Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Would you like to know how I feel?

I read a news article this morning about banning cell phone use while driving, except with a hands-free headset. Apparently Oregon is about to jump on this ridiculous bandwagon.

The ironic part is that teenagers can't use their cell phones at all--even with a hands-free headset--when they're the ones that are actually capable of multi-tasking, and are so technologically apt that it's second nature to them and probably poses little additional danger for them driving.

Now, if we should talk about banning cell-phone use while driving from any demographic, let's talk about the folks from um, past generations, that still can't figure out how to set up a voice mailbox or answer their call-waiting. You know who you are!

And, if we want to talk about the dangers of distracted driving, let's talk about moms and dads with young children in the car. I am FAR more distracted by my kiddos screaming, whining and fighting in the back seat then I have ever been by using my cell phone. In fact, being on the phone helps me tune out the screaming kids in the backseat. I think I could make a pretty strong case for it being beneficial. It also helps keep me stay awake during long drives. Have you ever heard of someone falling asleep while talking on their cell phone while driving? I think not!

Now, let's talk about hands-free headsets. They're annoying. I still spend the entire time with my hand to my ear trying to keep it close enough to my ear to hear well. And I have to repeat every 6th word since the person on the other end can't hear me very well. And I have to scream... which puts my kids on edge... and nobody needs that (see above).

And, it's all good in theory. But let's see a 60 year-old trying to pair their head-set and get it on their ear to answer their phone while driving. I have trouble doing it while devoting all my attention to it, and I'm only 27!

I can just see me now, reaching down into my purse, fumbling around trying to find my ear piece, open my phone, get to the right screen to pair the head-set and be trying to connect the ear piece to my ear and get it powered up all in time not to miss the important phone call. See the irony?

I'd love to see some statistics as to whether or not the cell-phone ban states have actually seen a decrease it accidents due to the ban?

I'd say the legislation has been written and is being passed by people who still don't have their voice mail-boxes set up yet if you know what I mean. If we're going to ban cell-phones while driving it seems we ought to ban eating, drinking, smoking, turning on the radio, talking to passengers, having kids in the car or any other distraction that might come up for that matter.

In fact, we ought to ban billboards and homeless people holding up signs that are hard to read, because those are distracting. Then we should talk about scantily clad joggers, people who shouldn't be wearing spandex wearing them, and cute little puppies that line the sides of the roads. And lemonade stands, and Estate Sale signs, and obnoxious cheerleaders yelling at you to come get your car washed.

Or, if you are incapable of multi-tasking, maybe you should hang up your cell-phone and wait until you get to a safe place to tend to your cell-phone needs. And maybe the government and police officers should spend their time doing things that only they can do, and leave me alone. With all due respect, if my cell-phone use is inhibiting my ability to drive, give me a ticket, I deserve it. If it's not inhibiting my ability to drive however, then it seems like it's probably not the best use of the local police officers time to be trying to catch me on my phone. Maybe he should be free to be on the look-out for people whose distractedness is actually impairing their driving ability?


beachbirdie said...

Sorry to be a downer on this one, but it is a real hot-button for me. I think that statistics show a huge number of accidents to be cell-phone related and that is why there is a push for the ban.

I can't tell you how many times I've almost been run over in parking lots or run off the road by people who were talking on cell phones! Lots!

Have you ever seen "Myth-Busters" on the Discovery Channel? They did scientific road testing (it was really fun to watch!) to see if they could determine whether a driver's cell phone use really was dangerous.

Like it or not, their conclusion was that driving while talking on a cell phone had the same effect as driving while intoxicated (talking to people in the car did not have the same effect).

That's pretty serious.

I agree (since people won't govern themselves) that they should add some other things to the law...putting on makeup, lighting and smoking cigarettes, or reading (yes, I've seen people driving with papers spread out across their steering wheels).

Yep, changing CDs in the player should also be illegal. One of my cousins was killed when a 26-year old driver of a 1-ton flatbed truck who was busy fumbling with his CD player crossed into her lane and hit her head-on at 65 mph; she left a 4-year old daughter motherless and her dad was traumatized after having to go identify what was left of her body at the morgue. Being "young" (and thus better at multi-tasking?) didn't make any difference in this case.

As one who was in a terrible auto accident when I was in high school I can tell you only takes a split second for something to go wrong on the road, and if a driver is doing something even momentarily that distracts them from the road, it can literally make the difference between life and death.

I think the law is a good thing.

Chris/ty said...

We have that law here in Washington. I find that I use my phone less on the road, but when I do I just use speakerphone because I also HATE the ear piece thingy.

beachbirdie said...

I wanted to start out saying my comments are sent most lovingly and respectfully, but forgot to include that! I just have a little different viewpoint on this because of very negative personal experiences.


Jennifer & DW said...

Wow Robyn. LOL. Tell us how you really feel! :)

tbierly said...


My understanding is that it has already passed the legislature and will be signed by the governor soon.

Out at Stahlbush Island Farms, we have lots of tractor drivers, truck drivers, guys driving around to set irrigation, and farm managers who all have Nextel phones. Since all Nextel's have the walkie-talkie feature and therefore are equipped with a speaker mode, you can use them without even holding them up to your ear. With the exception of dialing a number, using the phones to answer calls and talk on the phone once a number is dialed quickly becomes second-nature and no distraction at all.

I have yet to see a "hands-free" option which does not add more distraction than it relieves. How is fumbling around with a wired earpiece or a bluetooth headset not WORSE of a driving hazard?

Unless someone has a compatible phone and is tech-savvy enough to set up voice-dialing, and the phone is actually good enough to recognize your voice correctly and not accidentally dial when you kids screams just right (or else it too becomes an IMMEDIATE distraction as you HAVE to look at your phone to make sure you are calling the right person), so called "hands-free" options do not eliminate the most distracting part of using a cell phone which is DIALING.

Your points about numerous other distractions being just as bad or worse than a cell phone are right on. Why don't we ban radios and cd players in cars?

If you are a person that has trouble combining cell phone use with driving, find a safe place to pull off the road. If a cop spots erratic driving for ANY reason, by all means stop em.

Robyn, I'm pretty sure we discussed a few years ago how I was interested in politics and you thought you had more important things to do and it was impossible to keep up anyway. This cell phone thing is only the beginning of how the government is going to "help" you.

If the U.S. Senate doesn't stop it, a bill will soon be on Obama's desk to tax carbon dioxide emissions to fight non-existent global warming (temperatures have actually been decreasing since 1998). The price of just about everything -- anything that requires energy inputs -- will go up as a result, which means higher prices for you. (oh, and you will soon be forced to buy more expensive CFC light bulbs and will not even have the option to buy traditional incandescents)

Obama and the Democrats are pushing hard to ram a health care deform bill through Congress as quick as they can that will raise health insurance costs even faster at the same time that it lowers health care quality and accessibility. Are you ready for 4 month waits simply for a primary care visit like they have in Canada?

But don't worry. You can take comfort in the fact that Obama got that stimulus bill passed so that your tax dollars can go to pay for a Democratic wish list of pet projects over the next several years. This will stimulate the economy because the money that government spends falls down like manna from heaven. It does not have to be first sucked out of economy by printing the money (which causes inflation), higher taxes (which hurts those being taxed), or borrowing the money (which will have to be paid back in the future, with interest, by printing more money or raising taxes at that time).

Meanwhile back here in Oregon, over half of your state income taxes and property taxes continue to go to a hugely expensive and mediocre quality public education system. Total funding for education calculates out to about $11,000 PER STUDENT per year, over TWICE what the average private school provides an on average better education for. Man, wouldn't it be nice to be able to keep another 25% of your state income and property taxes to spend on what you wanted/needed while at the same time improving education results?

This silly bill to ban cell phone use while driving is irritating but only a drop in the bucket.

SaraJane G Campbell said...

First off I love your blog. Secondly if you are paring your cell phone and digging your earpiece out of your purse to answer the all important call you are off track. Your phone should not have to constantly be paired to you ear piece and when you get into the car you should have it ready just in case.

Lastly, my favorite, coming from a state that bans cell phones is most of the cops are breaking the law and talking on there cell phone while driving. Can I make a citizens arrest one day and give them a ticket? Thats what I want to know?

tbierly said...


I too share your respect for the destructive nature of car accidents. Both my wife and I have been in "minor" car accidents that left us both with back problems for years. My wife's cousin was in two major accidents before the age of 20, and as a result has some loss of vision and severe constant back pain, along with the emotional pain that comes with feeling like your entire life has been ruined before you even had a chance to start living it.

I think it is also undeniable that cell phone use can be a distraction for many drivers.

However, I do not think there is sufficient enough evidence that cell phone use is causing a significant amount of accidents to justify banning everyone from using their cell phones while driving.

Anecdotally, I'm not sure where you find all these drivers who are almost running you off the road because they are using cell phones. I commonly see people talking on their cell phones, but I can't remember the last time I witnessed any abnormal driving because of it.

Statistically, studies indicate that distracted drivers are the cause of 40-50% of accidents. Of those distracted driver accidents, the most common cause is rubbernecking (looking at an accident as you pass by), followed by driver fatigue, looking at scenery, other passengers or children, and adjusting cd/radio. In one study, cell phone use was the 8th most common cause of distracted driving accidents.

By the way, most studies that have compared cell phone use with and without hands-free devices found no statistical difference in the level of distration. They found that the concentration on talking was the distracting factor, not holding something in your hand. Some studies have shown conversations with passengers are just as distracting, while others have shown they are less distracting.

Interestingly, listening was found to be far less distracting than speaking. And among cell phone users, people who only used hands-free devices "some of the time" were actually more likely to be in an accident than people who "never" used hands-free devices (those who "always" use hands-free devices were least likely to get in an accident).

There is also the problem of enforcement and compliance. Over 70% of drivers in one study said they used their cell phones while driving. (Of those, 2/3 said they used their cell phones 15 minutes or less per week, 22% said they used the phone 2-20 minutes per day, and 11% talked more than 20 minutes per day.) Do we really want cops to spend time writing tickets every time they spot someone using a cell phone? I would think that they have more important things to do. Is it fair to the person that may have just happened to answer a call and was carrying on a short conversation while following the car ahead of them at a safe distance? What percentage of those 70% will even comply with the law. I know I wouldn't change my cell use patterns, unless I spotted a cop.

Lastly, there are legitimate positive uses for cell phones while driving. What about when, as Robyn suggested, you are using a cell phone to carry on a conversation so that you do not fall asleep? What about when you are calling to ask for directions? Getting lost can sometimes put you in situations where you about cause an accident because you are not familiar with the streets.

I think taking steps to instill a healthy fear in more people of the damage a car accident can do and better disseminating information on the most common causes of accidents would do far more good than passing a law to ban cell phone use while driving.

Why not have the DMV put together a mandatory video that you have to watch every few years at the DMV (or online followed by a short quiz)? I would gladly tolerate that inconvenience because I believe it would do more good to stop injuries and fatalities caused by car accidents.

Thanks for listening,

beachbirdie said...

Hello Toby,

Nice to hear from you. I appreciate the points you made. I didn't mean to take Robyn's comment thread into a political direction, though I do love politics!

Robyn, you expressed strong feelings and your feelings are of course valid! And you express them beautifully, you really SHOULD be writing a book or something! I just kind of burped out my strong feelings too.

I still disagree with the use of cell phones in cars and apparently so does the National Safety Council which called for a nationwide ban in January, 2009. (Although it might be legitimate, as you suggested, for things like driving directions; I am guilty of supporting my husband when he is away on business in strange, scary towns like Chicago, Houston, Atlanta, Newark NJ...he calls me when he leaves the airport, I guide him to client sites and hotels using google earth, google maps and mapquest.)

In reality, I am a conservative/libertarian type thinker. I hate a LOT of laws we have to put up with...such as

Laws requiring motorcycle helmets.

Laws requiring child safety restraints.

Laws requiring life vests on boat passengers.

Laws saying we cannot cut down more than three trees in our yard, because doing so will offend our neighbors (when did the Constitution give my right to my property to my *neighbor*!!!).

Laws requiring us to carry insurance cards in our cars.

Laws requiring us to have a driver's license in order to operate a motor vehicle on public roads.

Compulsory education laws/public elementary schools

Laws requiring us to give up 10-20% of our income so the government can give it to someone who won't go earn their own.

This topic sure is a hot button for a lot of people. As I cruised the web looking for information I found people polarized at two extremes!

Be well,