Thursday, July 23, 2009

Shut up and just drive

As the saying goes, be afraid when you hear “We’re from the government and we are here to help you.” Congress yet again is living down to that motto, and in this case they are playing with your life and the lives of everyone else on the road or even crossing the road.

An article in the July 21 New York Times about cell phone use while driving has revealed that members of Congress pressured the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration into playing down data that indicate hands-free cell phones are just about as dangerous to use while driving as hand-held devices.

Using Freedom of Information Act requests, The Center for Auto Safety and Public Citizen watchdog groups unearthed the findings and their suppression under the Bush Administration.

It’s long been argued that the simple act of carrying on a conversation isn’t so simple; it diminishes your ability to focus on traffic and on conditions around you. That’s true whether you’re sitting at a lunch counter or behind the wheel. But the focus in many places has been to require hands-free phone equipment – Bluetooths, headsets, speakerphones – the idea being that drivers will put down the phones and put those hands back on the wheel. Uh-huh.

Those of you who always drive with both hands – hold one up. Thank you, sir, there in the back.

This news won’t change human behavior – and drivers, I see you yakking away, and maybe texting as well. But maybe it will ratchet up the pressure on states to toughen up on multitasking gadgets on the road – though enforcing it will be next to impossible.


  1. Oh yes, if there will be money involved, they will find a way to enforce it. Kinda like the infamous seat belt law. My word againt yours.

  2. Debbie, Hickory,NCJuly 24, 2009 at 11:26 AM

    I think they should outlaw using the GPS things going down the road too then. That thing talks to you and you look at it going down the road. How much distraction is that??? I think much more so than a cell phone with a headset of some sorts. How many of those people drive down the road using their phones???????

  3. Comment from Australia:
    Mobile phones are just a small part of ditracted driving. Other distractions include adjusting vehicle controls (heaters, A/C etc) adjusting audio systems, eating, smoking, applying makeup, reading, conversing with passengers; checking on passengers reaching for objects, and external distractions.
    The worst distraction are those that take your eyes of the road and need you to reach around the vehicle; the second worst are those that take your eyes off the rooad for extended periods (more than 2 seconds) including texting; and the others including talking to passengers or on your mobile are less of an issue.
    People should stop persecuting mobile phone users and push for a much more general driving while distracted offence with enforcement

  4. You bring up a good point about having both hands on the wheel. If studies show it's safer then we could make it a misdemeanor if you are observed holding it with only one; a minor misdemeanor if you aren't holding it in the 10 o'clock, 2 o'clock position.

    But seriously, if you look at crash statistics and contrast them to cell phone usage statistics, you will find that as the entire population bought cell phones the number of injury crashes has remained steady or decreased. If cell phone usage is as dangerous as drunken driving then this could not be the case.

  5. Hi all
    Issue is not keeping two hands on wheel though keeping them at 10 and 2 o'clock is good and allows arme to relax (people with one arm drive perfectly safely with a spinner mounted on steering wheel). Issues are maximising the time a driver is looking ahead and not moving one's body around doing other things than driving as for most people this results in involuntary movement of the steering wheel. Hence there should be a ban on GPS screens being visible to the driver in travel (could be visible when the vehicle is stopped) so GPS talking to driver is a good thing/ compromise.


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