Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Dial "A" for Arbitrary, Part II

On Thursday, July 15, it will become illegal to drive while talking on a cell phone in Manitoba. I jumped the gun a bit a year ago, thinking that it was already illegal, but I would like to reiterate a point that I made in that original post.

Our ban, like similar bans in most other jurisdictions, only applies to hand held cell phones. Hands-free cell phones are excluded from the ban. Like I pointed out before, this makes as much sense as prohibiting drinking and driving, but only if you were drinking whiskey or red wine. If you were drinking gin or white wine, you ought to be able to get as blasted as you want and still drive, according to the logic used by our law makers.

Why? Because it's not the fact that you're holding a phone that's dangerous -- it's the fact that you're talking on the phone that's dangerous. It doesn't matter if it's in your hand, on the console, or embedded in your skull. When you're talking on the phone, your mind is elsewhere and your driving reactions are delayed.

Says me? No ... says this study:

Results: When drivers were conversing on either a handheld or hands-free cell phone, their braking reactions were delayed and they were involved in more traffic accidents than when they were not conversing on a cell phone.
and this study:
unconstrained conversations using either a handheld or a hands-free cell phone resulted in a twofold increase in the failure to detect simulated traffic signals and slower reactions to those signals that were detected. We suggest that cellular-phone use disrupts performance by diverting attention to an engaging cognitive context other than the one immediately associated with driving.
and this study:
Hands-free and handheld phones revealed similar patterns of results for both measures of performance ... We suggest that (a) there are significant costs to driver reactions to external hazards or events associated with cell phone use, (b) hands-free cell phones do not eliminate or substantially reduce these costs, and (c) different research methodologies or performance measures may underestimate these costs.
and this study:
Conclusions When drivers use a mobile phone there is an increased likelihood of a crash resulting in injury. Using a hands-free phone is not any safer.
and every other study I have come across on the subject. This cell phone ban is not about making the streets safer. It's about appearing to make the streets safer.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I'm a bit of a hypocrite in this area: I do occasionally talk on my cell phone while driving. I have a hands-free adapter, but I rarely use it. However, most of my conversations are very short ... usually something like this:
"Hi? Ya, need me to pick anything up at the store on the way home? ... Milk, ok ... tomatoes? I thought we had some .... Wait, you did what with the tomatoes? ... Oh geeze ... ok, I'll get some more."
One thing I never do is text while driving. Texting is one of the worst things you can do while driving. If you lose your license and have your car impounded for drinking and driving, then the punishment for texting should be at least that stiff. In fact, you should also get a kick in the groin -- by Alexis Serna -- for being an idiot. At least when you're drunk you're keeping your eyes on the road.


Reed Solomon said...

I think its disappointing that it came to this, but there are too many idiots with cell phones these days who are worse than the drunkest of drunk drivers. Certainly there are people out there "like you or me" (heh) that "can handle driving and talking at the same time" but its for the greater good.

cherenkov said...

I do agree ... banning cell phones while driving may be necessary, but it makes no sense to ban only some cell phones but not others. This law gives people the impression that talking on a hands-free phone is safe, when it clearly is not.

Brrr said...

Banning cellphones makes no difference in accident rates anyway.


cherenkov said...

That's probably because all of the bans apply only to hand-held cell phones:

"a new Highway Loss Data Institute study finds no reductions in crashes after hand-held phone bans take effect."

Everybody gets a headset and talks even more thinking it's safe. Your point reinforces my point.

Old Chum said...

Yes they should look at all distracting things people do their hair and shaving I've seen it .

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