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Cell phone bans

2011-12-13 22:24:40.941386+00 by Dan Lyke 7 comments

SFGate: NTSB: Cell phones should not be used while driving. The article is accompanied by a picture from an accident described in the text:

In August 2010, a pickup truck driver who was distracted by his phone rammed the back of a big-rig that had slowed for a construction zone. Then the pickup was hit from behind by a school bus, which was thrown into the air before it crashed down on the truck, killing the driver. A second school bus then slammed into the first school bus, killing a passenger who was in the back of the first bus.

As previously mentioned here on Flutterby, laws banning cell phone use while driving seem to have no effect on accident rates (among many many studies). Further, from the description of that accident, I understand how the pickup truck driver was responsible for hitting the big rig, I don't understand why his cell phone use is being blamed for the two school buses then hitting that accident hard enough to throw the bus up on top of the truck.

Methinks there's way way more to this story than we're seeing, and I wonder why this accident, even if the pickup truck driver had sent 11 texts in the 11 minutes preceding the accident, is being trotted out as the example.

Speaking of which, they mention the 11 texts in 11 minutes, which kinda gets you wondering: What's the baseline? The fact that we have this number doesn't tell us anything unless we know something about even correlations between texting frequency and accident frequency, and we apparently don't.

What's happening here?

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comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2011-12-13 23:04:09.835292+00 by: jims [edit history]

About the effect of bans: That article is about banning hand held cell phones. The research is showing that hands free devices are just as distracting as hand held. One would not expect hand held bans to help once drivers substitute to hands free devices.

About the Gray Summit accident...

I think the school busses just add theater. The pickup driver is the crux. The accident occurred at a time when people were saying we should ban texting and driving, it was fatal, had some spectacular pictures and school busses for decoration. The right accident at the right time.

NTSB report: http://www.ntsb.gov/news/events/2011/gray_summit_mo/


The highway was necking down from two lanes to one for construction and traffic in the one remaining lane was stopped.

The pickup driver was distracted probably by texting and cumulative sleep debt.

The first bus was distracted by a motor coach parked on shoulder and wasn't paying attention to the road ahead (left lane was closed, all traffic was in right lane). (The report doesn't mention it, but I wonder if the lack of brake lights in the stopped traffic ahead contributed.)

The second bus was following too close.

NTSB wants video event recorders on large commercial vehicles.

NTSB wants better supervision of school bus companies. (The third bus sent to fetch the injured students from the hospital crashed there when its brakes failed.)

#Comment Re: made: 2011-12-14 01:03:23.208154+00 by: Dan Lyke

Actually, the first paragraph says "...even using hands-free devices...".

#Comment Re: made: 2011-12-14 14:00:38.914176+00 by: andylyke

Related to "what really happened?", but in a different context - The poster boy for the Toyota "accelerator sticks" problem was a CHP officer driving his own car who, if I recall correctly, called 911 in somewhat of a panic because he couldn't slow his car down. Really? CHP trained officer didn't know that turning off the ignition would cut power to the engine which, along with wind resistance and brakes would slow the car?

#Comment Re: made: 2011-12-14 17:25:24.696236+00 by: Medley

I know that I personally get terribly distracted while talking on the phone. In the 90s once I had a phone conversation on the highway and after it was finished realized I had no recollection of driving the previous few miles. (Of course, that's happened while not talking on the phone, too.) But I try not to talk on the phone while driving. This effort is helped by the fact that I try not to talk on the phone ever. Haha!

Wrt texting/scanning message, I limit myself to only scanning while at stop lights - but I think even that is a bad habit, especially when the kid is in the car as I think it sets a bad example (not that he's close to driving age). On the other hand, he's a good coach and has been known to yell at me from the back seat: "Both hands on the wheel!" and other such helpful tips. Including: "Mama! That's a bad word!" when I curse at bad drivers. I'm sure if I told him that I wasn't supposed to use my phone while driving he would take it upon himself to be my own in-car phone police.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-12-14 17:53:48.667554+00 by: Dan Lyke

I don't think police training teaches people to think creatively under pressure. Basing what I've seen from my experience with whitewater rescue sorts of things, I suspect it teaches people to react reflexively with specific procedures (much like CPR training).

What bothers me heavily about this NTSB thing is that I've generally seen the NTSB as a very fact based organization. Their deconstruction of aircraft crashes are very informative. The conclusions drawn in this report shatter most of that illusion.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-12-16 00:28:11.980452+00 by: jims

Late addition: I just drove through the accident site at dusk with a less than well secured 5000lb tractor on a car hauling trailer with broken tail lights. A couple miles west a state highway patrol officer passed me slowly and I was sure I was going to get ticketed, but he didn't even look up from his iPhone where he was looking for something on one of the home screens.

And about NTSB credibility, the NTSB just said texting was a factor in the first collision. It is a nonissue in the rest and the fatalities. The texting driver probably was not killed from his collision. Crumble zones, air bags, and seat belts have that mostly covered. It is the being landed on by school bus that is fatal.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-12-16 23:55:10.811857+00 by: m

I find it difficult to believe that hands free cell phone conversation is significantly more dangerous than talking to a person in a car. While it may take more CPU to follow a conversation with an unseen voice generator, how much distraction is provided by looking at another person for nonverbal cues? Especially if they are in the back seat?

It is not unusual for "safety" campaigns to prevaricate. I recall one that intended to slow driving speeds, which made it sound as though speeding was the cause of the majority of accidents. But the stats showed it was actually #11 on the list of causes.