Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Drivers’ use of phones draws city’s attention

Plan would double fines if calls made during accidents

May 1, 2006


Drivers distracted by a cell phone were blamed for less than half of 1 percent of the 68,675 fatal, injury or serious property-damage accidents in 2005 on Kansas roads, according to the Kansas Department of Transportation.

Those numbers appear to be at odds with a recent national study - touted as a breakthrough by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration - that criticized driver cell phone use, other distractions and drowsiness. The study blamed inattentive drivers for 80 percent of crashes.

"Of course you don't have data for it. Without reporting procedures, you can't know how many accidents happened," Kansas University psychologist Paul Atchley said.

But he says the risk is definitely there and cites his own and other research that has shown humans cannot talk and listen on the phone without significantly impairing their driving ability.

Lawrence Traffic Safety Commissioners tonight will take up the issue as they consider an ordinance that, if eventually approved by city commissioners, could double a fine for drivers who talk on their cell phones while involved in an accident. Another ordinance would restrict drivers younger than 18 from using wireless devices while driving.

Documenting distractions

KDOT has only started keeping tabs on accidents involving distractions in the past three years. The reported number of accidents involving cell phones increased last year to 292 from 260 in 2004. But that number is still below the 909 accidents in 2005 that involved other distractions, like reaching for objects in the car.

Five people died last year in Kansas accidents that involved a cell phone, compared to seven deaths with other distractions, 91 alcohol-related, eight in work zones and two in deer collisions.

Last year on Kansas roads, a total of 429 people died, which was 40 fewer deaths than in 2003 and 30 less than 2004. Injuries have also decreased to 22,722 from 23,783 in 2004 and 24,798 in 2003.

"We definitely need to bring those numbers down. That's more than one person (who dies) per day," said Joe Blubaugh, public affairs manager for KDOT in northeast Kansas.

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While KDOT has no official position on laws about cell phone use, Blubaugh says: "In general, almost every crash is preventable in some way or another. Distractions are a big, big part of that."

Federal study

The national study conducted with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute followed 241 drivers for more than a year with video cameras and sensor devices. The drivers crashed 82 times and almost crashed 761 times, and researchers named drivers having conversations on a cell phone and drowsiness as primary causes for inattentive driving.

At KU, Atchley says with other effective studies, researchers in other countries correlated drivers' cell phone records with an accident time - a technique restricted in the United States because of privacy issues.

But the point he says is it is currently difficult for law enforcement officers to establish cell phone use as an accident cause.

Sgt. Dan Ward, a Lawrence police spokesman, has said he has no specific study to cite but that talking on cell phones probably distracts and causes problems for drivers in Lawrence.

Bob Hagen, a traffic safety commissioner, considers it a problem, but he said he's not sure how more enforcement at the local level will play out.

"It isn't going to work if there's not a lot of education," he said.


Blubaugh says KDOT and law enforcement agencies will continue to pursue transportation safety through engineering, enforcement and education.

Cell phone usage while driving has become high-profile lately he says, but he considers it part of the overall problem of inattentive driving.

"Almost every crash is preventable, and anything to help prevent them is great," he said. "If that's what a municipality feels is best for the city or county, then so be it."

Atchley says anything to address driver distraction will help.

"I don't think there's any safe way to use a cell phone while driving," he said.


satchel 10 years ago

This is totally ridiculous! Are they going to start fining us for talking to our passenger and getting distracted?? OR trying to get our kids to stop screaming and getting distracted, or picking our noses while driving?

When I use my cell phone, it helps me to focus better and keep my eyes on the road instead of on the stereo, or in conversation with my passenger, or handing McDonalds to my kids in the back while driving..

WHEN IS THIS LIBERALISM STUFF GOING TO STOP? When are they going to be true proponents of 'FREE CHOICE'??

satchel 10 years ago

On another note.. Let us say two cars get in a wreck.. One person was on a cell, and the one who caused the accident was distracte, trying to discipline her child in the back seat. The one who WASN'T on the cell caused the accident.. With this absurd rule, the one on the cell will get a double fine when he WASN'T distracted. This totally doesn't make sense to me at all. That is why I am glad we don't live in Lawrence. We had a chance to move there, but since it is run by liberals like 'boog' and others, why put ourselves in that kind of utopia where our personal rights, talking on cell phones while driving, will be taken away, and the ones who want to commit crimes will be permitted to do so.. i.e.. legalizing marijuana???

trinity 10 years ago

had to laugh, satch, about the disciplining the kids in the backseat thing; that's precisely why whenever i said to my little ones "if i have to pull this car over..." they KNEW i'd DO it and acted accordingly! ;)

and you gotta love this subheader..."Plan would double fines if calls made during accidents"

yeah, like i'm going to be dialing whilst in a skid after somebody's t-boned me...DURING accidents??? sigh

craigers 10 years ago

macon what does a college in California have to do with our driving rights in Lawrence? :)

monkeyhawk 10 years ago

satchel - we are a strange breed here in Lawrence. Our city's "fathers and mother" realize that we are all just scared little rabbits and they are here to help us through our lives. They feel they have this grand duty to shape us up so that we won't hurt ourselves, or run over one of them while riding their bikes or merrily clogging down the streets. They want us to get stoned so that we won't notice them when they start coming into our homes and legislating that our thermostats are set too low in the summer or too high in the winter. (Oh wait, they already do that to our tenants.) They have a mandate to do these things, because the great percentage of the thousand or so who bothered to turn out to vote for these "parents" want them to spank us with something intrusive every week.

jayhawks71 10 years ago

@Satchel - HAHAHA Helps you to focus... better.... I like that one even though it is complete BS. Yeah you might "focus" better than when you are completely turned around handing McDonalds to your kid and your eyes are nowhere near the road.

The research is in... your attention is drawn away from the task of driving. The research is in... it has been compared to driving and talking to a passenger (who can modulate his/her interruptions based on traffic conditions... that is, the passenger can see troublesome conditions and shut up or even help the driver to see a hazard...your cell phone partner cannot) and driving and messing with the stereo. Neither compares to the attentional deficits from the demands of holding a conversation on a cell phone.

@satchel-perhaps the driver on the cell phone could have helped to avoid the situation by being attentive to the driving around him or her (anyone say DEFENSIVE driving?); just because someone isn't found to be "at fault" in an accident are they found to be completely non-contributing to an accident. In fact, what this law would be implying was that BY being on a cell phone, you ARE contributing to the accident. That is one of the things that laws do; assign blame!

@trinity... it doesn't say DIALING... it says a call being made. Until you hang up you are MAKING a phone call. sheesh. I thought I was a stickler for semantics. Here, this is your own misunderstanding of when MAKING a phone call begins and when it ends!

@Craigers...what driving RIGHTS? I swear, in this town, everyone thinks they have a RIGHT to everything.... what next... a RIGHT to smoke wherever you want? :-)

jayhawks71 10 years ago

@monkeyhawk- harming YOURSELF were the only outcome, I doubt there would be any intervention from city government. The fact that they would let you get stoned (as long as you didn't drive your car) is further evidence of that. People stop twisting this into fascism using slippery-slope faulty logic. Yeah , they will be legislating the temperature set on your thermostat.... right..... but you say... IT COULD HAPPEN! Yeah and the mayor could push through a law that says you have to let him use your toilet whenever he wants..... yeah anything could happen Chicken Little!

jayhawks71 10 years ago

@macon47- and cell phone use while driving leads to the most inattention of your list.

And the logic is impeccable: All people who use cell phones while driving are ding dong drivers Ding dong drivers cause accidents (wrecks occur in NASCAR) Therefore - peoplw who use cell phones while driving cause accidents! :-)

satchel 10 years ago

Monkeyhawk: Great point and well put I might add. Trinity: Ha! Yes, I must dial my insurance company while the accident is occuring.. Do you think I could use that as an excuse when I take it to court and fight it? That would be my advice, to fight it if you get a ticket.. Who knows maybe you will end up on the O'Reilly factor, or Hannity and Colmes.. I mean this really is an infringement on our constitutional rights. To say this is a good deal is to say they will have to ban: Eating, drinking a non-alchoholic beverage, singing to your stereo and having it up too loud, talking to anyone in the car while driving, not having enough sleep, talking to yourself while driving, and the list goes on. It is our responsibility to make sure we are alert while driving.. But i guess as monkeyhawk said our mommies and daddies in the governemnt want to do it for us.

But you know the liberals will only ban stuff THEY don't like. The libs who are for 'choice' and freedom want to take away ours. Hey what about the cells that have the ear phones? How are they going to determine if you were talking on it when you wrecked?? YOu could say you were talking to yourself.. How could they prove it unless they looked at your cell phone and saw when you were talking on it? They may have to wait to ticket you until you get them your cell phone records.. GEEZ.. this is so stupid!

satchel 10 years ago

Jayhawk.. Geez, I hope you were just kidding: "@Craigers...what driving RIGHTS? I swear, in this town, everyone thinks they have a RIGHT to everything.... what next... a RIGHT to smoke wherever you want? :-)"

You must be due to the smiley face???

jayhawks71 10 years ago

@satchel- you seem to forget that your freedoms cannot infringe on the rights of others; if your freedom restricts the RIGHTS of others (the right to LIFE) - you lose.

How could they prove it UNLESS they.... well DUH that's what they would do; look at the cell phone record! How could I prove you killed a person unless all the evidence was presented before a court of law and a jury of your peers convicted you..... oh wait..... that's all that needs to be done.

They would have to wait to ticket you......Don't they actually give you a ticket people for DUI AFTER they have determined that you are drunk either through field sobriety or BAC????? Don't some jurisdictions mail red-light runners tickets AFTER they have a law enforcement official evaluate the photo?

Stop re-framing the issue to fit with your pre-conceived outcome.

jayhawks71 10 years ago

@satchel - the only "joke" part of it is the jab I took at the smoker's who contend that they have a right to smoke wherever they want, which I piggybacked on craigers statement about driving "rights." Many like to cast this as government infringing on their RIGHTS. We do have certain rights endowed to us as humans; smoking and driving are not two of them. :-)

OldEnuf2BYurDad 10 years ago

1 - Why not pursue a "prevention" policy? This sounds like a law that only gives tickets for drunk driving AFTER the accident. Give the ticket for talking on the phone before the accident.

2 - How is this enforced? If the cop doesn't witness the accident, how can this be enforced?

neopolss 10 years ago

Wow, who drew the ire of jayhawks71? Bad weekend? Haven't seen you in a dog's age, since, well, the smoking ban discussions.

Richard Heckler 10 years ago


There are 48 countries that ban cell phone use while driving. Among those being UK, Germany,France,Japan,Russia,Turkey,Pakistan,Australia, Brazil,Hong Kong,India,Spain and Norway.

jayhawks71 10 years ago

@neo - I only waste time here when it is something I feel strongly about. I post occasionally, but if you insert the B-word here about everything, people figure you just complain about everything. I am here though! So... not getting my ire.

@offtotheright - why shouldn't it be against the law. In fact if the soccer mom on the cell phone cuts in front of you, that's probably improper lane change AND IS against the law! Of course YOU aren't breaking the law while avoiding someone else's inattentive driving. The driver should be held responsible for his/her actions while driving, just as you suggest, and the soccer mom in the SUV swerving into your lane as she tells her lawyer husband about how Susie cut her finger should be as well.

@Oldenuf - As I sit here and type, I look incredulously at your post. How does anyone get assigned fault in an accident. Police are RARELY there to witness them; I actually had a guy rear end me and a police officer witnessed it... because I was stopping to let the officer... lights flashing, siren blaring... go by!

They get assigned fault by the evidence, which includes physics as well as a phone record and eyewitness identification; as for doing it as prevention, I wouldn't have a problem with that, however, one would have to pull over anyone whose mouth is moving (might they be on a bluetooth headset? might they be on speakerphone?) Now while not unenforceble, that one would require a LOT of personpower and a lot of false alarms; just like anything in life, its about costs and benefits. The cost of pulling over everyone whose lips are moving outweighs the benefits. In an accident, you probably don't have to chase someone down.

jayhawks71 10 years ago

@merrill-that doesn't give a reason why it should be done here. They drive on the other side of the road in at least two of those countries; we aren't proposing that too are we? :-)

jayhawks71 10 years ago

Oh, and in the end, I think the city's policy of "doubling fines" is a joke; taxation without represenation. Further the City Attorney's policy of letting people pay "double the fine" to reduce the charge absolutely flies in the face of what law enforcement is about; this policy amounts to making a sham of what the laws are intended to do; they turn it into a revenue generator. Shame on you city attorney.

Godot 10 years ago

Amazing. One half of one percent of all accidents are related to cell phone use, yet Merrill and his buds want a special ordinance to address the issue. Why? Because they believe that the stats are wrong! The "believe" that cell phone use is a major traffic danger. Let them not be confused by the facts, if they believe it, it must be true.

We already have a law against "inattentive driving." Let's add a law against "inattentive governing"

jayhawks71 10 years ago

@Godot - clearly you missed Atchley's remark in the article - " 'Of course you don't have data for it. Without reporting procedures, you can't know how many accidents happened,' Kansas University psychologist Paul Atchley said."

This isn't about 1% or fewer accidents being caused (or directly the result of) by cell phone use. It is that reporting is spotty. Likely, they are recording these accidents as "inattentive driving" (which is a ticketable offense) with "cell phone" probably listed in the report, but not as the offense (driving while talking on a cell phone is not a ticketable offense).

Clearly, until you understand how the statistics are gathered (and aren't these actually parameters, not statistics... they have the population of accidents) you cannot draw strong conclusions from them. Imagine if I had a statistic that tracked red-light runners.. but that statistic was only based on people who were cited for running a red light and having an accident. I would be grossly underreporting the rate of red-light runners!

Don't blindly believe statistics! Statistics don't lie, people lie with faulty statistics.

jayhawks71 10 years ago

@JPT - I love it. That HUGE inconvenience of having to use a pay phone. Perhaps you needed to get a more reliable car, or was your car only breaking down once every few years... forcing you to use the dreaded pay phone.

No one here is claiming that cell phones are bad. Technology is amoral; how you use it is the problem. Nuclear energy anyone? If your car breaks down, you will not be DRIVING it while using the cell phone, by all means, as you sit relatively safely on the side of the road, dial away, talk away, call that tow truck.... just not while operating your motor vehicle!

NorthLawrenceDude 10 years ago

Lawrence is getting rediculous! (Or is it just another bunch of hype to make National news like the smoking ban, and the "Pot law".) They could never enforce this. I can just picture Lawrence PD chasing down a person on stretcher that has just been in an accident.."Maaam, were you using a cell phone?" PLEASE! Who would admit to it? Give me a break, this town is insane!

jafs 10 years ago

The reason that we need governmental involvement in issues like this is that many American citizens seem unable/unwilling to voluntarily curb the exercise of their individual rights, even when that exercise interferes with others' rights. Hence the smoking ban, noise ordinance, etc. Liberals have always believed in protecting the rights of all. And, I would love to see some leglisation passed regarding the use of electricity - since people seem unable/unwilling to voluntarily conserve energy. Protecting the environment from destruction would be a welcome use of government, imho. Also, I agree that fines are perhaps not the best way to deal with this problem. One question: Does the existing law about "inattentive" driving apply if one is on a cell phone? If so, why do we need another law?

jayhawks71 10 years ago

@NLD- what is with people making up these absurd situations? Chasing the person on a stretcher? Asking them if they "broke the law?" Hah, absurd premises lead to absurd answers. There is no need to do this. First, are there any witnesses to the accident... "uh yeah that guy ran the light while he was talking on his cell phone....and slammed into that other guy..." (there's piece of evidence number 1). Second, corroborate the eyewitnesses statement with either a) another eyewitness and/or b) a cell phone record that shows the date, time and duration of the call along with the time, date of the accident. If it is inconclusive as to whether the call overlapped with the accident, the charge is dropped, LIKE ANY OTHER CHARGE WITHOUT EVIDENCE!

Come on people, stop setting up these straw man to be burned.

jayhawks71 10 years ago

@jafs- I agree with the first part of what you wrote about governmental involvement, although it is people who exercise their FREEDOM even when it interferes with the RIGHTS of others. I think that point bears consideration. I have no problem with smokers smoking or people using cell phones. It is when they endanger ME and the other individuals in society (our RIGHT to life) that I take exception.

As for laws on electricity; perhaps I am missing the right that is being trampled by indiscriminate use of energy (pollution perhaps?). None of us has a right to the conveniences of technology that require electricity... Help me to see where this is a valid legislative issue?

As for the inattentive driving law, I believe it does include cell phone usage, however we have plenty of laws that have additional stipulations.... assault vs. aggravated assault... assault with a deadly weapon (why not just charge them with assault?) To justify, first, I think that cell phones are a LUXURY... you are ACTIVE in choosing to use a cell phone... inattention is a by-product of cognitive processing (we attend more to some things than to others) and can occur PASSIVELY (daydreaming anyone?). The second point to justify is that earlier posts demonstrate that people don't realize that using your cell phone causes inattention! People think it actually makes them "focus more" (clearly they aren't focusing enough when they aren't on the cell phone if that is the case!).

jayhawks71 10 years ago

@OTTR - perfect example of missing Jafs point about what YOU do to yourself being different from what YOU DO that affects others. Your being "offended" by someone's body type (read: too fat from eating too much) or you being "offended" because someone isn't social with you (read: on the computer too much.... not social) are very different than you performing risky acts that are likely to take one's life (a car accident) or diminish the physiological quality of life ( smoking in an enclosed public place).

You have no right to "not be offended" in this society.

yourworstnightmare 10 years ago

Attention studies indicate that cell phone use is as bad if not worse than being drunk. It is easier to prove someone is drunk behind the wheel because of the persistence of alcohol in the blood. The causal link between cell phone use and accidents is not as easy to prove because a it is impossible to absolutely link cell phone use with accidents, although the studies that have correlated cell phone use with driving using phone records indicate that there is a surge.

Talking on the phone is qualitatively different from other activities such as speaking to a passenger and listening to the radio. There is something about talking on the phone, focusing on audio cues only, that tends to diminish the other senses.

Notice how when some people talk on the phone, they close their eyes or stare blankly into space.

This "less than half a percent" number comes from those cases where cell phone use has been established, so it is a wildly low number.

If cell phone use while driving remains legal, it is good news for drunk drivers, as one can then see no reason why to ban being drunk behind the wheel.

Staci Dark Simpson 10 years ago

Just another law to try and confine us. What next? Will they tell me when I can use the bathroom? Personally I am more attentive while talking on the phone than when I am switching a CD or trying to eat Taco Bell while driving. Another reason to be glad to not live in Lawrence. I will still use my phone while driving. Catch me if you can. Oh yeah I was in a wreck before because the sun was in the other drivers eyes, is sunlight next? I was also rear ended from a guy waving at chicks. Will chicks be banned next?

yourworstnightmare 10 years ago

Great, and I'll drive drunk. I really enjoy having a martini while driving, and no one, repeat no one, should be able to tell me I can't. It is a restriction of my freedom to not be able to consume alcohol when and where I choose, whether that be at home or behind the wheel.

yourworstnightmare 10 years ago

rightstinker, again you pollute the discussion with inane "what-ifs" and a failure to understand the written word.

"And you call me an idiot?"

Yes, rightstinker, I call you an idiot.

GardenMomma 10 years ago

I thought there was already a law that said that if you were in an accident and were not using a hands-free option on your cell phone you would get a ticket for that. Just as there is a ticket given if you are not wearing your seat belt when you are pulled over.

This hullabaloo over cell phones sounds much like the moaning and groaning when the seat belt law was put into effect. As we all know, seat belts do save lives and so, not yakking on the cell phone the entire time one is driving will save lives too.

Use your brains people, it's not about liberalism, left-right, blue-red. It's about COMMON SENSE! Distractions come in all forms, cell phone usage (hands-free or not), adult passengers, kids, rubbernecking, etc. Drivers need to pay more attention when they drive, period. How many of you who've written here today will drive and get distracted today? What will that disctaction be? A fellow driver on a cell phone? Your kids? Someone else's kids? The thought that you are the better driver? Or that you had the right-of-way?

If nothing else, this potential law should wake up some drivers and cause them to be more attentive, for the time being at least.

Think about how many people you see nowadays using a cell phone while driving. Before cell phones, each of these people (myself included) would not be taking their attention (even just a little bit) off the road and other drivers around them. Just try not to get too distracted by that thought as you notice all the other drivers out there yakking away on their cell phones.

And, as for saying that talking on the cell makes you a more focused driver, that's like saying that driving drunk makes you a better driver because you really have to focus on driving right so as not to get pulled over.

NorthLawrenceDude 10 years ago

Well, in this town you can pay double or triple and get out of any ticket, so this is just another way to scam the citizens out of money. Lawrence is the laughing stock of NE Ks. I have friends in KC who get the JW, just so they can read about the hilarious stuff this city tries to impose on people. OTTR, I agree with you! Ban FAT people who eat and drive, Ban people waving...oops, we already did that to that crossing gaurd!

patchley 10 years ago

For a long time, drunk driving was also not viewed as a problem. Ask any older driver and they will tell you how police would just help a drunk driver "get home safely". It was not until MADD and others started to work on public opinion that laws changed. What do you personally think about drunk driving today?

The bottom line from numerous studies using different methods (on-road assessment, driving simulation, laboratory studies) is that CELL PHONE USE while driving is AS OR MORE DANGEROUS than DRIVING DRUNK. But, our attitudes about this wonderful device have not yet changed to match the risk.

Some research:

A driving simulator study for the Brookings Institute showed cell phone using drivers were more dangerous than drunk drivers:

The recent Virginia Tech study placed cameras in vehicles, and showed cell phone use to be the number one threat to driver attentiveness and safety:

On-road studies:

Redelmeier DA & Tibshirani RJ. Association between cellular-telephone calls and motor vehicle collisions. New England Journal of Medicine, 1997, Vol. 336(7):453-8

Studied phone records of 699 drivers involved in non-injury accidents over 14 months. Talking on a phone during the period before an accident increased risk 4.3 times. Hand-held and hands free units produced equivalent risk.

Suzanne P McEvoy, Mark R Stevenson, Anne T McCartt, Mark Woodward. Role of mobile phones in motor vehicle crashes resulting in hospital attendance: a case-crossover study. British Medical Journal, 2005 Jul 12

Studied phone records of 456 drivers involved in injury accidents over 27 months. Talking on a phone during the period before an accident increased risk 4.1 times. Hand-held and hands free units produced equivalent risk.

Crundall, David; bains, Manpreet; Chapman, Peter; Underwood, Geoffrey. Regulating conversation during driving: a problem for mobile telephones? Transportation Research. In press.

Examined the conversational characteristics for in-car conversations versus cellular phone conversations during actual on-road conditions. In-car conversations tend to be suppressed as road conditions become difficult. Suppression did not occur for cellular pone conversations.

patchley 10 years ago

Regarding the small disagreement between "Nightmare" and "Thinker" (as well as commentary that cell phones seem to increase attention):

Brain scans show that when people engage in an active auditory task, their visual cortex is NOT as active, as "Nightmare" notes from personal experience.

Years of cognitive science shows human brain can only effectively attend to one task at a time. This is why cell phone conversations while driving are so problematic. They use "cognitive resources" for a secondary task not related for driving.

GardenMomma 10 years ago

If real scientific papers aren't your thing, and beliveing everything you see on TV is, watch Mythbusters on the Discovery Channel. They did a study on cell phone usage and drunk driving.

The myth that "Driving while using a cell phone is as dandergous as driving drunk" was proven to be "Confirmed."

GardenMomma 10 years ago

Whoops, I meant "believing." Sorry.

patchley 10 years ago

To RightThinker:

Your comment about on-board GPS systems with audio was a a good point to make. The difference between these systems ("turn left here") and a cell-phone conversation is huge.

The former is passive and very limited. Any impact on attention is short-lived and likely very small. These systems pose little risk, and any risk is probably offset by the reduction of risk for other forms of navigation, such as looking at a map.

A cell-phone conversation, by comparison, is a long and active event requiring concentration, listening for comprehension, planning and excuting responses. The active nature of a real conversation is what is most problematic. Listening to talk radio is also demanding, but because it is a passive event, our brain tends to filter this input if attention is required for driving. Ever get into heavy traffic and then realize a few minutes later you missed a good part of a news story?

So, your comment provides a good way to think about how cell-phone conversations are different from other in-card distractions.

GardenMomma 10 years ago

No, just use the brain God gave you and stop trying to blame it all on the "liberals."

Idiots come in all political colors as do inattentive drivers.

GardenMomma 10 years ago

To "rightthinker" - Take a limo and let someone else drive.

patchley 10 years ago

I personally don't buy the rationale Right Thinker tries to use:

First, there are other distractions, so why make anything illegal?

Second, safety laws are the creation of liberals.

A cell-phone conversation that lasts for minutes is not comparable to short events such as looking at a set of directions. Yes the latter event is a distraction, and should be avoided, but it is brief.

Operating the vehicle becomes an automatized behavior and exerts less of a cognitive demand over time. If you drive a manual transmission, you know how much effort it takes when you first learn, compared to when you are trained. After training, other parts of the brain control the motor plans necessary to drive, so attention is not required to execute them.

Road signs actually can be distracting, which is why there already are laws that regulate their placement as well as the placement of advertising signs.

GardenMomma 10 years ago

To "rightthinker" - So was the limo suggestion.

Calliope877 10 years ago

I think it's kind of funny how many people out there claim to be good drivers while they're on their cell phone. I'm willing to bet that these are the same drivers who cut people off, pull out in front of people, or hold up traffic because they're driving 20 miles below the speed limit while they're talking on a cell phone. They're completely oblivious to the inconvenience they cause, or the near accidents they barely escape from, so they just assume that they're good drivers.

Confrontation 10 years ago

"But that number is still below the 909 accidents in 2005 that involved other distractions, like reaching for objects in the car." We all know they're reaching for their cells. Anyone who says they drive better when they are using a cell is absolutely lying! That's like saying you pay more attention when you are driving drunk, therefore you become a better driver. Every driver I've ever been in the car with or have seen using the phone are always driving in an unsafe manner when they have their phones glued to their ears. Swerving, failing to use signals, slamming on their brakes, etc.

nomorebobsplease 10 years ago

Marion- Had to laugh out loud on your comments about Mercedes and German engineers. TOO TRUE!
My husband moved here from Germany a few years ago and still can't believe how people behave in cars on the road in the US. BTW, the only way to use a cell phone in a moving vehicle was by using a hands free device (at least that was the law when he moved over here) And yes, they still consider it a privilage to drive there, not a right.

horrific_changeling 10 years ago

I have to tell you, just being a stressed out person is much more distracting than my cell phone ever is.

I want everyone person,father/ mother /caregiver out there, to admit, how many times have they driven to Walmart, when they meant to drive to the grocery store?

Or had their child or passenger tell them, didn't we just miss the turn for somewhere?

Or when Walmart changed locations, the car still went to the old place?

Ever drive all the way across town, and be so mentally preoccupied, you don't remember a bit of the drive?

Admit it, it happens to a lot of busy people..we're trying to remember what we need to do, the fears in our heads, lack of sleep, problems with our children, exs, bills, work. We are thinking all the time..and driving too. It's the nature of being human.

Sharon Nottingham 10 years ago

Wanna control my cell phone & when I use it? Then pay my bill.

compmd 10 years ago

Mercedes 124s and 126s have annoying radios too, and theres lots of them out there. Cupholders? What are those? You can stick a 20 oz bottle between the tranny tunnel and seat adjustment lever on the 107, but thats about it. My 88 Volvo has no place for beverages either.

There are more manual trans cars in the rest of the world than the US, and the countries that have banned cell phones while driving are doing ok. Ever try to drive stick and talk on a cell phone? You run out of hands.

Confrontation 10 years ago

hipgal-I just love your logic.

Wanna control my gun & when I use it? Then pay for my bullets.

Richard Heckler 10 years ago

This matter was brought forward by citizens not the traffic safety commission.

monkeyhawk 10 years ago

"This matter was brought forward by citizens not the traffic safety commission."

...and you jacks jumped right on it. Any time a member of the community comes up with something you can also hate, it becomes a top priority.

jayhawks71 10 years ago

@GardenMomma - god didn't give you a brain. evolution gave us the brain that we have today.

@CAlliope -- don't you know that 80 percent of drivers think they are better drivers than the average driver? A statistical impossibility! People ignore such base rate information though.

There also seems to be this assumpt that IF one does not get in an accident while using on a cell phone, one must be "just fine" driving while talking on a cell phone. You can swerve all over the place, cut people off, make them slam on their brakes, veer to avoid, go around because one is going 15-20 under the speedlimit to compenstate.... oh yeah just fine.

@hipgal - no need to pay your bill. Your license will just be taken away; your privilege to drive will be suspended, then you will have more time to talk on your cell phone... if you can still afford one after you have no way to get to work.

jayhawks71 10 years ago

@spacystaci - you are "more attentive when on the phone than when." Demonstrate your empirical evidence, then come back and talk to me. You PERCEIVE that you are more attentive (probably to the phone!). The withdrawal of attention from the road has been demonstrated empiricially. The job is yours to show evidence to the contrary other than your subjective perception of how attentive you are.

@rightthinker.... why do you assume that one who is observing the "blank stares" of drivers is driving himself? I guess just another example of what happens when we assume.

And yes driving with hands-free does not do much for reducing the attentional drain. The drain is due to the conversation on the phone, not the dialing or the holding of the phone. You still just don't get it? Every hole you have tried to poke has been filled!

@ywn - classic example of one who thinks his freedom to do whatever he wants is more important than the rights of others. Someone please don't strap a helmet on head that houses a brain so foolish.

@NLD - knowing what I know about the REST of Kansas, let them laugh at Lawrence.

@patchley - finally someone with some knowledge. Would I be safe in concluding that you are the Paul Atchley quoted in the article? I am surprised you didn't cite David Strayer's extensive research on the topic. Now if only KU could get you a fancy driving simulator!

The concept of a continuum is lost on some of these folks. The idea that attention might be a CONTINUOUS, GRADED cognitive ability makes no sense to some. To them EITHER you are paying attention or you are not. They understand nothing about selective attention... divided attention.... etc. Perhaps a Cognitive Psychology course is in order!

Further, this is the slippery slope argument used in reverse.... "well if you are going to ban this then you must ban everything that remotely captures attention!" Is this thread reflective of the reasoning power of America?

@rightthinker - you do realize you are arguing with an expert in the field (patchley), don't you? If patchley pulled out the literature on the topic that supports the "other side" and dropped it on you, you would be crushed.

yourworstnightmare 10 years ago

jayhawks71 summed things up:

"@rightthinker.... why do you assume that one who is observing the "blank stares" of drivers is driving himself? I guess just another example of what happens when we assume."

"@ywn - classic example of one who thinks his freedom to do whatever he wants is more important than the rights of others. Someone please don't strap a helmet on head that houses a brain so foolish."

This was sarcasm. You must have missed it because of lack of audial and visual cues...

Or maybe you're being sarcastic...

hottruckinmama 10 years ago

rightthinker "Why do you libs want the gov. to control everything we do? Is it general contempt (I know this is what Willy J. Clinton and Thing Rodham Clinton have-contempt for the masses). Is that a liberal thing? What is it?"

you right wingers have had the house and senate as well as the white house for quiet a few years now and as far as i can see we are more "controlled" now then we ever have been. think about evesdropping on phone calls. think about all the bs your man phil kline has tried to do. talk about a control freak. think about eminent domain (sp?). they can just force you right out of your property and there's not much you can do about it. rich republican businessmen love that one. they can move some old lady out of a house she's lived in for 50 years and put up a strip mall.

as far as cell phones and driving.. well i wouldn't sweat it..if your man in the white house doesn't get impeached pretty soon most of us aren't going to be able to afford to drive or have cell phones.

hottruckinmama 10 years ago

honestly ottr do you know how to write more then one sentence at a time?

jayhawks71 10 years ago

Pilgrim, sorry to hear that you don't value education. What makes what the rest of Kansas says ("watch them laugh") valid? And who made one individual here the spokesperson for the REST of Kansas anyway? You and your friends proceed in your superstitions and faith in invisible entities that interject their "will" into our lives; I will continue to be an empiricist and demand evidence in suport of the claims of others. This last part is directed at those who will have you believe that they give MORE attention to driving when they talk on the cell phone. Go find some evidence, then get back to me; a ream supports the opposite. If you see that as someone claiming intellectual superiority, then wallow in your ignorance. LOGIC, REASON and EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE is a standard required by much of society, with the exception of those who refuse to believe anything they see.

jayhawks71 10 years ago

Pligrim, what arrogance? It is arrogant to demand evidence for one's claims? Well, that arrogant damn legal system. Those arrogant damn scientists. Those arrogant doctors who take into account the available research before giving you a drug (oops maybe then don't do that!). You arrogant fools and your need for evidence. If that is arrogance, then guilty as charged. You infer arrogance where none is implied.

nowandthen 10 years ago

Many people have been saying that this is just the government trying to control everyone. Well....this is the gov. controlling the situation. If people claim so much that they are VERY good drivers while on their cell phones....why not show it?

If people were not so careless on their cell phones while driving then this proposal wouldn't have come up. If people weren't so careless with their driving in general, then there wouldn't be any laws for the roads.

The thing is that people just don't show the ability to handle driving a car with others on the roads. This is the reason for all the laws. If people don't take charge of their own actions then someone has to if it endangers people.

I don't like being told what to do, but if I can't handle myself and my actions, then I would expect someone to intervene.

jedre 10 years ago

I think it might be a good time to discuss the idea that "liberals are trying to take away our freedoms". This is an interesting position that deserves some time.

I think some people are afraid that "if they take away my 'X', next time it will be my 'X+10'".

This isn't necessarily the case, and is a logical fallacy. For example, highway speed limits got reduced in many states many years ago -- but they didn't continue to be reduced, say to 25 mph today. There was evidence of a risk, a line was drawn, and the line stuck.

Each new law doesn't necessarily foretell a trend.

So in the face of evidence (a lot of evidence - from around the world) of cell-phones causing a specific risk, it becomes the duty of those doing that research to inform the public. Note: public.

Remember that these researchers, even government-contracted ones, don't make the new laws. Rather, your elected officials do. Ultimately, the decision is in your hands (our hands as a community), at least indirectly.

I honestly feel sorry for those who feel that this is an us-vs.-them battle of snotty, elitist, "liberal", researchers trying for whatever reason to take down the rights of the common working man and woman. I can see how that opinion would be formed, but I disagree. This isn't a matter of "we know what's best for you, and you are too simple to comprehend it". It is more a matter of "we seem to have evidence of something we think you should know about".

Everyone here is spending time considering this issue. That is evidence that the process is working. The public is informed of the findings, they can take them or leave them, debate them, and vote for candidates that are aligned with their informed opinions.

I think this process is the most important of our freedoms as Americans - the essence of American life - and the one I'll most strongly defend from being "taken away".

jedre 10 years ago

Just another topic for discussion - something that I think both "sides of the aisle" can agree on.

My car insurance is based in part on the likelihood of me getting into an accident - the company has to make enough money to pay claims back out, right? Things unrelated to me as a good, attentive driver figure into my insurance rates - like whether my car has an anti-theft device (it cuts down on theft - company saves $), and how many accidents people in my region get into on average (I had to pay a heap more when I lived in a mountain state with chronic ice, snow, falling rock, and other regional hazards).

So if the research is to be trusted - and I think that there's enough from different sources that it can be - and not talking on a cell phone while driving reduces overall accident rates... my insurance company doesn't have to pay out as much money to claims - and they can charge me less.

I like this.

It might be my right to talk on a phone and drive (it might be my "right" to drink and drive, or to not wipe the snow off my windshield) - but if people reduce known risks... then I don't have to pay money for other people taking those risks.

Law or no law, stopping cell-phone conversations while driving can keep us from paying for other people's mistakes. I think Liberals, Moderates, Conservatives, and Martians can agree with that? In all seriousness, stop me if I'm wrong here.

strateup 10 years ago

First it was cigarettes, now it is cell phones. I heard at the next council meeting they are going to propose a law allowing married residents of Lawrence are allowed to have only two chidren. I wonder what the charge would be if you were pulled over while smoking a cigarette and talking on the cell phone?

jedre 10 years ago

Against my better judgment...

This seems, perhaps, to be an issue of conflicting rights. Some feel that they have a right to use a cellular phone while they drive. Perhaps this is true. But I also have a right to a safe roadway, free from things we know to be harmful. This includes sober, licensed drivers driving at the speed limit, in vehicles that meet safety requirements - adding the lack of cell phones isn't a stretch. I have a right to health, probably first and foremost.

It's the old "your right to swing your arm ends at my nose" concept. By talking on a cell phone while driving, you're swinging your arm/car right into my nose/car. Again, I'll point out that others doing so (even if they don't hit me) increases accident frequency, which increases what I pay to my insurance company. So I'm personally paying for your "right" to talk on a cell phone.

I honestly believe people (city, state, and national governments worldwide - this isn't just a Lawrence thing) are trying to reduce potentially fatal risks to drivers in this instance, not to take away our rights.

Linda Endicott 10 years ago

Boy, a lot of you really seem to be addicted to your cell phones. What, you don't think you can drive a car without one?

Personally, I don't even have a cell phone. I don't consider them to be the end-all and be-all of my existence.

If I want to talk to someone on the phone, I can wait until I get home, or work, or to someplace that has a pay phone. There is no conversation I could possibly have that is that important. They can wait.

What did you all do before cell phones were invented?

Sharon Nottingham 10 years ago

I can think of a prime example of when I had a valid reason to use my cell phone while driving. I witnessed a dump truck on I-35 in the process of overturning because some nimrod cut him off. I used my cell phone to dial 911. And I'd do it again.

The point is, there is a judgement call that individuals must make. If you are the type of person who can't do two things at once, then you probably know that talking on a cell phone may affect you differently than a person who is good at multi-tasking. There are SEVERAL factors that can distract a person driving--like the women who apply makeup on their way to work, kids screaming in the backseat, heated talk radio discussions, etc.

I happen to use my hands free device because with time factors, I'm not always able to handle situations at an office--especially while traveling. This is no bigger a distraction than listening to a radio. What next? Is the city going to ban radios in cars?

Linda Endicott 10 years ago

Calling 911 in case of an accident, or calling for a tow if you break down are completely different. Though in the old days if that happened, your only option was to walk to the nearest help. At least turn the damn things off while you're driving. You can still receive messages. Pull into a parking lot or something if you want to answer.

Sharon Nottingham 10 years ago

crazyks: I don't need anyone telling me when I can use my phone. We are not in the old days--that's narrow-minded thinking. As stated before, I use my cellphone hands free set to conduct business while on the road. Sometimes I have no choice when conference calls are warranted. I'm not about to lose a huge account over this issue. I feel using hands free is very responsible and I'm not going to justify my calls to you or anyone.

jayhawks71 10 years ago

@hipgal - the research (read: evidence) flies in the face of your subjective claim that talking on the phone is no more of a distraction than listening to the radio. It is more distracting than talking on the radio; the verdict is in from peer-reviewed controlled experimental research, which I will take over human subjective perception any day of the week.

And, if you break down, your car is STOPPED when you call! If a situation is such an emergency that you MUST call 911 immediately, it is probably a situation where you should stop to help as well, and if for some reason you can't (too dangerous) in a hurry... then pull over to make the call... you are probably stressed from this emergency anyway. Your prime example is out of gas.

Perhaps hipgal, you actually NEED a law that bans it, then you can explain to your clients that it is illegal for you to talk to them on the phone while driving; perhaps they would be more understanding. I will chalk up your vote in favor of a law banning cell phones while driving.

I suppose you also don't need any government bureaucrat telling you how fast to drive, when you should stop to let others go (stoplights), how you should change lanes (signal anyone), and heaven forbid they REQURE you to have a license and to register your car. Yeah no one is going to tell you anything... that's clear.

Oh, and hands-free devices.... no impact on distraction. It is the conversation that is attention demanding.

@jedre - no conflict of rights. there is no right to drive, so it doesn't conflict with your right to life.

horrific_changeling 10 years ago

above mentioned laughing at lawrence..

at ku..applicant for important teaching job, got approved by both sections...He had applied here. He turned it down after being given the, he didn't have a better offer....his WIFE didn't want to live here!! They'd rather be unemployed than live here.

Yes, we are laughed at by the rest of the country.

Godot 10 years ago

The traffic safety board consists of people who were appointed, NOT ELECTED. It is outrageous that they can enact such a restrictive, unenforceable, and regressive ordinance. In business today, timely communication is the difference between success and failure. If this totally absurb ordinance is enacted, it will put all business people who happen to be operating in Lawrence behind the eight ball when trying to compete with the entire, rest of the world.

Way to go, anti-Progress PLC.

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