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Thread: The truth about driving and talking on the cell

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    Elite Member celeb_2006's Avatar
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    Default The truth about driving and talking on the cell

    ConsumerMan: Don't gab and drive - ConsumerMan - MSNBC.com

    ConsumerMan: Don't gab and drive
    More states to enact laws banning cell phones in cars; studies show why
    By Herb Weisbaum
    updated 1:41 p.m. PT, Thurs., June. 26, 2008


    We all see it and many of us do it – chat on a cell phone as we drive. We know it’s distracting, but we convince ourselves we can handle it. Some people now use a hands-free device, believing it reduces the risk.
    “I’m able to put two hands on the steering wheel and I’m able to concentrate on what’s going on around me,” says Romell Witherspoon of Renton, Wash.
    For Nemesia Ramolete of Covington, Wash., hands-free means worry-free. “I don’t feel like I’m going to hurt anybody else on the road.”
    Cell phone companies encourage going hands-free. Lawmakers in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia have validated this idea by banning drivers from talking on a cell phone unless they use a hands-free device. California and Washington join the list on July 1st.
    “If we have readily available technology that costs next to nothing that saves lives, why not use it?” asks California state Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), who sponsored the bill. By having two hands on the wheel, he says, the driver is better able to handle an emergency situation.
    “There isn’t a study in the world that says you are safer clutching a cell phone to your ear than you are with both hands on the wheel,” Simitian says.
    But some research shows that hands-free calls are just as distracting as calls made on a handheld phone.
    “The evidence is mounting that the conversation itself is the risk, not holding the phone,” says Russ Rader of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “The research shows the risk of having an accident is about four times higher for drivers using cell phones, whether it’s handheld or hands-free.”
    I think we’ve all seen someone weaving in their lane while on a cell phone. That’s because a driver is not paying full attention to the road.
    “Some degree of awareness changes when you’re talking on the phone and driving, and I think we all know this,” says Marcel Just, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University. “Just listening to someone talk on the phone while you are driving is going to reduce the quality of your driving performance,” he says.

    Distraction equals danger

    University of Utah psychology professor David Strayer has studied driver distraction for years. He says talking on the phone causes what’s called “inattention blindness.” The driver looks but does not always see things that are there, such as pedestrians, stop signs, traffic signals, or other vehicles.
    Strayer uses simulators and sophisticated eye-tracking devices to see precisely where a test driver is looking. “They see about half of what they would normally see,” he says, “because talking on a cell phone has diverted attention from processing the information you need to be a safe driver.”

    The difference is easily demonstrated with driving simulators. Professor Strayer tells test subjects to pull over when they see a rest area about eight miles up the road.
    When no one is talking to the driver, every one pulls off at the right spot. If there’s a passenger talking, about 90 percent of the drivers are successful. In many cases, that’s because the passenger helps them remember to find the rest area. But when test subjects are talking on a cell phone 50 percent drive by the rest area. Why? “Because they simply didn’t see it,” he says.

    Safety experts say speaking to someone next to you is different from talking to someone on the phone. Because the passenger is in the vehicle with you and can see what’s happening, the conversation tends to be less distracting.
    “They function as an extra pair of eyes,” says Amit Almor, an associate professor of psychology at the University of South Carolina. “That person can respond to changing road conditions.” If they see a situation that is potentially dangerous or requires more attention, they can stop the conversation or alert the driver. A person on a cell phone doesn’t know what’s happening and will just continue talking.

    Another viewpoint
    A recent report from the Public Policy Institute of California says fatalities drop when hands-free laws are enacted. The institute studied accident statistics from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia and found traffic fatalities dropped significantly after the laws took effect.
    Study author Jed Kolko says hands-free laws “reverse some of the dangerous effects of using mobile phones.” And he predicts California’s new law will reduce traffic fatalities by about 7 percent, saving 300 lives a year.
    Kolko did not observe drivers, so he cannot say what drivers did differently. But he suspects the very act of passing a hands-free law changes behavior. “Laws can serve as a form of public education,” he says, “and some people will go beyond what the law requires.”
    In other words, hands-free calls may not be any safer. The law works because it makes drivers more aware that talking on a wireless phone is dangerous. That may reduce the overall number of calls people make while on the road.

    The bottom line

    No matter how many studies are done, people will drive and talk on the phone. Some do it to get more work done. Others find it makes their commute more enjoyable.
    People who want to believe driving while on the phone isn’t dangerous tend to point to other possible distractions: changing the radio, grabbing a beverage or reaching for a CD under the seat. These are all momentary distractions. A phone conversation can go on for several minutes or more. During that time, whether you want to admit it or not, you are distracted and not paying full attention to the road. That means you are more likely to have an accident that hurts or kills you or someone else.

    When road conditions require your full attention – cars are changing lanes suddenly, children are playing nearby, there’s some sort of traffic hazard – you should not be on the phone.
    For the record, after doing all the research for this story, I have vowed to change my behavior. I will no longer use my car as a mobile office. I will not initiate calls, even with my headset on. If it’s a critical call, I will pull over to talk. If not, I will let it go to voicemail. I know I’ll slip sometimes, but I’m really going to try – because I know I’ll be a safer driver.

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    Elite Member McJag's Avatar
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    I believe it. I have had to swerve too many times!
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    A*O
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    All true. It's illegal here but that doesn't stop every other driver from gabbing on their life support device, er, I mean cellphone (and texting, grrrrrr). The cops do nothing, natch.
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    Elite Member msdeb's Avatar
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    very rarely will you see me yakking on the phone. but, i've got my hands free thingy in the car ready for July 1st, just in case. it figures that if anyone got pulled over on July 1st it'd be me,because thats my luck.

    i hate assholes that drive slow while yakking.
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    “The evidence is mounting that the conversation itself is the risk, not holding the phone,” says Russ Rader of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.


    nooooooooooooo shit.

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    *burrrrrrrrrrrrp*


    like my dad says,
    "guns don't kill ppl; cell phones kill ppl"

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    Elite Member yanna's Avatar
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    I nearly crashed yesterday with a moron who ran a stop sign while talking on the phone. I have Bluetooth but I very rarely use the phone when I drive and only for a few seconds.

    Interesting distinction between the distraction of talking to a passenger in the car and talking on your cell.

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    yesterday when i was driving i saw all the it's-law-hands-free-july-1st signs

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    I don't even own a cellphone, it's just another bill that I don't want to spend money on. Plus, I don't want to be bothered by other people while out and about...running errands in my "alone time".

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    Elite Member Butterfly's Avatar
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    No matter how many studies are done, people will drive and talk on the phone.

    Just like people still Drink and Drive.

    My mom has a built in blue tooth thing in her car and I think it is just as dangerous or more... especially when she is screaming at it in frustration because it wont dial the right name.
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    Hit By Ban Bus! AliceInWonderland's Avatar
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    what an asshole yanna! omg i woulda been so pissed!

    and thats amazing boogsbun! i dont have a home-phone and i havent for over 3 years now. i have no use for one, just use my cell.

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    i think tuesday is july 1, i am going to buy a hands free before then...

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    The three kids talking to me from my back seat is pretty distracting, too. Perhaps I shouldn't take them anywhere.

    That being said, I rarely talk on the phone while driving and when I get to difficult intersections/busy highways, all kids are on red alert to ONLY talk to me if its an emergency
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    Hit By Ban Bus! AliceInWonderland's Avatar
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    ^ i dont and cant do it anymore, too stressful, in l.a. there are just way too many asshole drivers to contend with i swear to gawd. its like playing russion roullette everytime i get in my car. i've had 3 accidents since 2005 and none of them were my fault;i could have prevented them if i was driving more like a cautious old lady sad to say, but you got to in l.a. you just got to.

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