Calling While Driving

One of the problems with humanity is that we all believe that we can do things safely even if others tell us that they are not safe. People who drive fast do so because they are good drivers (so they tell us), people claim that they can drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs when the statistics prove otherwise, and even making a call or texting does not distract some super-drivers.

Governments take some action in some form or other to try and stop people doing these things, but it is selective in nature. Let us take texting while driving as an example. In some countries it is illegal to drive and text at the same time. In the USA it is allowed in some states and prohibited in others. In some states you can talk on the phone, in others not you need a hands-free system.

The law though seems to be selective. Last week research published in the Science journal demonstrates that it is not holding the phone to text or speak that is the problem, it is the conversation itself that causes the distraction.

 

A typical sight today

A typical sight today?

The research showed little or no difference between the rate of accidents when people are using a hands-free system and when they are physically holding the phone. The type of conversation does make a difference though, the more the driver has to concentrate on the subject matter or think before replying, the more chance there is of having a crash.

They also found that any type of interaction, even listening to the radio, effects reaction times and attention paid to the road. The radio is the least invasive because it does not require a response, but I wonder if listening to a news show or a discussion that you have to concentrate to follow causes more distraction, a logical line of thought would seem to imply so. Interestingly enough voice to text is the most dangerous type of technological interaction addressed.

So there are laws against texting, and not holding a phone (I must add not everywhere) but why not make speaking hands-free illegal too? And we should bear in mind that cars are ever more designed for connectivity, and that means distraction, maybe this should also be regulated.

Well that would require a change in business practices and take away personal freedom some might say, but we should remember that driving is not a right, it is a privilege that is governed by rules.

This is a serious piece of research that uses eye monitoring technology to measure distraction and driver awareness. The findings are clear and there is plenty of supporting data from other sources, but how would you feel about not being able to make a call at all though while driving?

At least your boss couldn’t call you while you were on your way home.

9 thoughts on “Calling While Driving

  1. About a year ago I had to pull my 7 year old back as a car drove straight through a red traffic light as we were crossing at a pedestrian crossing. The driver was talking on the phone and was oblivious to everything around her.

    I have enough trouble multi tasking anyway so I don’t even try talking on hands free. The majority of people don’t drive drunk so why do they think it is fine to use a phone while driving.

  2. Christopher Roberts

    It is obvious that anything that is a distraction causes a slight dip in focus and therefore is dangerous, however I feel competent drivers should be allowed to listen to the radio, call hands free etc. The problem is how do you know who is a reasonable good driver?

    I tried a hands-free call for the first time the other day, and whilst I would agree it must have taken some of my attention, I found that to compensate I seemed to drive slower.

    Your article was quite timely, as a week or so ago the BBC reported that using a mobile at the wheel doesn’t affect accident rates. Research always conflicts though.

    On a final note…
    There have are around 1,750 road traffic deaths in the UK each year.
    Around 10,000 people die in the UK each year from alcohol related issues every year.
    Yet there are only around 250 people who die each year from drink driving? Does that not mean it’s safer to drink and to drive than to do either alone? ;-)

  3. The sciencenews.org report is very disturbing as I do a lot of my work on the phone while driving. Because my work requires, I travel on the road a lot back and forth to work sites, I find I get far more done using a hands-free Bluetooth then when I get back to the office simply because there are so fewer distractions in my car.

    What worries me is that I’m not alone when I say that getting work done over the phone while driving is not something I have any intention of giving up. However, at least now I am aware that I am putting myself and other drivers at risk while I do so.

    • Here you really have brought up a tricky question, changes in working practices. If stopping people texting is so difficult how will the authorities be able to enforce a ban of this type? And also how unpoular will it be? Thanks for raising this issue and a great comment.

  4. So many people still get away with driving while on the phone so I think banning hands free will be something that would be nearly impossible even if it would cut down on the number of accidents. Although it would be interesting to see the comparison between accidents with hands free kits to passengers as in essence it would still be a conversion being held between 2 people.

    • Hi Matt,

      Thanks for the comment. I understand your point, however when a law is brought into force, whilst there will always be those who choose to ignore laws for whatever reason, I believe the majority of people would obey it.

      Any distraction can hinder a drivers concentration, but how far do we go? Like Jonny debates, should we also ban radios? How about those dangly air fresheners, they could be a distraction – as can window wipers.

      Thanks for adding your view, welcome to the blog :-)
      Christopher – Admin Team

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