By on October 2, 2009

Or else (courtesy:safetycertified.blogspot.com)

Sometimes” obvious” is a vague concept for people and nowhere is that more obvious than behind the wheel of a car. The basic rules of engagement on the road are subject to interpretation by many drivers whose personal universe exists within a tight gravitational pull of their physical location.

I’ve compiled a short list of egregious cell phone sins against the rules of the road committed by stupid or self-absorbed drivers, or a combination platter of both.

This is not exactly virgin territory when the discussion of bad drivers raises its ugly head, but the topic never gets stale as long as these idiots still prop themselves behind a steering wheel. I simply want to add my voice to the wilderness on this issue even though I am likely preaching to the choir in this particular forum where insightful thoughts and words are not mortal enemies (Insert gratuitous pandering to an audience here).

The aforementioned wilderness dwellers would likely be the throngs of dedicated airheads who don’t wrap themselves in provocative thought and are unlikely to care about anything outside of the realm of Paris Hilton’s view of the world. Unfortunately many of them still drive cars, largely because of a generous approach to license acquisition in most of North America. But even if I am largely baying at the moon, I still want to vent my spleen on Driver 101 – the new issue.

The most obvious problem is driver distraction and this manifests itself in many forms including the cell phone. A popular cliché emerged a few years ago called “ multi-tasking”. This is a myth-based concept that holds the belief that people can do more than one thing at a time, and they can do it efficiently because we have a couple more intellectual DNA strands than chimps.

I don’t even remotely buy into this BS when it comes to multi-tasking. You are more likely to find Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster living in sin than a genuine multi-tasker. We do one thing at a time well and everything else is a distraction. Nowhere is this more evident than behind the wheel of a car with a cell phone glued to one ear.

Not only are the synapses hogtied but so is one pre-occupied cell phone hand that should be on the steering wheel. All we have is another half-wit with half a grip on a steering wheel. Look in the recipe book under “d” for disaster for this one and it happens at an insane rate every day.

The worst part of this fiasco is that hands-free cell phone use is just as dangerous, according to NHTSA data and that should not be a surprise to anyone. We are not multi-taskers. Most of us barely do one thing well- just ask the Detroit Lions.

42 countries currently restrict or prohibit cell phone use while driving and they are probably 42 countries with a much smaller herd of ambulance –chasers among their citizenry than North America. Cell phone bans or restrictions have begun to take hold in local and state legislation, but the process has been slow.

Right now 6 states have hand-held cell phone bans with 5 states as a primary enforcement law and Washington State as a lone holdout. Primary enforcement means that you can be ticketed for the offense of stupid phone use without any other reason to stop you. You need to have another reason for stupidity in the state of Washington to get stopped and ticketed where the cell phone citation is only a side order.

No state has a blanket ban on cell phone uses and thus they allow for the hands-free cell user even if the driver has drifted into a disembodied conversation and away from the driving task at hand. Now just think about this one. A car wreck may be centered around somebody who got worked up over shoe color or the merits of WWE in a cell phone conversation. Sadly, people have died for less compelling reasons, but most would want to die for more noble causes. Almost all cell phone conversations eliminate that possibility.

But things can get worse. Now there is a real possibility to die at the hands of a horrible speller with brutal grammar. Texting has replaced conversations on cell phones even though Big Al Graham Bell went to a lot of trouble to design the phone for an audible purpose. Granted, it’s not like people are really thinking while they are texting, but they are not really thinking about driving either, and therein lies the problem.

Texters have to compose and read their butchered messages instead of reading the road in front of them and this poses a small safety problem at 70 mph on a busy freeway. Obvious, but not to every driver on the road who lives in that highly compressed self-centered universe where they may get deader long before they get smarter behind the wheel.

The final blow against cell phones is the ability to watch downloaded movies or programs or play video games on them while driving. This scenario is almost too stupid to describe but can you imagine a crash caused by a distracted video gamer/driver that was playing a driving game while driving? It’s probably already happened.

I guess the final answer is that sometimes you need to impose blanket legislation against blanket stupidity and a ban on cell phone use of any sort while behind the wheel is a no-brainer for the no-brainers who practice this behavior. Six states with half-assed legislation is not nearly enough.

For more of Jim Sutherland’s work check out http://www.mystarcollectorcar.com/

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62 Comments on “Cell Phones And Cars: Stating the Obvious to the Oblivious”...”


  • avatar
    MBella

    “Texting has replaced conversations on cell phones even though Big Al Graham Bell went to a lot of trouble to design the phone for an audible purpose.”

    I have a great idea for the latest addition to cell phones. A telegraph attachment. People could send messages via morse code, in the spirit of technology evolving backwards.

  • avatar
    Loser

    It’s truly sad and pathetic that we need to legislate what should be common scene. I can’t believe all 50 states have not made texting and cell phone use while driving a crime yet.
    Then again the police around here don’t stop people for running red lights, can’t imagine them enforcing a cell phone law.

  • avatar

    Or we could keep the cell phones and bring back the horse and buggy. Horses have a natural sense of traffic flow and they’re not big texters. http://www.mystarcollectorcar.com/

  • avatar
    paul_y

    To most of the people who routinely drive while doing other things, driving is the distraction — their other tasks are Serious Business. Therein is the problem. Cars need to become difficult to operate again — bring back column-shift manuals, non-collapsing steering columns, and replace crumple zones with femurs. If people realize that driving is inherently dangerous, they might be more careful.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I’ll do my part by putting headers, high-flow cats, and straight pipes on all my vee-hickles. I figure the added noise will make holding a cell phone conversation around me impossible.

    Don’t know what to do about the texting though…

  • avatar
    gcmustanglx

    Don’t know what to do about the texting though…
    maybe bright, flashing lights can distract them from texting.

  • avatar
    BDB

    Just pass a federal law making manuals the only legal transmission in new cars from now on, damnit. That should fix it. Pretty hard to use a cell when you have to shift with the other hand!

    I’m only HALF joking, btw.

  • avatar
    mcs

    @BDB Just pass a federal law making manuals the only legal transmission

    You’re so right. One of my cars is a six speed and the other is an automatic. I really don’t like being bothered with calls when driving and the manual is the greatest excuse to not take calls “Oh, sorry I couldn’t get back to you/pick up the phone, but I have a six speed manual…” – even if I’ve got the hybrid that particular day. Of all of the features on a modern cell phone, the best is still the off button.

  • avatar
    DangerousDave

    The cure to texting while driving is a simple one. Most all phones now have GPS technology, making it easy to disable the texting function on any phone moving over 10 mph.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    DangerousDave – And how would that effect passengers in the car? It’s bad enough that a lot of integrated navigation systems lock out over a certain mph despite the fact that the front seat passenger could be operating it perfectly safely.

    The last thing we need is more legislation for this. As it has been said here before, there are already laws that cover reckless driving, so when someone does something stupid while talking on the phone, pull them over and ticket them for that.

    Every freedom has a price. I am willing to accept the risk of other drivers using cell phones if it means that I have the freedom to do it as well. We live in a democracy, but the problem with legislation like this is that it is far too easy to get the sheeple worked into a tizzy about the safety of themselves and their children without even thinking about what they are giving up. Politicians will eat this up and play it for votes, and more laws banning cell phone use may even pass, but it will all be on the backs of those thinking ‘gotta keep all those crazy people off of their phones’ while at the same time making a mental exception for themselves – until they get pulled over and ticketed, but then it is too late.

  • avatar
    FloorIt

    Texting definitely dangerous because taking your eyes off the road longer than a second and requires more and different thought than say changing a radio station.
    Cell phone at ear with one hand holding could be dangerous depending on the person. As some stated having a manual trans solves that but also manual trans only has one hand on the wheel a lot of the time.
    Hands free mostly not an issue with me because you talk to people when your in the car with them and can be just as distracted with kids in back fighting, yelling etc.

  • avatar
    DearS

    I think the article is quite a bit harsh, which I feel is very counter productive. I’m not too scared of people driving and talking. Or seatbelt use for that matter. Maybe it is a concern though. I don’t like a harsh, cruel, patronizing, humiliating, critical, and demeaning approach though. I wanna see education first. Too bad many of the people who would educate have little compassionate for the short comings of another. Not very convincing of enforcers to talk without empathy.

  • avatar
    Mockingbird

    Jim is telling what he feels passionately about in the way he sees it. And it just happens that he has echoed everything I feel about cell phone use while driving, in addition to a myriad other distractions. Including one guy I saw trying to eat noodles, with a pair of chopsticks, while overtaking me. Or the lady who was using the sun visor mirror to apply mascara, while still coasting at 50 km/hour. But those are simply acts of stupidity and senselessness. One can’t educate away those inexplicable acts of mindlessness.

    I get the impression that there is a sense of invincibility in those who part-take in these wanton senseless behavior. They do not feel that anything bad is ever going to happen to them. Education won’t change such attitudes. But legislative penalties will hit them where it hurts the most – their pockets.

  • avatar
    armadamaster

    Ah yes, more laws, just what we need.

    I guess they are going to ban radios, makeup, food, kids and all those other distractions in the car too, eh?

    I don’t want the gubment telling me when where and if I can use a cell phone or not because of a select number of people who are too stupid to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. The hands free devices are no more distracting than holding the phone because a portion of your attention is diverted away from driving. Kinda like having a radio in the car. Kinda like having food in the car. Kinda like having kids in the the car. If we are banning distractions for the almighty cause of “safety”, then ban them all.

    Whatever happened to a little thing called “common sense”. I mean, I know it’s largely being legislated out in favor of “zero tolerance”, but that’s no excuse for those of us playing from home. See, I KNOW I can drive and talk on the phone at the same time. Just like I KNOW that I CANNOT text and drive at the same time. It’s called common sense. Ten years of driving and talking on a cell phone, 3 1/2 of those logging over a thousand miles a week and never a cell phone distracted accident. I KNOW my limits. The “world” needs to stop revolving around idiots who cannot walk and chew gum at the same time in the almighty interest of “safety”.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    I’d like to have seen some accident statistics included in the article. How many accidents are really caused by cell phone distraction?

    When I ask how many accidents are actually caused by cell phone use, I don’t mean to ask how snarky you can be, or how easily you can lump all cell users into the Paris Hilton camp – rather, I mean how many accidents are caused by people being distracted by cell phone use? Do you know? Do you even have a rough idea? Are there even any stats available? It appears you have not done even the most elementary research on your topic.

    As far as multi-tasking, I’m largely in agreement. People don’t multi-task, they flit back and forth between two (or three, or six) things. People pretend to do three things at once because they are not acknowledging all the stopping/starting, stopping/starting.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    But things can get worse. Now there is a real possibility to die at the hands of a horrible speller with brutal grammar. Texting has replaced conversations on cell phones even though Big Al Graham Bell went to a lot of trouble to design the phone for an audible purpose. Granted, it’s not like people are really thinking while they are texting, but they are not really thinking about driving either, and therein lies the problem.

    “Hey! You kids! Get off my lawn!”

    Now, I’ll agree that talking on a cell or texting (or putting on lipstick, or reading a book, or fiddling with your kid’s buttons, etc, etc) but the technology itself is actually quite useful and not everyone who emails or texts puts no thought into it.** Reading this article, I wasn’t sure if what you were annoyed about was the way communications have changed, or the act of driving distracted.

    Many jurisdictions already have distracted-driving laws for the same reason as they have “conspiracy to commit” as well as well as laws to handle the actual crime: it’s a preventative***. There’s no real point to duplicating those laws for the sake of cellphones and such, only have the next distraction add more legal cruft. You may as well have separate DUI laws for beer, wine, liquor, speed, weed, smack, and so forth.

    The trick is to enforce the laws we have. And that’s hard, because distracted driving can’t be enforced by hiding behind a billboard with a radar gun or setting up blitzes, which is how highway enforcement is done in North America.

    ** though the 160 character limit does have some restrictions, but hey, that’s what email is for.

    *** and yes, civil libertarians, this is actually necessary. You can’t just wait until someone’s been robbed or stabbed for charges to be applicable.

  • avatar
    don1967

    @armadamaster,

    Unfortunately, texting and driving at the same time is not at all like walking and chewing gum. They compete for total control of your vision, and a huge portion of your manual dexterity and mental concentration. The idiots are not the ones who can’t safely text and drive at the same time. The idiots are the ones who think they can.

    Having said that, I agree that this type of legislation puts us on a slippery slope to Big Brotherism. It potentially criminalizes everything from changing the radio station to picking one’s nose, even when these activities do not cause a public safety hazard.

    My proposal is that we clog the courts with the most creative driving infractions possible, and aggressively lobby the politicians to pass a new law for each one of them. Driving while talking into a carrot. Driving while reading War and Peace through a scuba mask. Driving while performing a vasectomy. At some point the safety nannies will concede defeat, and we’ll go back to the logical standard of “driving with due care and attention”.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    As far as multi-tasking, I’m largely in agreement. People don’t multi-task, they flit back and forth between two (or three, or six) things. People pretend to do three things at once because they are not acknowledging all the stopping/starting, stopping/starting.

    That’s what multitasking is, even for many computers: switching very quickly between two or more different tasks. What determines how well a computer does this is how efficient it’s scheduler is at deciding what’s important and when it’s best to do what. Rather like people.

    There’s nothing really wrong with this, if you’re efficient about it. It could just as easily be called “making better use of your time” for those people who can do it well.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    Cell phone use in a School Zone is now illegal here in Austin, TX. At best, it may have reduced the number of drivers who continue to chat away while driving through a School Zone. If that’s the case, then the law has my blessings.

    I roll past an elementary school each weekday morning around 7:30 AM. I still see 1 out 5 drivers with a cell phone mashed to their ear at the four way stop signs which have kids using the crosswalks. About half the time, their vehicle is blocking the crosswalk.

    Some folks will never pay full attention to their surrounding situation or drive with their full attention on the road, no matter how many laws are passed.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    psarhjinian –

    I see a big difference between being pulled over just for talking on a cell phone as a primary offense and ‘conspiracy to commit’ laws. In fact, I even see a big distinction between ‘conspiracy to commit’ laws and ‘attempted ‘.

    Attempted murder, arson, robbery, what have you, implies that someone took action with malice, whether they were successful or not, and I agree that should be punished. Conspiracy is a lot muddier, and a step too close to thought crime in my opinion, as even if someone plans to embark on some nefarious expedition there is no sure way to tell if they would have gone through with it or not, and in the end, the actions, or actions in furtherance, are the crime, not the intention.

    Take for instance someone who has intentions to blow up a government building. At which point is the crime committed, when he he obtains building plans legally from a city planner’s office, when he uses those to determine where to place a bomb, when he buys the diesel fuel and fertilizer, or when he actually places the bomb? Obviously in the interest of the public good we want to stop actions like that as soon as possible, but we don’t want to go trampling all over the constitution to do it.

    Talking on a cell phone as a first offense is too close to conspiracy to potentially commit negligence to actually be a crime IMO.

  • avatar
    menno

    I couldn’t agree more with the assessment of this article, and will add that I have lost count of how many “new” “near misses” I have seen while driving – solely due to idiots with cell phones plastered to their ears.

    I simply also have to ask this. What in hell do people have to be on the frickin’ cell phone at 7 am for? Who the hell are they calling?! Surely they just left home and are on their daily commute – DRIVE – to work. Good God, can’t people do one thing at a time? Apparently not…

    It literally got SO bad for me that I sold my collector car and bought a “future collectible” (at the low point on the depreciation curve, natch) – a ’93 BMW 740iL.

    Wanted an 850 coupe – decided twelve cylinders was too much maintenance and decided NOT go go into debt for $7500 for a toy (since I was able to snag the 740iL for $2500 and the coupes were running $10,000). Maybe in 10 or 15 years the BMw will be considered truly collectible (especially since so many are off to the junkyard with the clunker program and only 4000 were built in any given year, anyway). *(Hey! Some guys spend twenty or thirty thousand on a boat or boats, AND have motorhomes which cost fifty grand, some guys spend ten grand on BICYCLES for chrissake…)

    Now I have air bags, ABS, etc. It’s kind of cool and stuff, but…. it’s not “old tech” which has a charm of its own. It’s just that I prefer to try to stay alive while surrounded by imbecilic, almost all distracted drivers. Who didn’t do a great job of obeying road rules, generally, BEFORE cell phones came into broad use. As for texting… all I can say is that I wish texting drivers only had the capability of killing themselves not anyone else. Then, at least it would have the social benefit of cleaning up the gene pool…. darwin awards anyone? Alas, this is not so.

    I can see that within my lifetime (with blessings and luck, another 40 years) we’ll see entirely automated driving so that idiots can do whatever the hell they want while being moved about. I’ll rue the day, just as will the rest of the best & brightest here.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    That’s what multitasking is, even for many computers: switching very quickly between two or more different tasks. What determines how well a computer does this is how efficient it’s scheduler is at deciding what’s important and when it’s best to do what. Rather like people.

    There’s nothing really wrong with this, if you’re efficient about it. It could just as easily be called “making better use of your time” for those people who can do it well.

    Not only is there nothing wrong with it, it is absolutely essential for driving. One must scan as far ahead as one can see, then shift to a closer view, then check the gauages, then check forward again, then check the rearview mirror ……..

    The problem is when people “multitask” at their cubicle, they can actually convince themselves they are doing 3 things at once. They aren’t of course. When the cubicle starts to travel at 70mph is when we have a problem with the concept.

  • avatar
    Autosavant

    GOOD!

    Anything that encourages or forces drivers to take Driving SERIOUSLY.

    Unfortunately, driving in the US is so easy most of the time, people view their cars as their bathrooms, phone booths, desks, dining tables and bars (even if non-alcoholic. Cupholders on the Autobahn would seem LUDICROUS and many VERY expensive German Lux Perf Cars resisted them until recently.

  • avatar
    Autosavant

    “That’s what multitasking is”

    For the serious, THOUGHTFUL person, multitasking, esp. while driving, is ludicrous. Multitasking is for Low-paid secretaries juggling three phones and two appointment books in their hands.

    The DIfficult stuff requires ATTENTION and CONCENTRATION.

    Serious, enjoyable driving can at best go with good music or a great book on CD, or conversation with passengers that share common interests and have a brain. And the exception hands-free call if it is that important.

  • avatar
    Autosavant

    “menno :
    October 3rd, 2009 at 8:15 am

    ..It literally got SO bad for me that I sold my collector car and bought a “future collectible” (at the low point on the depreciation curve, natch) – a ‘93 BMW 740iL.

    Wanted an 850 coupe – decided twelve cylinders was too much maintenance and decided NOT go go into debt for $7500 for a toy (since I was able to snag the 740iL for $2500 and the coupes were running $10,000)”

    I also noticed how much more expensive the coupes are. They are 5+ yrs older BUT more expensive than my (the gen next to yours 740iL (98, now 129k mi!) I bought in 05 for peanuts, and in excellent shape. HAve not regretted it.

    The 850 is a bit dated inside, and a nit impractical if you want to carry people and stuff. The iL has HUGE back room and wheelbase and is a dream car on the highway. I can’t get enough of long trips with this car, I never fly anything under 750 miles. (and make a bundle with the $0.55 a mile. And so far I’ve been quite lucky, no majir repairs, engine and tranny great. A real decathlete of a car, and you can find 95-01s, which are far more elegant than their bangle-butt successors, for as low as $5k today, and reasonable miles.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    42 countries currently restrict or prohibit cell phone use while driving

    Phones have become the new kneejerk cause celebre, with the protesters seeing no apparent need to actually prove their points.

    For example, if you look at the results in those countries, you will see that they don’t do anything to reduce crash rates or fatalities. It’s interesting for the author to reference this, without actually bothering to see whether those laws actually do any good, anywhere.

    Meanwhile, introducing cell phones to the driving population has likewise seen no similar increase in fatalities. The sky is falling, except when it isn’t.

    A primary weakness of the kneejerk ban-everything-that-moves argument is that it falsely presumes the wrong base case, namely that the alternative to phone usage is attentive driving. In reality, inattention was an issue long before there were phones; as is true with people in general, some drivers are less attentive than others, and they will probably replace their phones with some other distraction. Distraction is the symptom, not the problem.

    The other thing missed is that real-world studies of driving behavior consistently show that drivers act more conservatively while using the phone. The phone user is more likely to keep a more consistent gap between the vehicle in front of him/her and to drive more slowly, with fewer lane changes. The resulting reduction in speed variance may alone offset the drawbacks of reduced attention spans.

    That probably explains much of why phone bans don’t improve crash rates for those who have them while a lack of laws in other jurisdictions doesn’t cause theirs to increase. A crash-prone driver doesn’t need a phone to crash, and a good driver will learn how to moderate usage to times when the attention needed for it is manageable.

  • avatar
    Kevin Kluttz

    Dear S: WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!!!!!!!

  • avatar
    menno

    Pch101, I’d love to see some written stats about driving safety of nations which have good drivers vs those who are continually distracted.

    Laws in books don’t mean squat. Unless redeemed and sanctified, people do what they think they can get away with – end of story.

    The real story might be this; I personally (along with millions of others) am getting to the point where it is more and more difficult to DO ALL THE DRIVING FOR EVERYONE ELSE ON THE DAMNED ROAD.

    In other words, it was bad enough 30 – 35 years ago when I had great reflexes, but now as I inevitably age with somewhat slower reflexes, and somewhat more restricted vision, than when I was younger – it is more difficult to contantly watch out for the other people on the road who are

    -weaving into my lane (because of cell phon/coffee/burger/texting/yelling at kids/masterbating/whatever – but – not – driving)

    -not stopping at stop signs and pulling out right in front of me or others who are likely to swerve and hit me (see all the reasons above plus the part above that where I mention that people generally will do what they can think they can get away with)

    -semi truck drivers busy texting or on the cell phone and trying to drive rigs with 12 gears and two shift levers while tailgating me

    What I’m saying is this. Common sense says that if better drivers education and retesting of all drivers, with the demand that driving standards increase – death rates WOULD go down.

    I’ll put it another way. In the UK, and particularly Germany, preparing for driving tests and driving license tests are significantly more stringient than they are in North America.

    I can tell you that the death rate for the UK per 1000 miles driven was, as recently as a few years ago, significantly lower than the US.

    Sadly, my British sister-in-law visiting us last month indicated that this is changing rapidly – largely due to (guess what?) – people texting while driving despite this being totally inappropriate.

    Two things. Contining education is the key – not necessarily more laws and enforcement (which is rapidly becoming simply revenue generation for government anyway). And extremely tough standards for getting and keeping a driver’s license is a key, too.

    Then we’ll all be a lot safer. But of course, it isn’t going to happen, is it?

  • avatar
    Pch101

    In the UK, and particularly Germany, preparing for driving tests and driving license tests are significantly more stringient than they are in North America.

    The tests are difficult in Italy, Spain and Portugal, yet they have consistently higher death rates than does the US. There is no correlation between the difficulty of a driving test and the resulting fatality rates.

    The US tends to be an average to above-average performer on the whole. It would be among the worst if driver training, education and licensing were such a big deal. But it isn’t.

  • avatar
    Autosavant

    Pch101 :

    Those of us that have done it, know that it takes many TIMES the concentration to cruise at 100 and 120 MPH on thew Autobahn, than at 80 MPH in the US. This has a lot to do with human reaction times etc.

    DESPITE THAT, Autobahn fatalities and injuries are NOT much higher than US snail-paced highway fatalities and injuries are.

    BECAUSE Drivers there are DEAD SERIOUS and are aware they are operating a LETHAL WEAPON, not some POS that they can “multitask” while driving.

    They do not even have stupid CUPHOLDERS there, much less laptops and palms and cellphones to text in.

    And you think that… Drivers ed in the US is… demanding? DId I understand right? You must be kidding!!! Every silly teen can get a license with 5-10 lessons, when in Germany they take 100!

  • avatar
    Autosavant

    But of the 44,000 or so annual fatalities in US roads (and about ten times that in injuries), cells and texting are probably the third, utterly preventable, source of deaths and damage:

    First still is, to our utter shame, the god damned drunk driving criminals, who still get away with a slap on the wrist.

    Second is the masses of god damned idiots that, largely due to utter ignorance of the consequences, do not wear their god damned seat belts.

    Third are the morons that shave, apply makeup, text, hold cells and talk into them, and all other idiotic, antisocial behavior.

    We sure need tougher laws…far tougher.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I personally (along with millions of others) am getting to the point where it is more and more difficult to DO ALL THE DRIVING FOR EVERYONE ELSE ON THE DAMNED ROAD.

    There are more drivers on the road, what with the perfect storm of an increasing population, sprawl and commuting distance. People drive more, hence you’re going to see more silliness on the road. What we’re not seeing is more silliness per capita.

    If you want to fix the problem, mandatory stick shifts, driver training and more enforcement will not help because people will find another way to be distracted. If your concern is driving for other people, what you want to see is effort put into technologies like BLIS, LDP, PreSafe and Distronic that either reduce the chance of an accident or it’s severity by taking away the burden of driving.

    Or design communities where people can walk more and drive less.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    As irritated/frightened I get by drivers doing anything BUT driving while behind the wheel (and near my car), I doubt that any kind of law will have much effect on distracted driving (DD). About the only thing that can have any impact will be harsh penalties for acts that can be proven after the incident, e.g. DUI or cell phone use. People have become so obsessed with filling every moment of their waking lives with activity that it has become necessary to utilize travel time to accomplish things that should have been handled before they left (dining, hygiene, etc.). I don’t believe that most people are thoughtless ninnies; it’s just that DD is the inevitable result of trying to pack 12 pounds of stuff into the 10 pound bag of one’s day. Barring a thoughtful re-evaluation of the priorities in the lives of our families and selves, a large number of drivers will continue to attempt to kill 2 birds with one stone and risk killing far more than birds. While it’s technology that’s that has gotten us into this fix, I expect that it’s more technology that will help us cope. Tools that alert the driver when failing to maintain safe distances, stay in the lane, and even react for the driver in an emergency will move from luxury models to all cars (insurance rates will speed up adaptation), and even though that will encourage the worst drivers to new levels of lunacy, we will reach some balance between function and safety. And the driving experience will be poorer for it.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Menno, wabbout an 840? The law should cover more than texting. Just make driving while distracted for any reason the offense. It is prolly unenforcable pro-actively, but as an add on post accident like DUI.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    For the serious, THOUGHTFUL person, multitasking, esp. while driving, is ludicrous. Multitasking is for Low-paid secretaries juggling three phones and two appointment books in their hands.

    The DIfficult stuff requires ATTENTION and CONCENTRATION.

    Man, I wish I had your job. It must be nice to be able to cloister yourself in meetings about strategy, vision and long-term objectives.** At most, you have to split your attention between “leadership” and your golf swing.

    Meanwhile, there are people who aren’t secretaries who have to deal with several difficult issues at once, or have to deal with both cause(s) and effect(s). There’s all sorts of fields like this, and all sorts of levels.

    Yes, I’m being facetious. Just because your job allows or requires you to do one thing at a time doesn’t mean that jobs that require you to do many things

    ** Ok, this isn’t just swinging dicks that do this. Engineers, academics and such often live and work in similar environments. Lucky you.

  • avatar
    Autosavant

    “Engineers, academics and such often live and work in similar environments.”

    Bingo! And those who do not, they do not have to work out of their car, or out of their van down by the river!

    PS I do not consider myself lucky. I bet if I worked with the free MBA I got on the side (when a grad student), not only would my salary be far higher, I would not have to travel in the cattle section but at least business class, whenever I volunteer for some damn commitee in DC. (That’s why I prefer to drive my old 740iL instead, even if I do not get a full reimbursement of the over 1,000 miles (over $550 at 0.55/mile, and feel like a King instead of a damned refugee cramped into a seat with no leg room and no elbow room, and having to go thru all the rat mazes at the airport.

  • avatar
    Autosavant

    PS I never played golf, nor do I care to in the future. Gradually, I ended up not watching any sports, with the damned steroid cheaters infesting everything from ball games to the Olympics..

  • avatar
    Pch101

    We sure need tougher laws…far tougher.

    If you’d take the trouble to actually read the research on this topic, then you would know that your statement is false.

    The gut reactions of the average driver as to what is effective or ineffective are wrong and have been handily disproven. If you’d read the data on the topic, you would learn that most of these supposed magic bullets don’t do any good.

    More difficult driving tests don’t work.

    Stricter penalties don’t work (although more consistent enforcement does.)

    Driver training doesn’t work, except to the extent that they impart basic skills such as braking and steering to those who don’t have those skills at all.

    Low speed limits don’t work. (Lower speeds can work, but posting a sign with a lower number on it, in and of itself does no good.)

    Active safety equipment doesn’t work over the long run, although it sometimes does when first introduced.

    What does work:

    -Consistent enforcement
    -Higher driving ages
    -Provisional licenses for new drivers
    -Passive safety equipment

    And if you want fewer fatalities overall, then just reduce the level of driving. It wouldn’t affect the rate, but you could lower the totals simply by using telecommuting, mass transit, etc. to reduce driving, period. As it turns out, driving is one of the most unsafe activities in our lives, as fun as it might be.

  • avatar
    Autosavant

    If you have COMMON SENSE, you do not need to write a dissertation after 4 years of study of the various studies (most of questionable quality) to be able to propose EFFICIENT SOLUTIONS.

    WE KNOW that the vast majority of Highway deaths in the US is UTTERLY PREVENTABLE, and, unlike the idiots in COngress always advocate, we do NOT need to spend $10,000 per vehicle to achieve it.

    SEAT BELTS are a $5 feature that can save 10,000 lives a year IF WORN. There is no ecxuse not to have BRUTAL penalties for the USDA choice MORONS that still do not wear them (they are as uninformed as those who still SMOKE, despite all we know about the effects of smoking..)

    THIS is the kind of INTELLIGENT, EFFICIENT public policy and LAW ENFORCEMENT. A sucker is born every minute, and it is th eduty of th estate to protect the idiots from their own stupidity and irresponsibility, because WE ALL PAY for their stupidity.

    DRUNK DRIVING, despite the allegedly tough penalties, IS STILL RAMPANT. OBVIOUSLY we need 100 TIMES tougher laws, and if you cannot grasp this, there is little I can do for you.

  • avatar
    wstansfi

    I disagree with the comment about books on tape. Personal experience and related research have shown that books on tape are even more distracting than hands free calling… Just saying…

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    We don’t need more laws on the books – we just need better enforcement strategies for dealing with distracted driving.

    But good luck changing the political and law enforcement culture regarding traffic enforcement – which is primarily a cash cow for police and government officials.

    Why IS there so much emphasis on speeding and red light cameras? Because EVERYONE speeds and “runs red lights” (via rolling past the White Line that’s been moved ten yards from the intersection). Fines are focused on the (mostly) innocent masses who can pay. However, if enforcement were directed at dangerous driving, it would cost. Those people have issues – no license, expired tags, outstanding warrants. They can’t pay.

    Why do you think cameras aren’t used for illegal or hazardous lane changes? Enforcement culture is broken.

    As far as distracted driving, it’s going to get worse. Moore’s law isn’t dead. Wait until a good First Person Shooter cell phone video game is developed.

    One possible legislative solution: allow searches of any cell’s use log for a time period before an accident. Let’s say 5 minutes prior…

  • avatar
    Pch101

    OBVIOUSLY we need 100 TIMES tougher laws, and if you cannot grasp this, there is little I can do for you.

    For one, you are wrong. You may want to believe it, but the research goes against you.

    For another, the all-caps routine is rude. You are in desperate need of some netiquette training. All-caps are the equivalent of shouting, and you frankly shout enough that you often come off as being a bit, er, disadvantaged.

    http://email.about.com/cs/netiquettetips/qt/et020801.htm

  • avatar
    Autosavant

    wstansfi :
    October 3rd, 2009 at 11:28 am

    I disagree with the comment about books on tape. Personal experience and related research have shown that books on tape are even more distracting than hands free calling… Just saying…

    My own experience is exactly the opposite of the above. It makes ZERO sense to me to say that a phone call, EVEN a hands-free call, can be even remotely just as distractive than listening to a book on tape.

    When you listen to a book you are DETACHED, careful. On the phone, there can be all kinds of undesirable, aggravating problem or emergency that they call you to solve, or you call them to solve for you.

    If you use your common sense, you will convince yourself that it is no contest, Hands free calls are many TIMES as harmful than listening to a book on tape, or to MUSIC for that matter.

  • avatar
    Autosavant

    When I am not wearing my seat belt, I feel there is something missing, like I forgot to put some clothes, or my pants belt or whatever, on that I should.

    How many people go to their cars with no pants or underwear on? Exactly, practically ZERO.

    I want the same HUGE percentage to drive their cars WITH THEIR GOD DAMNED BELTS ON.

    Never before in Human History could such a TINY investment ($5 or so ), if USED, prevent so many unnecessary deaths (10,000 or so a year!) and such huge monetary cost and suffering to all of us!

    If there are still MORONS out there not wearing their seat belts, COMMON SENSE (which obviously is NOT that common!) indicates that the penalties for these careless idiots should be BRUTAL and several times over what they are today!!!

    ANd the same, even tougher penalties than the existing ones, should fall on the criminal heads of the DRUNK DRIVERS.

    There should be so much PAIN inflicted to the driver if he or she drives drunk, that they will not even DARE think of driving drunk, much less actually DO it!

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    This provocative piece has certainly brought forth a range of reactions, most of which suggest some solution or other to help with what most everyone admits is problematic. But isn’t this in-car frenzied activity nothing more than a symptom of a much larger problem, namely the way we live our lives in general: not enough time for everything, yet far too much time spent on the trivial, the banal? Face it, the citizenry is well-represented by people who want to consume entertainments and diversions of every kind ad nauseum. Even away from the road, it’s deadly in a different way, no?

  • avatar
    seeseebutler

    I am all for some serious regulation but banning all use by all drivers all the time is simplistic overkill. Many people, like myself, can be stuck behind the wheel while working for extended periods of time. Making work related phone calls on long drives can make the difference between getting home to the family at 6.00 p.m. verses 8.00 p.m. The simple fact is, being able to communicate with friends, family and co-workers while on the road can reduce stress and improves the quality of life. (Please spare me the obvious exceptions)

    We must also remember that many other distractions while driving cause accidents, such as playing with the radio, looking at the GPS, yelling at the kids in the back seat, or eating a cheeseburger. If we want to reduce accidents lets ban all these things while driving. For that matter, we could prevent all sorts of accidents by banning driving by anyone under 25 or over 75. We could also prohibit driving except for work after dark. Heck, why not just ban all driving not deemed “essential”?

    The reality is, in a free country we don’t just pass “blanket legislation” because it is a “no-brainer.” We’re smarter then that. In a democracy rooted in personal freedom we balance the need to promote public safety against the desire to protect individual liberty. No one likes to admit it — much less talk about it — but bestowing personal freedom on the citizenry invariably means people will die every day because of that freedom. Rhetorically cold, but unquestionably true. (We could prevent most late-night murders and other serious crimes with a 8.00 p.m. national curfew. Who votes yes for that?)

    The better solution would be education, strong yet reasonable laws that mandate hands-free use at all times in a car, coupled with stiff penalties. Perhaps all cell phones sold should be hands-free capable (sold with a mandatory ear piece that must be used when a car is in motion), and all drivers must be able to demonstrate that their phones are configured for hands-free use if stopped by the police.)

    We can preserve personal liberty while at the same time substantially reducing accidents caused by ill-advised cell phone use if we think it through intelligently. I’m confident our brains can handle it.

  • avatar
    wnoh41

    WHAT???? How DARE you attempt to scold me for typing in the way I choose. I know EVERYTHING!!! If I decided to get another advanced degree in my SLEEP then I could have a FLEET of old 7 series BMW’s. Typing the way I do makes me feel POWERFUL and by TYPING LIKE THIS you little minions will WORSHIP my vast knowledge of EVERYTHING!!! Because I am above reproach so STOP proving me WRONG or I’ll CRY!!!

  • avatar

    So you have two different sets of solutions, “beating it into their heads until they learn” and “coaxing them into learning”. Pch101 has a point. People tend to learn with gentle, reasoned coaxing, rather than the YOU BETTER LEARN THIS OR ELSE method. Doubling up the fines when the laws are rarely enforced (usually in favor of enforcing “revenue enhancing” laws such as speeding, etc.) won’t do any good. Nor will tougher licensing tests (except that those who can’t pass the British DVLA-style tests will either be walking………or driving without licenses).

    Provisional licensing might work. Just encourage good driving behavior while reduce the margin for error. One instance of driving while on the cell phone and it’s back to the drawing board. I don’t see how higher driving ages might work, except that it tends to weed out the teenagers with something to prove to their friends and a lack of good judgment.

    The whole problem might stem in the way people see their own automobiles. People regard their cars as a personal space where they can do anything they want and see driving as a right, not a privilege. In other countries, fuel prices, limited parking and expensive, time-consuming and difficult driving tests conspire to keep most people on foot and on public transport. Smaller cars that aren’t as isolated from the surrounding environment may have a role in this, also. I’m not sure if people in those countries see their cars as a personal semi-private sphere of isolation, but one way to possibly handle the cell phone issue is to make the automobile a slightly more public place. I just don’t see how to make that happen.

    And then there’s ihatetrees’ solution. Insurance companies will LOVE this, as it gives them another reason to deny a claim. You were talking to your friends on the cell just before you got in an accident? No claim for you. And say hello to higher premiums.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    The whole problem might stem in the way people see their own automobiles. People regard their cars as a personal space where they can do anything they want and see driving as a right, not a privilege.

    You just had to say it, and I just have to respond. Driving is not a privilege! I don’t care how many times the football coach told you that during HS driver’s Ed, it simply isn’t true.

    In the past, when cell phone banning has been discussed, Pch101 has observed that nearly everyone in the US has a cell phone, yet the accident rate is not astronomically higher than say 15 years ago. It would be if cell phone use really caused accidents.

  • avatar

    Exactly, like any privilege, the privilege to drive is earned by following the rules whether you like them or not.

    It’s back to the basics

    Eyes on the road.
    Hands on the wheel.
    Be aware of your surroundings.
    Follow the posted signs.

    If anyone thinks distracted driving isn’t a deadly habit, you can read about some of the dead here.

    http://www.drivinglaws.org/top10/10-reasons.php

    Steve Thomas.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    Seeing as I have a flat out debate going with Pch101 in another thread, I’d like to seed people’s interest with these reports from the highly respected Monash University Accident Research Centre in Australia. In each report there are further references to other fascinating research.

    To the subject at hand;

    The effects of text messaging on young novice driver performance.

    To the continuous claim that driver training is ineffective;

    Review of literature regarding national and international young driver training, licensing and regulatory systems.

    “For Learner drivers, basic vehicle-handling skills training is important and effective in learning to operate a vehicle in traffic, in passing practical driving tests, and in minimising crashes during the Learner period. It does not, however, protect Learners from crash involvement once graduating to an unsupervised licence. Gaining many hours of varied experience is the key protective factor, with this experience better achieved during private practice than professional instruction. In contrast, licensing-based insight training has been linked to considerable crash reductions post-licensing. Evaluation of CD-ROM packages to train hazard perception and other cognitive-perceptual skills have also shown that Learners can be better trained in such skills without inflating confidence in driving ability.

    For Provisional drivers, the insight-training approach has been effective in reducing crash involvement and has been shown to target misconceptions of driver ability and susceptibility to risk. Notably, no disbenefits (sic) have been found unlike the traditional skills based programs. Hazard perception research has also found that novices can be trained to perceive hazards more quickly using video, small group discussion and in-car feedback methods.

    Overall however, the current most protective factor in reducing crash risk as a Provisional driver is many and varied hours of driving experience as a supervised Learner. Driver-training programs should primarily seek to supplement this experience.”

    (To be fair, I believe Pch101 is most frequently referring to so-called “defensive driving” techniques when dismissing driver training).

    To the claim “low speed limits don’t work”;

    The impact of lowered speed limits in urban and metropolitan areas.

    It’s true enough that there has been enormous decrease in accident and fatality rates, especially given that we apparently are all driving more frequently and further.

    The point I believe is often missed is that the historic crash statistics might show the improvement, but issues like this show the potential further improvement that is not being leveraged.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    The most insightful comment comes from paul_y (fourth post):
    To most of the people who routinely drive while doing other things, driving is the distraction — their other tasks are Serious Business.

    A few weeks ago, some people from Google or Yahoo “designed” a car. They produced a living room on wheels, with access to cell phones, internet and satellite television, that guided itself, without human intervention, to a programmed destination. Contrast that with hustling down a winding road in the likes of a Porsche Cayman with a manual transmission.

    Multitasking while driving is very similar to multitasking on a computer. With a single processor (i.e. brain), multitasking is switching between tasks, not performing them simultaneously. In operating systems that support multitasking, programs are assigned different priorities. The program with the highest priority gets all the resources it wants. The rest make do with what’s left. Multitasking behind the wheel is successful only as long as driving holds the top priority. Everything else must be secondary.

    A low priority is adequate for many activities such as listening to the radio. However, it seems not to work for phone conversations. Low priority means that you will miss much of what the other person says because you tune him or her out while you deal with driving. For the same reason, your replies will be fragmentary. If you forget where you left off, they may be incoherent. What usually happens is that the conversation takes over top priority and driving becomes the low priority task. Conversations between drivers and passengers seem not to be so badly affected, perhaps because the passengers are able to take up the slack when the driver has to pay full attention to driving.

  • avatar
    njdave

    Another part of the overall problem is that everyone today feels that they are indispensable, and that they need to stay in contact with their jobs 24/7. People bring their laptops on vacation and do work. This is insane. No one is that indispensable, and if you are you and your company in general is not doing their jobs correctly. I am a systems engineer, on call 24/7. People find it amazing that I never check my email after I leave the office for the day. If they need me, they will contact me. I don’t need to keep checking email or calling in. I don’t need to call anyone on my cell while driving, nothing is actually so urgent that it can’t wait until I get home. For 99% of the people on their cell while driving, none of it is really urgent and can’t wait. They just like to believe it is urgent, and they are bored driving, so they make a call.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    To the continuous claim that driver training is ineffective

    That report, in fact, argues that driver training is not effective, except for imparting basic skills to those who don’t have them. Your own cite — “It does not, however, protect Learners from crash involvement once graduating to an unsupervised licence” — confirms that.

    That is in line with the body of research on the subject. New drivers who know nothing about steering a car can learn how to steer through a driver’s ed course. But they don’t get permanent behaviorial results from the training, so it isn’t cost effective to use training in the ways that others on this post have advocated. The average person greatly overestimates what driver’s education can accomplish.

    Read the conclusion of the same report, and you’ll see that they argue for restricted licenses and against driver training, which is exactly what I have articulated on this thread.

    The present review confirms that the benefits of driver training and what constitutes ‘best-practice’ are not yet established. Where benefits have been found, these are smaller than the comparatively significant gains found for increased driving experience as a Learner and night-time driving restrictions for Provisional drivers, as well as the potential gains offered by peer passenger restrictions. Moreover, night-time driving and peer passenger regulations, for example, can be simpler and less costly to enact (i.e. predominantly via administrative changes) in comparison to regulations for driver training, which would require the development of an appropriate program, necessary facilities and materials, training of instructors and so on. From these perspectives, such changes to licensing regulations are encouraged over and above the current push for driver-training programs

  • avatar
    Pch101

    The point I believe is often missed is that the historic crash statistics might show the improvement, but issues like this show the potential further improvement that is not being leveraged.

    If you read the details of the report, you will see that it makes the same point that virtually other study does — reducing the speed limit doesn’t appreciably slow down traffic. On p. 14, it indicates that a 10 km/h reduction in the speed limit from 60 to 50 led to decreases of 0.94 km/h in New South Wales, by 1% in Victoria (that should be a reduction of about 0.6 km/h), and by a bit more than 1 km/h in Western Australia. (The study also reports a 5 km/h reduction for Queensland, but that is clearly an outlier.)

    The majority of these findings correlates to other studies here. In the US, a typical result is that a 10 mph change in the speed limit results in a change in travel speeds of about 1 mph. The majority of people drive at speeds at which they choose to drive, and most ignore the limits when they don’t suit them.

    The US has the unique experience of having both decreased and increased speed limits. In both cases, fatalities fell. While there is a lot of theory about the role of speed in accidents, the real world practice is quite different. Fatality rates are declining, regardless of what the speed limits are.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    @ Pch101

    That report, in fact, argues that driver training is not effective, except for imparting basic skills to those who don’t have them.

    That does not square with this;

    “…..the insight-training approach has been effective in reducing crash involvement and has been shown to target misconceptions of driver ability and susceptibility to risk.”

    If you read the details of the report, you will see that it makes the same point that virtually other study does — reducing the speed limit doesn’t appreciably slow down traffic.

    Odd that you would quote Page 14. It’s extremely interesting including;

    “The findings related to the introduction of the 50km/h default urban speed limit show significant reductions in crashes and crash trauma (and therefore accident risk) despite relatively small decrease in overall average speeds”.

    The other stand-out from the same page is “there was a significant reduction in the number of drivers exceeding the speed limit by more than 10km/h”.

    … there is a lot of theory about the role of speed in accidents, the real world practice is quite different.

    You must have missed the opening sentence on page 7;

    “The traffic safety literature provides overwhelming evidence that there is a strong relationship between speed and crash risk, and outcome severity in the event of a crash.”

    Fatality rates are declining, regardless of what the speed limits are.

    Perhaps because of the success of the many and varied approaches being taken in road traffic safety, road design, enforcement, and (let’s call it) Insight training????

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    To clarify my intended meaning from above;

    The point I believe is often missed is that the historic crash statistics might show the improvement, but issues like this (mobile phone texting) show the potential further improvement that is not being leveraged.

    (The comment otherwise appeared to refer to the speed related report).

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Another part of the overall problem is that everyone today feels that they are indispensable, and that they need to stay in contact with their jobs 24/7. People bring their laptops on vacation and do work. This is insane. No one is that indispensable, and if you are you and your company in general is not doing their jobs correctly.

    Well, yes and no. You could say that what we have occuring now is a return to the way the work/life balance has been for most people for the past thousand years.

    People need to disabuse themselves of the notion that North America c.1945-1969 is the natural order of things. It isn’t. The socioeconomic norms for this period highly, highly irregular vis a vis previous human history, and we’re starting to see that way of life clawed back, or at least rationalized. Most people at the turn of the 20th century—heck, most people on earth right now—do not have the means to take a vacation or separate work and life in the manner we understand it.

    Welcome back to serfdom. Did you have a nice trip?

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    People need to disabuse themselves of the notion that North America c.1945-1969 is the natural order of things. It isn’t. The socioeconomic norms for this period highly, highly irregular vis a vis previous human history, and we’re starting to see that way of life clawed back, or at least rationalized. Most people at the turn of the 20th century—heck, most people on earth right now—do not have the means to take a vacation or separate work and life in the manner we understand it.

    There’s some truth there, but it’s not the whole truth. We do still have the ability to decide to place some separation between work and “real” life.

    True, most people in the world can’t take vacations, or even enjoy an 8 hour day. But people in Europe/US/Canada certainly can.

    Getting back to cell phone calls, how many have any real necessity? How many are just “checking up”? If you need to constantly check up on your people, you’ve hired the wrong people. I realize driving is boring, but find something else to distract yourself.

    As long as we’ve veered off on the nature of the calls – not just their ability to distract- it’s my opinion that cell phones probably do more to decrease productivity than to increase it. Sure, you can be in instant (and nearly constant) comms with your “team”, but how can any work get done? Decision making is no longer something done at a particular time – decisions are made on the fly. Changes are made on the fly. Confirmation is called for several times a day. Everyone is talking, but no one is doing.

    At any rate, most cell conversations are not even tangetally related to work. There is no reason for example, to take a call from my wife asking what sort of asparagus she should buy at the supermarket. I didn’t know there was more than one kind, I don’t care, I’m not going to eat it anyway, so let’s just pretend it’s 1978, there are no cell phones, and you have the ability to shop for groceries without any input from me.

    The above example is made up. My wife and I are the only two people in NA w/o cell phones.

    People at work are always suprised that I don’t have a cell phone. They always ask “how do people get hold of you?” I always reply “They don’t, that’s why I get so much work done.”

    I have a phone on my desk, a phone that will take voice messages. I have email. There is really no need for people interupting me 27 times a day.

  • avatar
    pmd1966

    Years ago when collapsible steering columns first
    came out. It was suggested that a 12 gauge shotgun
    shell should be installed in the column. This would be triggered in any collision. There would be a warning label on the dash stating that the driver will die in any collision. Defensive driving would be the order of the day. One shotgun shell per car would save more lives than a dozen airbags.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    That does not square with this “…..the insight-training approach has been effective in reducing crash involvement and has been shown to target misconceptions of driver ability and susceptibility to risk.”

    It does, you’re just reading it selectively. Note the prior quote that I excerpted: “It does not, however, protect Learners from crash involvement once graduating to an unsupervised licence.”

    This is much in line with other research. Driver’s training can be effective in imparting basic operating skills, such as basic steering and braking, to those who don’t have those skills. Driver training may sometimes provide a temporary benefit in raising safety consciousness that help for short periods after the training.

    But in time, those temporary benefits disappear. Drivers revert to their own inclinations, rather than to what they’ve been taught. And if they become overconfident, then they can get even worse.

    Your own cite confirms the points that I have made about the ineffectiveness of driver training. Your own report recommends license restrictions above training, because the training is at best difficult to assess and it isn’t cost effective. Read the whole thing, not just the bits that you’d like to believe.

    Odd that you would quote Page 14. It’s extremely interesting including;

    “The findings related to the introduction of the 50km/h default urban speed limit show significant reductions in crashes and crash trauma (and therefore accident risk) despite relatively small decrease in overall average speeds”.

    What’s interesting about it is that they felt no need to actual prove the linkage between the speed limit reduction and the change in the number of crashes. I’m assuming that’s because they couldn’t prove it.

    Read the report carefully, and you’ll see that the evidence wasn’t provided. There is alleged correlation, but no proof of causation.

    Don’t worry, we’ve had the same snow job in the US. We had many predictions of doom and gloom when we had speed limit increases pending, and none of those came to pass. The US has experience in both lowering and raising limits. In both cases, fatalities declined.

    What’s consistent with most research is that speed limit changes don’t impact travel speeds by substantial amounts. Drivers simply pay little mind to speed limits, and changing them doesn’t influence their behavior because speed choices are based upon driver perception and comfort, rather than the sign.

    It’s also inadequate to look at crash rates on a given road without considering the overall impact of traffic flow. For example, a lowered speed limit and increased enforcement on a given road may lead to lower fatalities on that stretch of road because of the number of drivers who respond to the changes by choosing a different route where they believe they are less likely to be stopped.

    The history and type of data also help. Absolute numbers tend to be deceptive, because they miss changes in rate. Similarly, if the rates were falling prior to the change, it’s tough to argue with a straight face that the declines after the change were attributable solely to the change in speed limit. That’s especially true, given that the reduced limits don’t actually slow anybody down.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    I would love to have one of those cell-phone signal eradicator devices hooked up in my car, so that whenever I drive, other drivers on the same road would be forced to terminate their conversations….

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