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12/13/2011
06:43 PM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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Cellphone Driving Ban: Good Idea?

NTSB's controversial vote to ban drivers from using phones for any reason pits convenience against safety. Now it's up to individual states to pass and enforce any legal changes.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) voted Tuesday to ban all drivers from using cellphones for any purpose when behind the wheel of a moving vehicle. This was a controversial vote, but was it a good one?

I vote "yes," but first...

Distractions caused by smartphones can be tied to 25% of automobile accidents in the United States, says the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). Are your workers driving distracted?

Chances are, the answer is yes--and that's what scares the NTSB.

Cellphones and smartphones continue to pose a serious threat to American motorists. A study conducted by the GHSA earlier this year sifted through the data from 350 scientific papers on the subject and concluded that drivers are distracted from the primary task of piloting their vehicle by one thing or another up to half the time.

Using a cellphone at all raises the chances that a driver will cause an accident. Sending text messages while driving is even riskier than using a phone to make calls while driving. The GHSA estimates that distractions account for between 15% and 25% of all crashes, which range from minor fender-benders to accidents involving fatalities.

[ Car accidents are not the only danger posed by cellphones. See Google Boots Fraudware Apps From Android Market. ]

"No call, no text, no update is worth a human life," said Deborah A. P. Hersman, chairman of the NTSB.

Despite all that has been written about driver distraction, there is still a lot that we do not know, said the government report earlier this year. Clearly, more studies need to be done to address both the scope of the problem and how to effectively deal with it.

The GHSA wants individual states to step up efforts to curb distracted driving. It recommends that all states ban texting while driving, as well as ban cellphone use by novice drivers in the car entirely. Further, it says states must do a more effective job of enforcing the laws that are already on the books.

Tuesday's vote by the NTSB takes this to the next level. It recommends that all states ban mobile use by drivers, which means no calls, no texting, no surfing the Web, no using cellphones for any reason when people are behind the wheel.

The issue, however, is up to individual U.S. states to enact into law and then enforce. The NTSB has not yet recommended, for example, that the federal government withhold highway dollars until states enact such legislation.

Businesses that have employees on the road need to take this issue seriously. While equipping fleet drivers, sales professionals, and other traveling employees with smartphones is often necessary, the smart enterprise can take steps to make sure they're not used at the wrong time. Setting up internal use policies is the least measure that should be taken. Make sure employees obey state laws regarding cellphone use in vehicles. Even if cell use isn't banned in your state, your business should probably prohibit it anyway. After all, it's not just the employee who is at risk.

There are plenty of tools available to business and consumer users alike that help manage cellphones when in cars. For example, T-Mobile has recently started offering a service called DriveSmart, which sends incoming calls directly to voicemail and sends canned "I'm driving now, let me call you later" responses to incoming text messages. Even these simple tools can help reduce the impact phone use has when your employees are on the road.

"This is a difficult recommendation, but it's the right recommendation and it’s time," said Hersman.

Speaking personally, this is an issue I pay attention to constantly. I walk around my town a lot. I often come to crosswalks or stop signs where pedestrians have the right of way. I can't count the number of times I've approached such an intersection and noticed a driver completely fail to notice my presence because they were preoccupied with their cellphone.

This is a real issue that, unfortunately, needs to be addressed.

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-- JHtest

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NiteOwl_OvO
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NiteOwl_OvO,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/22/2011 | 6:25:27 PM
re: Cellphone Driving Ban: Good Idea?
I don't think the NTSB is suggesting a total ban on cell phones in cars, just for the driver and only while driving. Cell phones built into cars should be non-functional when the vehicle is moving. That should be easy to implement. Lots of cars have systems that alert the driver if they don't have their seat belt buckled or that lock the doors when the vehicle exceeds a certain speed.

Carrying on a conversation while driving is distracted driving. Hands-free devices are not a solution. In my case, my wife talking to me while I'm driving has resulted in several cases of missed exits, wrong turns, flat tires and driving the wrong way on a one-way street. Teenagers talking while driving causes accidents.

Amputating a leg because of an infected toe is appropriate when the toe has become gangrenous and therefore life threatening. If you don't amputate far enough ahead of the infection, you risk further spreading and possible death. Distracted driving is life threatening. Talking or texting on a cell phone while driving is distracted driving and has resulted in many fatal accidents. Maybe it's time to amputate.

Banning multi-passenger vehicles is unnecessary. Simply separate the driver from the passengers. Radios and/or music devices are typically not as distracting as talking. Eating and drinking are also typically not much of a distraction. Applying make-up, reading a book, watching TV, having sex, etc. while driving are already unlawful activities in some states.

Put the driver in a single-person cockpit with cell signal shielding to prevent cell phone use and an intercom so the driver can communicate with passengers at the driver's discretion. Add a collision alert system and call it done.

One more thing. Ban those annoying LED signs that businesses are putting near the street. Those things are blinding at night. Not to mention distracting.
NiteOwl_OvO
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NiteOwl_OvO,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/20/2011 | 9:57:28 PM
re: Cellphone Driving Ban: Good Idea?
While a cell signal suppressor might solve one problem it falls short of solving the distracted driver problem, which is really the root of the problem. Maybe the driver should be separated from passengers. Allow them to see the passengers, but not hear them. Block cell signals from the driver's compartment, then add a collision alert system and emergency auto-braking. Hmm. I think I like it.
NiteOwl_OvO
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NiteOwl_OvO,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/20/2011 | 9:43:32 PM
re: Cellphone Driving Ban: Good Idea?
I've been to Taiwan and Malaysia, they do it even more than we do. I think it's a problem in most high-tech countries.

Carrying on a conversation, either by speaking or texting, while driving is too much of a distraction. A collision alert system would go along way towards addressing the problem. Maybe even automatically applying the brakes and/or cutting the throttle to reduce the impact would help as well. Crash avoidance systems and self-driving cars are probably coming our way, but I don't think they will be well received or entirely effective.

I would love for them to ban my wife from talking to me while I'm driving. Really.
MediaTrustpete
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MediaTrustpete,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/16/2011 | 11:41:03 PM
re: Cellphone Driving Ban: Good Idea?
is this such a surprise when you see data like this http://ityb.it/UMoXct showing 33% of drivers text while driving or U.S. Department of Transportation Latest Faces of Distracted Driving Video http://ityb.it/cyhNN6 ? The main issue is going to be how on earth they regulate any of this. in NYC that banned taxi drivers from speaking on cell or head sets while driving. that lasted about a week. not to mention the new interactive dash boards going in to the new cars.... this should have been better thought our before the auto companies where given the green light... all in all a good idea. but next to impossible to in-force..
dellyn
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dellyn,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/16/2011 | 3:33:58 PM
re: Cellphone Driving Ban: Good Idea?
Crosswalk, what crosswalk; around here they just start walking across the roadway where ever they like and we're supposed to stop on a dime for them.
Certifiable
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Certifiable,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/15/2011 | 10:27:41 PM
re: Cellphone Driving Ban: Good Idea?
Some very good points being made here about how far a cell phone ban should go when driving. Should all cell phones use be banned or allow hands free devices to prevail? Here is my technical question to the hands free advocates. How will law enforcement or even your cell phone provider know that you were even using a bluetooth device when supposedly making a hands free call that ended in a driving distracted accident and citation? While cell phone providers' call records show you making a call, will they indicate if you were in fact using a bluetooth earpiece or other hands free device? What tech proof can anyone provide for their hands free defense? Just having the hands free device does not prove that you were in fact using it at the time of your accident.

This truck size technical loophole may provide all the reason that the states need to ban all cell use in a car. Mind you, I want to be able to use my phone hands free while driving, but I am not sure how I would prove my hands free status. Any ideas or thoughts on this?
Tronman
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Tronman,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/15/2011 | 7:41:43 PM
re: Cellphone Driving Ban: Good Idea?
$500 fine for the first offense, loss of license for the second offense.
Matt28
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Matt28,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/15/2011 | 3:03:18 PM
re: Cellphone Driving Ban: Good Idea?
On a side note the 'Yeild to pedestrians in crosswalk' right of way law is one of the worst laws ever enacted. The law takes a person's responsiblity for their own safety and places it in the hands of the someone else. I can't count the number of times I've approached an intersection and noticed a pedestrian completely fail to notice my car's presence. They just walk out into the street. If I did not stop I would have hit them.

WHAT HAPPEND TO LOOK BOTH WAYS BEFORE CROSSING THE STREET!!

Matt28
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Matt28,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/15/2011 | 2:54:20 PM
re: Cellphone Driving Ban: Good Idea?
Drivers need to be responsible for themselves. A ban or law is not the way to go. In my state the law (ban) is you cannot talk on a cell phone unless it is hands free but I always see drivers holding a cell phone while driving. The government cannot legislate this problem away. Instead of a ban more public service announcements are needed to make people more aware of the problem and let them make their own decision.

Everyone can agree cell phone use has increased over the last decade. Since cell phone use has increased distracted driving has increased as well. Therefore, accident rates should have increased due to more instances of distracted driving. But according to this census.gov report the amount of auto accidents per year has remained about the same. http://www.census.gov/compendi....

For those of you who think talking on a cell is worse that talking to a passenger check out this report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The percentage of drivers distracted by a passenger before a crash is 5 higher than being distracted by a cell phone.
http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/P....

SkiMan01
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SkiMan01,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/15/2011 | 2:30:33 PM
re: Cellphone Driving Ban: Good Idea?
Year after year for many years the AAA would conduct surveys of accidents. In terms of accidents from distracted driving, the top reason was always children in the vehicle. Cell phones were not in the top three or even top five.
Then suddenly, someone wanted to pass a law and research studies started appearing from respected universities, and they all said that cell phones were the culpruts. We never connected the dots to see the government was the one paying the respected universities, and only researchers who supported those politicians got the research money.
We all know that it is not smart to text while driving, as it is not smart to read a newspaper or put on makeup or shave or whatever. We have always had laws for careless driving ane reckless driving, which may be the result of texting or other activities.
If we go after cellphones, then we should add to that list, UPS drivers that use a computer to plan their route, Truckers that use CB radios, Police that use a wide array of distractions in their cruisers - from large computer screens to two way radios that are not voice activated to dash cams and the like.
Or how about this, let's make it illegal to transport children in cars!!! That will prevent a lot of accidents.
I put this proposed law in the same category as I do the seat belt law. The government is trying to tell us how to live our lives and they are criminalizing any deviation from their straight and narrow path of acting smart. By the way, if the government is driving the car, children are not required to wear seat belts - namely school busses. If you do the same thing, the child protection services will be down your throat in a second.
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