl Nelson, driver of the stopped car next to him, appeared to be making a cell phone call. Nelson put down the phone as soon as he saw the officer. Nelson said he was just checking his email while waiting for the light to turn green. The Golden State banned the use of handheld cell phones while driving in July 2008.

“A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone unless that telephone is specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking, and is used in that manner while driving,” the law states.

A subsequent update to the statute made it also illegal to read or write an email while driving. Nelson was fined $103, and he challenged the fine by arguing that he was not “driving” when he used the phone. He added that if the prosecutors were correct, drivers stuck in dead-stop traffic for hours behind a major accident would not be allowed to make a call while the road is cleared.

“One can [use] a cell phone while stopped at a red light (because it is safe to do so) without having used it while moving the vehicle to the red light and without using it when one resumes one’s voyage after the traffic light turns green,” Nelson argued. “Thus, the fact that one is using a cellular phone while stationary simply cannot give rise to a reasonable inference that one was using the phone before or after the period that one was stopped at a red light.”

The three-judge appellate panel was not persuaded. It argued that the word “drive” applies even when the vehicle is stopped at a traffic light, citing a number of cases interpreting search and seizure and drunk driving laws.

“Any mom or dad driving kids to school can expect to stop while parents in cars in front of them are unloading their kids,” Justice James A. Richman wrote in a concurring opinion. “A shopper driving to a store near Lake Merritt in Oakland may have to stop while a gaggle of geese crosses the street. A couple going for a Sunday drive in West Marin County may have to stop for a cattle crossing. And, of course, all of us are expected to stop for red lights, stop signs, crossing trains, and funeral processions. In short, all drivers may, and sometimes must, stop. But they do so while ‘driving.’ Just like defendant.”

The court majority went on to argue that allowing cell phone use in motionless vehicles would create a safety hazard.

“Were we to adopt defendant’s interpretation, we would open the door to millions of people across our state repeatedly picking up their phones and devices to place phone calls and check voicemail (or text-based messages) every day while driving whenever they are paused momentarily in traffic, their car in gear and held still only by their foot on the brake, however short the pause in the vehicle’s movement,” Justice James Lambden wrote. “This could include fleeting pauses in stop-and-go traffic, at traffic lights and stop signs, as pedestrians cross, as vehicles ahead navigate around a double-parked vehicle, and many other circumstances… Drivers paused in the midst of traffic moving all around them (behind them, in adjacent lanes, in the roadway in front of them) would likely create hazards to themselves and public safety by their distracted use of their hands on their phones and devices.”

A copy of the decision is available in a 220k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File California v. Nelson (Court of Appeal, State of California, 11/14/2011)


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Quote Of The Day: This Car Is Not A Mobile Device Edition Thu, 09 Jun 2011 22:48:19 +0000

I’m not in the business of helping people Tweet better, I’m not in the business of helping people post to Facebook better. My job is to make sure we keep people safe behind the wheel. I’m not going to deny the fact that people want these things. They do. Especially the generation behind us. They’re used to being connected 24 hours a day.

A car is not a mobile device — a car is a car. We will not take a backseat while new telematics and infotainment systems are introduced. There is too much potential for distraction of drivers.

NHTSA Administrator David Strickland took the war on distraction to the enemy in a speech to an auto technology conference, reports Bloomberg. With nearly every manufacturer racing towards ever greater implementation of connectivity, communication and entertainment systems in cars, Strickland’s rhetorical line in the sand foreshadows a serious confrontation between industry and government. Either that, or this is just Ray LaHood-style hot air calculated to make it look like something’s happening.

In any case, the industry has yet to develop a concerted strategy to deal with what has thus far been a largely rhetorical government assault on its new(ish) cash cow. But if Strickland keeps suggesting specific action, the OEMs (who are pledging cooperation) will want to agree on a line of their own (with statistics to back it up) where they can stand together. Thus far that line seems to be “hands free,” but the statistics there don’t seem strong enough to hold off a regulatory offensive. On the other hand, this is clearly another one of those policy discussions that draws a wide variety of responses


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Onstar Explores The Line Between Convenience And Distraction Thu, 09 Sep 2010 17:35:14 +0000

The never-ending tension between the desire to give consumers more choices of in-car gizmos and the need to halt the advance of distracted driving took another confused twist this week, as Onstar announced that it is testing new features that could allow drivers to listen to text messages and update their Facebook status from behind the wheel. According to the DetN, the technology would read incoming text messages or a Facebook news feed to the driver, and could even allow the driver to update their own Facebook status verbally. Needless to say, GM and Onstar are hyping the updates as ways to keep up with Ford’s SYNC on the entertainment front, and because the features are all hands-free, they’re safe… right?

Of course not. Hands-free technology has yet to be proven to be safer than using a handheld cell phone in the car. Which, until further studies are done, essentially means that hands-free cellular communication is about as safe as driving after a few drinks. Not that Onstar is bringing it up, telling the press that

OnStar has always operated on the premise that while the possibilities of technological innovation are endless, the company will not implement a new service simply because it’s technically feasible, it has to be the right thing to do for the customer. All of our technologies are rigorously evaluated prior to launch.

Of course “doing the right thing for the consumer” isn’t always easy to quantify. Should GM and Onstar indulge the narcissistic tendencies of the Facebook addicted by allowing them to update their status while taking their life into their hands on the road, or does “doing the right thing” imply taking a bit more responsibility? After all, GM admits that the use rate for Bluetooth sync capability is still quite low, suggesting that demand for these tech toys isn’t even all that high.

An analysis of random, anonymous data collected from thousands of vehicles indicates only 45 percent of Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac owners are pairing their cellular phones to a vehicle’s Bluetooth system, raising concerns that customers are unaware of the feature in their vehicle or believe connecting to be too difficult a process.

Or, subscribers might (rightly) understand that hands-free cell phone use while driving is dangerous and refuse to sync their phones. But that perspective doesn’t exactly validate Onstar’s new entertainment-focused direction, so it must not be the case. Isn’t that right, Onstar VP Chris Preuss?

There’s no question that cellular device use in the vehicle is and will continue to be one of the biggest safety challenges facing society. Technology will play a key role in mitigating this impact, but we cannot over-assume engagement just because we provide the capability. This education and awareness campaign is designed to encourage use of hands-free technology because we take driver distraction and safety very seriously.

Sorry, wrong answer. As tough as it is to fathom for someone in the driver distraction business, the only way to keep drivers truly safe is to tell them not to talk on the phone, update their Facebook status or otherwise distract themselves while driving. Period. But instead of sending that message, GM is setting up a new website to educate Onstar subscribers about just how easy it is to sync their phones to their cars. Because people should be encouraged to use communication technology they don’t understand while driving several tons of metal at high speeds.

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