Archive for Monday, January 12, 2009

Better tracking of cell phone use sought on accident reports

KU's Transportation Research Institute says that driving while talking on a cell phone is as bad as driving drunk.

January 12, 2009


Driving + Texting = Death.

That’s the answer Bob Honea keeps coming up with, even if he doesn’t have all the numbers yet to fill out the equation.

“Intuitively, we all know it,” said Honea, director of the Transportation Research Institute at Kansas University.

Driver distraction — including the sending and receiving text messages while operating a motor vehicle — ranks among the nine major issues facing transportation these days, according to a new report from the institute.

Honea and other representatives will discuss details of their report Tuesday in Washington, D.C., where they will be attending the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences Transportation Research Board.

Honea acknowledges that nobody should be surprised that texting while driving isn’t all that bright of an idea — “It’s a no-brainer,” he said — but institute officials are hoping to help lay the groundwork for doing something about it.

The first step, Honea said, is to gather more data about the problem. That means being sure that law-enforcement personnel make a concerted effort to investigate — or at least keep track of — instances when cell phones and other wireless devices are in use during accidents.

Determining whether a particular call or text message “caused” an accident isn’t as important, he said, as simply documenting when such communications are involved.

Connecting cause and effect can come later through number-crunching and related analyses.

“It’s like smoking and cancer,” Honea said. “You infer it. Statistics show something is happening, but you have to have the statistics to do that.”

The institute says that use of cell phones and other wireless devices while driving officially leads to 2,600 deaths and 330,000 injuries annually in the United States. Honea and others maintain that those numbers are severely underreported or recorded, something that establishing a uniform system for collecting data could help correct.


Benjamin Roberts 5 years, 3 months ago

I don't quite get it. If cell phones are “at least as debilitating as driving drunk”, then the statistics should be similar. 2600 deaths credited to cell phone use versus 14470 (see link) for drunk driving actually proves the opposite of the reported conclusion. Unless, of course, there are five times more drunk drivers then cell phone drivers.


bndairdundat 5 years, 3 months ago

Pywacket (Anonymous) says…Considering that the previously existing distractions have obviously not gone away, one would expect the addition of the cell phone to cause a measurable increase in total number of accidents if they are truly causing so many.bndair says.......excellent point Py.


Pywacket 5 years, 3 months ago

Trin~ That's funny! I actually thought of including something of that nature, but resisted the impulse! As for movies, 1982's "The World According to Garp" had a driver losing a significant section of his .... uh... Mr Happy when his girlfriend bites it off when the car crashes. I don't remember whether the crash was caused by her distracting attention, but it wouldn't be surprising.On another thread on this topic (I thing there are 3 going, for some reason), someone mentions smoking--that should definitely be on the list, too! I wonder how many accidents or near accidents have been caused by dolts fumbling for cigs or lighters, taking both hands off the wheel to light a match, or just going through the mechanics of smoking as they were driving.Cell phones are just the latest scapegoat--I'm sure they do cause accidents, but short of reliable and thorough research considering other distractions--I'm just not convinced that they are that much worse than the distractions that have been causing wrecks for many decades.For that matter, since the prevalence of cell phones, has the total number of accidents per miles driven actually spiked?Considering that the previously existing distractions have obviously not gone away, one would expect the addition of the cell phone to cause a measurable increase in total number of accidents if they are truly causing so many.


igby 5 years, 3 months ago

Radios in auto were the subject of concern in the 1950's. Rock and Roll was so popular that the critics quickly shut up in spite of all the wrecks at high speed that the distracting music may have caused. Cell phones are popular as well and basic needs over step any saftey concerns the critics can muster from questionable data that is over sold as facts. Cell phone companies have made cell phones harder to use with the touch screens so that a person cannot feel the key pad and must look at the phone on correct lighting so that the keys may be used. They has made these phones so delicate to touch that the pressure must be exactly at the correct location on the phone that the touch pad even fails regularly when 100% of your attention and touch control is applied. I really hate these touch screen phones because if you press to hard the phone will lock up and freeze. In case you are attacked of have to call 911 in a desperate situation the damm phone freezes up and locks the screen for a while. All these measures were built into these phones to help stop people from using them while driving or for any other time that 100% light touch screen control is not being used used. In other words, there junk and useless when you need then in a desperate time or while driving. This makes using them while driving a clear distraction. If they're smart they will get rid of the touch screen phones. They are a piece of junk!


trinity 5 years, 3 months ago

one thing could be added to your list, pywacket...there was a scene in that steve martin movie, parenthood, in which steve's character's wife was doing some, umm, how we say-"stress relief technique" while he was driving-and he ran the vehicle in to a pole! ;)every time i see someone with a map or book or newspaper propped on the steering wheel-and i've seen this frequently from my seat on my motorcycle-i just cannot believe the stupidity of folks.


Pywacket 5 years, 3 months ago

I'm all for keeping track of how many accidents happen while people are using cell phones--as long as they also keep track of how many accidents are caused while people are: -eating, drinking, or otherwise fiddling with fast food-changing CDs or radio stations or trying to find something on their MP3 player or iPod-talking to someone in the vehicle-reprimanding or otherwise tending to kids in the vehicle-applying makeup, brushing hair, or otherwise grooming-swiveling their heads, peering around, their eyes anywhere but on the road & traffic situation, because they failed to figure out where they were going before they started driving--or (if lost) they fail to pull over before peering at the map-digging in a purse or briefcase-trying to manage a pet that's running loose in the vehicle-distracted by miscellaneous..I'm not defending cell use while driving, but from all the uproar, you'd think there were no accidents until cell phones were invented. The minute there's an accident report, without any details whatsoever to support their assertions, some people leap to the conclusion that someone MUST have been using a cell. I think it would be interested to learn actual stats on what percentage of accidents were caused by each common distraction.If it turns out that cell use accounts for a hugely disproportionate percentage, then by all means, enact a specific law.If, however, it turns out that there is a fairly even distribution among common distractions, then (a) increase penalties that are already on the books for inattentive driving and/or (b) make sure any new laws cover a range of common distractions, and not just cell phones.


notnowdear 5 years, 3 months ago

LJWorld will not be reporting on this:Public release date: 12-Jan-2009, University of Chicago Press Journals Study: When local revenue falls, traffic citations go up a lead foot? Hold on to your wallet.A new study to be published in next month's Journal of Law and Economics finds statistical evidence that local governments use traffic citations to make up for revenue shortfalls. So as the economy tanks, motorists may be more likely to see red and blue in the rearview.Study authors Thomas Garrett, assistant vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, and Gary Wagner from the University of Arkansas Little Rock, examined 14 years of revenue and traffic citation data from counties in North Carolina. They found that the number of traffic citations issued goes up the year following a revenue drop."Specifically, a one percentage point decrease in last year's local government revenue results in roughly a 0.32 percentage point increase in the number of traffic tickets in the following year," Garrett and Wagner write.That number may sound small, but it's a statistically significant correlation, the authors say.The study controlled for demographic and economic differences in the sample, which contained data from 96 North Carolina counties collected from 1990 to 2003.The finding adds credence to something many drivers have long suspected: Safety isn't the only motive in traffic enforcement efforts. Since many municipalities retain the money generated by traffic fines, perhaps traffic enforcement also acts as a bit of a fundraiser."There is ample anecdotal evidence that local governments use traffic tickets as a means of generating revenue…," Garrett and Wagner write. "Our paper provides the first empirical evidence to support this view…."And don't expect to be able to throttle up when the economy recovers. The study found no significant drop in tickets when revenues increased.###Garrett, Thomas A., Gary A. Wagner, "Red Ink in the Rearview Mirror: Local Fiscal Conditions and the Issuance of Traffic Tickets," Journal of Law and Economics, 52:1, Feb. 2009


macon47 5 years, 3 months ago

inattentive driving is the key word herewe already have laws againest itwe dont need more


Ragingbear 5 years, 3 months ago

How about we hook up a velocity indicator to cell phones? That way, if they are being talked on while going more than 55mph, they explode....Sounds like some sort of bad Samuel L. Jackson movie.


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