General Question

augustlan's avatar

Is legislating a distraction-free driving environment possible?

Asked by augustlan (47715points) August 26th, 2008

Why do we have laws banning driving while talking on a cell phone, but not driving while…using a CB (thanks JackAdams), eating, finding change for the toll booth, looking for that damn cd, or the most distracting of all: driving with children? Wouldn’t it make more sense to simply charge an offender with negligent driving if one causes an accident due to inattentiveness, whatever the reason?

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16 Answers

JackAdams's avatar

No, it isn’t possible.

August 26, 2008, 2:03 PM EDT

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

I dont think its possible until people realize that they are driving a 2,000 lb. piece of metal and realize for themselves it might be a lil dangerous. I love the person on the cell phone that starts drifting into other lanes and then gives you the finger when you beep at them.
I am getting to the point where I think we should just go back to survival of the fittest, and maybe that will start making people smarter, rather than passing laws for EVERYTHING. It seems every time something happens or someone dies, we pass new laws. We are making it so that we are bound to get caught up in one law or another. Are people lacking common sense so much that all we do is pass laws?

wundayatta's avatar

That’s not the point of the laws. Apparently, talking on cell phones is different from talking to a person in the car. The article I read said that a person will pause in talking to you when things require your attention.

There are a lot of unenforceable laws on the books. Why? Because laws serve to educate or warn, as well as to give the polity an official chance to sanction the miscreant, should they endanger someone else.

These laws won’t make people eschew all distractions while driving. They will make some people think twice, for fear of getting caught. They will give prosecutors something to ding people with when they are caught. And maybe, just maybe, a few people will start paying more attention while driving, and the accident rate will decline a teensy-tiny bit.

One other thing. These laws make legislators look like they are attacking a problem. Remember, for much of politics, appearance is what matters, not actual accomplishments. This is why we have so much bad policy in this country. Legislators do what the people clamor for, regardless of how effective it is. Mostly, it is completely ineffective, but the people feel good.

augustlan's avatar

My point is that distractions are everywhere, why just pick on the cell phone user? Why not have a more general law against being inattentive, for whatever reason?

wundayatta's avatar

It’s an easy scapegoat. I really think it’s as easy as that. It’s a recent addition to our lives, and everyone can see when people are using them in the car, so voila! Let’s get re-elected because we fought to make folks safer (never mind it makes no difference—but hey, it’s a new revenue source—all those tickets).

Lightlyseared's avatar

What they should do is remove all the air bags from steering wheels and replace them with six inch spike. I’m sure that would concentrate the minds of all drivers resulting in much fewer accidents. The other benefit is that anyone who can’t concentrate will only make the mistake once.

scamp's avatar

So much could be solved if there was a way to test for common sense and require a certain level before allowing people to drive.

Lightlyseared's avatar

You could have one of those signs like they do at amusement parks. “You need this much common sense to drive”. It could be a big smiley dinosaur or something.

marinelife's avatar

I think the difference is because 1) there are statistics that show the involvement of cell phones in accidents. That involvement is higher than that for other distractions:

“Virginia Tech Transportation Institute researchers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tracked 100 cars and their drivers for a year; they discovered that talking on cell phones caused more crashes, near-crashes and other incidents than other distractions (100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study, April 2006).”

and 2) there are scientific studies that show that talking on a cell phone is more distracting than talking to a passenger

”“Cell-phone conversations consume significantly more attention than passenger conversations, resulting in more incidents and crashes during simulated driving,  Rose and Hunton concluded. “More working memory is consumed by cell-phone conversations relative to passenger conversations, and fewer resources are available for the driving task.”

The two professors specialize in studying the effects of technology on learning and awareness. Their article summarizing their research findings, “Cellular Telephones and Driving Performance: The Effects of Attentional Demands on Motor Vehicle Crash Risk,” appeared in the October 2005 issue of the journal Risk Analysis. No outside funding was received for the study, they note.”

Additional data

“University of Utah researchers determined that motorists on the blood-alcohol threshold of being legally drunk were able to drive better than sober cell phone using drivers. A key researcher and author in this field, Psychology Professor David Strayer notes, “Just like you put yourself and other people at risk when you drive drunk, you put yourself and others at risk when you use a cell phone and drive. The level of impairment is very similar.” Also, consider they found motorists to be more accident-prone and slower to react when talking on cellular telephones. It did not matter if it was hands-free either because of “inattention blindness”, a syndrome that makes a driver less able to process visual information.”

and 3) the ubiquitous use of cell phones in cars is causing the number of accidents to increase.

augustlan's avatar

Thanks for the statistics, Marina…as always, well done. I was just remembering having an infant in a rear facing car seat, in the backseat, trying to calm said infant and drive at the same time, and wondering how any of us survive that distraction!

marinelife's avatar

@augustlan I specifically did not even go into the child thing, because I think it is the worst. From my father’s list of classic driving while bad parenting lines:

“Don’t make me hit you.”
“Do you want me to come back there and give you something to cry about, young lady?”
“Just stop thinking about it, and you won’t throw up.”

augustlan's avatar

“I’ll turn this car around right now!”

marinelife's avatar

@augustlan We’re not sisters, are we?

augustlan's avatar

I am beginning to wonder…

Bri_L's avatar

I think the biggest problem is the people. If you look at the questions regarding cell phone usage, all the people who are for it as well as those who are for eating and doing other things just “know they are able to do it” and “know they can cope”.

They honestly believe they have something the rest don’t that enable them to preform in a car while doing all these things.

And unfortunately there are a TON of “those people” out there.

So, to answer your question, I don’t think it is impossible to legislate, I think it is impossible to enforce.

BarbieM's avatar

I almost got hit on my way to work this morning by someone putting on mascara. There are all kinds of ways to be a bad driver.

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