Would cellphone ban dial back 'distracted driving'?

Dec 21, 2011
Would cellphone ban dial back 'distracted driving'?
Associate professor of sociology Judith Perrolle examines a federal agency’s call to prohibit drivers' cellphone use. Credit: istockphoto.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) — an independent federal agency responsible for investigating transportation accidents and promoting transportation safety — called for a complete end to cellphone use while driving, as opposed to bans in some states that still allow talking on hands-free devices.

Here, Judith Perrolle, an associate professor of sociology and an expert on the social impact of technology, explains the dangers of using a cellphone on the road, safer technology alternatives and the societal impact of such a ban.

Why has the NTSB called for a complete ban on cellphone use while driving?

The problem with cellphone use by drivers is part of what experts refer to as “distracted driving.” Automobiles are the most dangerous technology in the United States, leading to the deaths of more than 33,000 people last year. The NTSB estimates that was the cause of about 10 percent of fatal accidents. Despite claims by some researchers, most studies show that humans are not really very good at multitasking. Cellphone use causes most people to take their hands, their eyes and their attention away from driving. Also, many hands-free systems are not really hands-free, but rather, require users to look at or handle their phone for some tasks.

What are the challenges of implementing such a drastic societal change?

People who use their cellphones for work and while driving would be seriously inconvenienced by a more widespread adoption of the hands-free ban. For most, however, banning cellphone use while driving would not be a drastic change, especially for those who are already unable to use their cellphones at work for personal calls, on airplanes or in other settings. According to the NTSB, 70 percent of U.S. states already ban texting while driving, and 60 percent ban cell use by new drivers. One in five states currently bans hands-free cellphone use.

What improvements can be made to digital technology to enable drivers to talk safely on the road?

An obvious improvement would be interfaces that are eyes-free as well as hands-free, allowing people to listen to calls and messages and to converse or send messages by speaking to their phone or to a built-in interface in their vehicle. Interfaces like Apple's new Siri system and some of the on-board systems currently being planned for cars could solve part of the distracted driver problem. But even an eyes- and hands-free system would not necessarily focus drivers' attention on the rather dull business of driving a vehicle safely instead of the more interesting activity of interacting with friends and family. Perhaps developments in driverless vehicles will solve the problem by letting us all become passengers on safer roads. Or we could just take public transportation.

Explore further: Report: FBI's anthrax investigation was flawed

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Mixed signals on cellphone bans

Jul 13, 2011

It's legal in 41 states for drivers to use hand-held cell phones, and a leading highway safety organization recommends keeping it that way for now.

Research shows hands-free phones just as risky

Dec 15, 2011

(AP) -- Like it or not, when someone is talking to you, your brain is listening, processing and thinking about what's being said - even when you're in the driver's seat trying to concentrate on traffic.

Feds urge states to ban texting, talking on roads

Dec 13, 2011

(AP) -- Ren Bishop is one of many American drivers who texts, tweets and talks on her cellphone while she's behind the wheel - and thinks it should be up to drivers to use their discretion when it comes to ...

US quashed report on dangers of phone use while driving

Jul 21, 2009

The federal agency tasked with keeping US roadways safe suppressed research seven years ago on the dangers of cellphone use while driving, fearing political fallout from the study, The New York Times reported ...

Administration takes aim at distracted driving

Sep 30, 2009

(AP) -- Driving while distracted is a growing peril in a nation reluctant to put down its cell phones and handheld devices even behind the wheel, the Obama administration declared on Wednesday. Officials said Congress and ...

Recommended for you

Report: FBI's anthrax investigation was flawed

16 hours ago

The FBI used flawed scientific methods to investigate the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people and sickened 17 others, federal auditors said Friday in a report sure to fuel skepticism over the FBI's ...

Study reveals mature motorists worse at texting and driving

Dec 18, 2014

A Wayne State University interdisciplinary research team in the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences has made a surprising discovery: older, more mature motorists—who typically are better drivers in ...

Napster co-founder to invest in allergy research

Dec 17, 2014

(AP)—Napster co-founder Sean Parker missed most of his final year in high school and has ended up in the emergency room countless times because of his deadly allergy to nuts, shellfish and other foods.

LA mayor plans 7,000 police body cameras in 2015

Dec 16, 2014

Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a plan Tuesday to equip 7,000 Los Angeles police officers with on-body cameras by next summer, making LA's police department the nation's largest law enforcement agency to move ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Argiod
1 / 5 (1) Dec 21, 2011
I disagree: I think that the singular most dangerous technology is Political Science. Just look what the Republicans have in store for us... eliminate taxes for industry and the wealthy, eliminate welfare and social security, cut back on spending on public education, and so on and so on... and, are YOUR papers in order???

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.