2010-01-30

Driving while yakking bans make how much difference?

Today I feel a little vindicated. Now let me be a little freer tomorrow, please -- but I know better than to hold my breath. According to this article, cellphone bans reduce the use of cellphones while driving but they make no difference to the accident rate. Well-intentioned law, disappointing results.

I was discussing this with a co-worker in a hallway this week and s/he implied that the wholesale ban on cellphone use is an unavoidable expansion of a wish to ban reading and writing text (SMS or e-mail) while driving. While these things weren't on your phone, a ban was unlikely. Now that they are (not to mention music, games, streaming and stored video, etc.), they can't just ban some hand-held activities, they've gotta ban them all.

Is the law really as coarse-grained as all that? I've often said that laws will always get something wrong because they're unavoidably using a large brush: you can't paint the Sistine Chapel with a tool made for a "lick of paint". But a grain this coarse? I wouldn't have believed it. If anyone knows about this, I'd appreciate hearing from a horse's mouth.

This co-worker went so far as to say that police (in BC) will not be ticketing people who are talking on phones, only those they see holding them and staring into them. I don't plan to tempt that differentiation (and I suggest nobody else do so, either) but I am intrigued. And I still say the law is unjust so long as there isn't some kind of exemption for people travelling at less than some threshold (I'd suggest 40km/h, but I could live with a lower figure) in a traffic line-up.

2 comments:

Greg said...

Hey Arthur,

I know that you know that
Cell phone use isn't actually banned. Only the use of cell phones while driving in a manner that takes one's eyes and hands away from the task of driving are banned.

1 touch dialing is still permitted, so make use of those speed dial settings for "home", "work's voice recognition directory", your fave 5 friends.

Hands free operation is permitted, so make use of those;
-bluetooth headsets that let you dial by simply tapping your ear
-wired headsets that go in your ear and dangle a microphone near your neck
-speakerphone settings that allow you toput the phone somewhere useful (visor? / side of your tougue, in your shirt pocket?)

So you've got options to talk on your phone while driving. Incidentally the radio power of a bluetooth headset is understood to be about 1/10th of the power your cell phone uses to transmit to the tower, so you might be significantly reducing your brain's exposure to EM radiation.

If you are staring at your cell phone, or driving with your head down looking in your lap, expect a ticket.

Both eyes, and 2 hands on the wheel at 10 and 2 isn't just for 16 year olds. I for one am in favour of this law, because as my friend mo pointed out. It would appear that the average person doesn't have the discernment to not use their phone's unsafely. Its sad. I'd like to live in a less "regulated" world, but I also know how much texting and emailing I've done between point A and B, and quite frankly that kind of activity while behind a rolling vehicle is unsafe and unwise.

3 cheers for a law that makes sense and increases the odds I'll get home safely to my family.

Greg.

Arthur said...

That's two very good friends who disagree with my sentiments. sigh. To reiterate what I have outlined here (including comments).

•My phone is not Bluetooth ready.

•It's working just fine. I wasn't thinking of upgrading it for another five years, probably.

•It's just a phone. It's not an MP3 player, it can just barely text. I have the "games" feature on it disabled. It's just a phone. And so far, I've liked it that way.

•A wired headset doesn't work well for me (I've tried it). In fact, in my view, any wired headset is a bigger risk for being tangled and causing accidents than one hand holding a phone to my ear (in an automatic transmission car and near-optimal driving conditions! I don't consider holding a phone while driving a standard, in settings that require shifting, to be a safe option either.)

•As I said in that earlier post, I fully support a ban on reading and writing text while driving. Texting while driving is just madness!

•But a ban on holding the phone to my ear with my eyes well fixed on the road, especially at 40 km/h or less, in a traffic lineup that's eating into my time is an unjust impinging on my freedoms.

•Or, as it turns out, it's just a tax (to upgrade an otherwise fully functional phone) mandated by the government and collected by the telecoms.

And I have heard nothing to compel me to change my mind on these points. I believe that's because such evidence does not exist.

The other friend who disagrees with me strongly on this point forwarded me a link to some studies (whose links I can't fit in here for length) but they seemed ill-structured to me and their conclusions were too fuzzy to provide a solid rational basis for a ban on all use of cell-phones. Good evidence may yet be out there.

As for a few other points:

•I liked the Jayne-cap + phone option, actually. Except that now the tax will be collected by some winter gear manufacturer. And getting hotheaded in summer would be an added risk (or rubber-band induced baldness). Still, it was cute.

•I view the whole thing of EM radiation as a bit of a crock. In fact, it may be beneficial, according to this article.

•For the record, hands at 9 and 3 is far safer as a driving position than 10 and 2 -- and it's much less fatiguing, too! I learned that here -- a very profitable way to spend a half day -- and if you know me, contact me directly for a great discount on the course -- in a way that does not accrue to my financial benefit at all.

•You've written texts while driving, Greg? I thought you would have known better than that.

As for the three cheers, I'd agree with you at least half-heartedly if there were any evidence the law did what you say. And I am in favour of all of us getting home safely every night but this stupid law does not foster what we really need: a bit of maturity and common sense.

And now, the article referenced in the current post, informs us that such bans do not lower accident rates one whit! Where's the public good in that?

"Despite those laws, monthly fluctuations in crash rates didn't change after bans were enacted, all though [sic] there were less people using devices while driving."

Clumsy, over-reaching, ineffective law -- except in reducing freedoms. I still say, "Bzzzzt!" to the law.

And I'll still find a fire hydrant (not in a no stopping zone!) when I need to talk on the phone, until I've caved in and paid the tax to the telecoms that the government has mandated here.