Saturday, December 17, 2011

Cellphones in cars

The first question is should the government be in the business of regulating phone use in a car.

The answer to that is a profound YES.  I understand people objecting to excess government regulation, but they miss the point.  They think this is about phone use.  It isn't.  It is about car use.  What you do in a car affects my safety as much as yours - and I don't even own a car.   People that drive stupid don't just kill themselves, they kill other drivers and even pedestrians like me.  The government clearly has the legal right to enforce traffic safety rules.

Do you think the government should be allowed to stop people from putting on blind folds and racing the cars?  Of course that should be illegal.  It is a clear danger to everyone else on the road, not just the blindfolded fool.

This is why drinking and driving is illegal.   It kills people - besides the idiot that is drinking and driving.   Almost every one in the country recognizes that not only is drinking and driving stupid but it is illegal and the government SHOULD make it illegal.

The question then becomes is cell phone use - either texting or verbal direct to phone or with a headset/hands free setup - as dangerous as driving while druink.

The answer to that is a profound YES.  There are multiple studies (Utah study, British Car and Driver study, list of many more studies) that clearly show driving while on the phone is worse than drinking.

The problem is two fold:
  1. Many of us have done this stupid thing and not crashed.  That makes us think we are experts, and we are not.   Idiots that drive drunk say the same thing - that they have done it and not crashed.
  2. We falsely believe that a hands-free setup is no worse than talking to someone in the back seat.  Not true.   People in the back seat can see what is going on and stop talking when it get's 'risky'.  That happens instantly.  Someone on the phone can't do the same thing which means they keep talking and distracting you even when a semi has crossed the line and is coming right at you.   Your brain quite simply can not ignore them just because your life is in danger.

The problem is that so many people already drive while using the phone.  But people also speed.  I bet more people have driven 10 mph over the speed limit than have driven while "phoning" (Phoning = using the phone in any manner - text or call).

People think they now better than the scientists.  They don't.  Driving while using a phone in any manner - whether texting or even using a hands free set up is DANGEROUS.  We have multiple studies from Utah, Australia, Britain, Harvard and many other places confirming this.

People need to trust the scientists and stop trying to claim they are wrong simply because you personally have anecdotal information that contradicts them.  Anecdotal evidence is not good evidence.  If driving while using a cell phone was instantly deadly, the problem would solve itself.  Instead it simply raises your risk - in something that is already fairly risky (You have a 30% chance of being in a car accident - unsupported number, found on a yahoo answers)

The scientists have numbers and tons of real evidence to back them up.  You don't.   They do the math, you don't.  Yes, if you ask all your friends if any of them been in a car accident related to phone use, chances are they will say no.  You didn't ask the dead people.   Nor did you check to see if they lied - highly likely as insurance companies love to blame people.

Finally and most importantly - even if you personally are a good enough driver to do it, not everyone else is.   It is more important to stop the less-than-perfect drivers than it is to give the few that 'might' be able to do it safely.  Unless you want to offer special "phone driving" licenses, which seems ridiculous to me.

The move to outlaw driving while phoning is not a government over-reaching, it is about safety.  You can't drive while blind folded, you can't drive while drunk and you shouldn't be allowed to drive while using a phone.

All of that said , just declaring it illegal will not be enough.  We need a campaign against driving while calling, just like we had a campaign against driving while drunk.

We need a MAPD - Mothers Against Phone Driving.   That needs not just TV time, not just money, but committed people with horrible stories.

Honestly, if the studies are right - that driving while phoning is dangerous, it should not be that hard to find those stories - and therefore the people..

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