Feigned safety concern: Banning cell phone use while driving

Distracted driving is the leading cause of traffic accidents.  Whether it’s looking out the window, daydreaming, talking on the phone, or eating and drinking, distracted driving is a target of state legislatures throughout the country.  I’m just not convinced that legislators aren’t simply politicking when they propose and subsequently ban the use of cell phones while driving in the name of safety.

Monash University recently conducted a study which found that the presence of children in the vehicle while driving is 12 times more dangerous than talking on a cell phone while driving.  If the end goal were to prevent dangerous behaviors, driving with children would be at the fore, but it will never be. The only reason legislators target cell phones is because they feel like they must do something. Fining cell phone use while driving is little more than a government money-grab disguised as a safety concern. Beyond anecdotal evidence, the data shows that increased cell phone use while driving is not causing more more accidents.

The number of cell phone users has skyrocketed in the last 20 years.  During that same time, the number of drivers and cars on the road has also significantly increased.  If cell phone use while driving were as dangerous as claimed, the number of traffic accidents should also have risen during the same period, but this is not the case.  In fact, the raw number of traffic accidents has remained steady over this same period of time despite the increase of cars, drivers, and cell phone users resulting in an overall decrease in traffic accidents per driver/vehicle — something which should not be the case. cell phone users

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  1. Children in a car is not a factor when the parents have done the parental duties in training their children about proper behavior in automobiles. We NEVER had trouble with our kids in the car, but I have ridden with others whose children are definitely a distraction! Funny thing, when I’ve had to take those types of children in my car, I didn’t have a problem with them because I laid down the law before ignition.

  2. I’m with Glenn on that one. In the car, we’ve always had a rule; never distract the driver. That rule applied to adults as well as our kids! Even if there was just conversation and I suddenly called for quiet, my kids knew to stop immediately, because that meant there was something going on that needed more attention than usual (bad road conditions, traffic, dangerous drivers, etc.).

    Although there are already laws about distracted driving, which I wish were enforced more consistantly, separate cell phone and texting bans are ones I actually do support, partly because we lost a friend, killed by someone talking on her cell phone instead of paying attention to the road. There are plenty of hands free devices that can be used for more efficiently to talk on, anyhow, and there is no excuse to text and drive at the same time. The sheer stupidity of it amazes me.

    My younger daughter took the AMA driver’s course not long ago, and there was an intro class for parents before it started. During part of the class, the instructor shared some of the statistics for cell phone related deaths, just locally. One stuck in my mind. Five teens were killed in a single car accident. They were all going to the driver’s boyfriend’s birthday party when she decided to send him a text while driving. The insane thing wasn’t that she wasn’t willing to wait 10 minutes to talk to him in person. It was that he was in the seat behind her.

    Part of the problem with cell phone related accidents is that it’s not always the person with the cell phone that is in the accident, but that they cause accidents around them and don’t even notice. I do a lot of driving and I can usually tell, by the weaving and drifting, when a driver is on their phone or texting behind the wheel. I see it far more often that people doing things like eating or grooming behind the wheel. The number of other cars I’ve seen having to swerve to avoid getting hit (and I’ve had to do it myself, many times) is frightening. The cell phone drivers, of course, are oblivious. My daughter was disgusted by many of her classmates during her driving course. They fully believed they could text and drive at the same time, with no negative effects. But then, they also believed that the “real” speed limit is up to 15kph above the posted limit.

    Driving is a privilege. One has to qualify for and earn that privilege. If someone is stupid enough to believe they can shave, change clothes, eat with a knife and fork (all real examples), babble on the phone or text while driving, they have proven that they do not qualify for the privilege of driving.

    Of course, it doesn’t help when it’s just as likely to be a police officer on the phone while driving. :-/

  3. I can see it coming,next legislation…”Don´t pick your nose and drive”
    Hey, they get bored, they have to come up with creative ideas to “improve” our life´s and safety.

  4. As Kunoichi suggests, cell phones and texting is one thing that can be easily seen by a cop patrolling. Noisy kids, radio/stereos, a driver distracted by his own thoughts…these distractions aren’t as easily monitored.

    I don’t text while driving. I don’t like to be on the phone, but will use a hands free if I do (it isn’t much different than talking to the guy next to you).

    What is worse is the manner in which people drive in the first place. As a CDL holder, safe driving distance is stressed, as stopping a fully loaded tractor/trailer combo requires time to do so. But how many people give even one full car space between their grill and the bumper in front of them? One rule of thumb for truckers is 4 seconds between our grill and the bumper ahead, increasing one second for every 5 or 10 miles per hour over 45mph (or thereabouts—I just don’t tailgate and like to leave plenty of room). 4 seconds, counting “1001, 1002, 1003, 1004” is quite a bit of distance. Imagine if everyone did this. There’s be far fewer accidents from rear-end collisions. It would allow for some distraction and recovery.

    Following rules of the road would so more to reduce traffic accidents and deaths. But I would still like to see texting outlawed and talking on cell phones held against the ear ticketed as well.

    • I want to make a point from personal experience.

      Over the past several years, I have had close calls with people not paying attention, watched others have close calls due to people not paying attention, seen accidents caused by the same thing – and every single one of them had a driver on the cell phone or texting. And I have noticed this increases in numbers every year and almost every month. They sit at stop lights long after green because they are busy on the phone, they are driving very slowly on the highway while on the phone, they make poor entries on to the Interstate by goofing with their phones, etc.

      It is rare that I see anything on the road which is poor judgment, close calls, etc when it ISN’T related to a cell phone! All those other distractions are something I rarely see as a cause of something stupid due to distractions.

    • “Following rules of the road would so more to reduce traffic accidents and deaths. But I would still like to see texting outlawed and talking on cell phones held against the ear ticketed as well.”

      Totally agree! People need to remember that they are handling several tonnes of machinery, and it takes only a split second of inattention to take a life.

      “It is rare that I see anything on the road which is poor judgment, close calls, etc when it ISN’T related to a cell phone! ”

      Rare for me as well, though just today, on the way home, I got a two-fer. While waiting at a red light in an intersection with several lanes already blocked by emergency vehicles for a 3 vehicle accident, my daughter called my attention to a guy making a left turn in front of us, while eating and also digging around in a bag on the seat beside him. He ended up stopping partway through his turn, just out of the intersection. He had plenty of room to go forward, but didn’t even look up to see. The vehicle behind him ended up stuck in the intersection when the light changed because of him, which of course blocked other traffic. The guy was completely oblivious, digging around in the bag, putting more food in his mouth, and not paying attention to anything around him. As my daughter described it, a candidate for Canada’s Worse Driver!

      Then there was someone in a muscle car that tried to change lanes in front of us. Conditions are incredibly icy where we are right now (likely contributing to both multi-vehicle accidents we saw just in that one drive). The driver clearly did not have the skills to handle such a powerful car in these conditions, as a simple lane change (no signal, of course) had the back end fishtailing like crazy. Then the driver did it again, with another lane change soon after!

      *sigh* And I have to go out in this again, soon.

  5. vincedeporter says:

    Kids can indeed distract a driver to dangerous levels.
    My kids know when to be quiet, and when to be reasonably joyful. I agree that rules must be respected in a moving vehicle.

    But the driver is nonetheless the one responsible of his/her driving. He/she should be able to ‘chew gum and walk at the same time’ so to speak. If I can’t concentrate on my driving because the kids have a disagreement in the back, then I really have no business driving, as I would not have the necessary aptitude to deserve the right to drive.

    This said, I agree that an overload of rules won’t magically turn the already irresponsible drivers into safe ones.

    There are some obvious wrongs though — like texting while driving. One does not have to be a rocket scientist to understand that this is calling for an accident.

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