Archive for Wednesday, December 14, 2011

KU expert on distracted driving supports National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendation to ban cellphone use

December 14, 2011


The federal National Transportation Safety Board recommended this week that cellphones be banned for drivers. It's a move praised by Paul Atchley, an associate professor of psychology at Kansas University. Kansas is one of 35 states to have banned texting and driving, but does not have laws regulating cellphone use while driving.

The federal National Transportation Safety Board recommended this week that cellphones be banned for drivers. It's a move praised by Paul Atchley, an associate professor of psychology at Kansas University. Kansas is one of 35 states to have banned texting and driving, but does not have laws regulating cellphone use while driving.

A Kansas University professor who has studied distracted driving praised the National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendation this week to ban cellphone use while driving.

The recommendation, which includes a ban on hands-free devices, is well-supported by research in the field, said Paul Atchley, a KU associate professor of psychology.

Atchley said many media reports focused on a double-fatality crash: an Aug. 5, 2010, accident near Gray Summit, Mo., involving a pickup truck, a tractor truck and two school buses. Besides the fatalities, including a 15-year-old, 38 were injured in the crash.

The 19-year-old pickup truck driver, who also died in the crash, sent and received 11 texts in the 11 minutes before the crash.

“Driving was not his only priority,” said Deborah Hersman, NTSB chairman. “No call, no text, no update is worth a human life.”

Kansas is one of 35 states with a ban on texting and driving, Atchley said, but doesn’t have any laws regulating cellphone use while driving. Nine states have such laws, he said, none of which bans hands-free devices. The United States as a whole lags behind countries with more restrictions on cellphones and other devices while driving.

Enforcement remains an issue, Atchley said, particularly through the courts.

Some areas, such as Chicago, have had success in law enforcement working with the courts to effectively enforce texting bans, but such cases are still rare, he said.

The statistics are well-documented, Atchley said. Researchers have found any type of phone use, including hands-free devices, increases the likelihood of a crash by four to four and a half times, a similar rate to drunken driving. Texting and driving increases the likelihood of a crash by six to eight times.

“Put it in the trunk,” Atchley said. “That’s what I tell my students to do.”

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.


Jan Rolls 6 years ago

No munching on fries, no sipping drinks, no changing CD's, no changing radio stations, no adjusting seats. Let's see what else can distract us while driving.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 6 years ago

That big yellow school bus bearing down on you while you were playing "Stomp the Aliens" on your plastic toy phone.

KS 6 years ago

Screaming kids in the back seat.

Liberty275 6 years ago

Ummm, no. If I need to call someone on the cell when I'm driving, I will. Keep it up and our citizens will regard our laws as bigger jokes than they already are.

I get distracted by pretty girls. Should we require pretty girls to wear burkas in cars too?

Mr Expert, if I want your opinion, I'll ask for it. Until then, nose out and try to buy a degree in common sense.

George_Braziller 6 years ago

So you must have been the one on the cell phone who pulled out in front of me last week. Guess you didn't notice that big red stop sign and all the cross traffic.

Liberty275 6 years ago

I just did that to make you mad I saw you :-)

George_Braziller 6 years ago

I'm glad I had good brake so neither of us were injured or killed from your stupidity.

patchley 6 years ago

Research tells me that Kansas lost about $500 million in 2009 from distracted driving crashes (, contributing to roughly 97 fatalities, almost 5,000 non-fatal injuries, and about 12,000 incidences of property damage.

Common sense tells me that no conversations were important enough to justify that.

I am pro "leave me alone to do my thing" as much as you are, but only to the point what I want to do doesn't impact those around me. For example, when I practice shooting on my land, that is okay, as long as I am not pointing toward my neighbors. Your car is just as dangerous of a weapon as any gun.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 6 years ago

You ar not allowed to drive under the influance of alcohol oe drugs. You arn not allowed to drive unless you have a driver's license. And for you Obama haters, you are not allowed to drive without liability insurance.

We have had autos for about 80 years now and until recently, everyone sems to have gotten what they need to do done without blathering on a plastic toy phone or playing games with their niftly little texter.

This is a reasonable and needed law. One only need to drive around the city for a while dodging idiots blathiering on a phone, fiddling with a texter, or other distractions. In the interest of public safety, this should become law and be inforced as strictly as drunk driving and suspended license offenders.

yourworstnightmare 6 years ago

Invariably, some driver driving terribly and stupidly is on a cell phone.

Electronic cell phone checkpoints are in order, just like drunk driving checkpoints.

cato_the_elder 6 years ago

To my way of thinking, simply making a cell phone call while driving, especially using speed dial, is less distracting than, for example, changing a CD or, in the old days, a cassette tape. However, texting or e-mailing while driving is ridiculous.

The broader question in my mind is how addicted many people are to having to check their electronic messages constantly no matter where they are, as the result of which it's not at all surprising that they do so while driving. That doesn't change that fact that's it's absurdly stupid for them to do it.

patchley 6 years ago

We and others have compared manual distractions (radios, etc.), eating, and other problems often cited with conversations, texting, etc. Manual distractions can be an issue, but very briefly so, akin to the distraction of engaging your stick shift. The problem is that someone talking on their phone for a 20 minute drive is 20 minutes of impairment, while someone tuning a radio will (hopefully) take less than one minute.

That said, we have a team of engineers and designer that are working with our simulator to examine how to make smarter, less distracting, smart car technologies because no distraction, however brief, is worth a life.

Maddy Griffin 6 years ago

I hope they start building cars with some kind of system that scrambles the signal as long as the engins is running.I've seen too many "almost accidents" because some idiot was on his phone. And kids are the worst. They are just learning to drive and need to concentrate on that.

patchley 6 years ago

Actually, there is a company that would like to do this. They claim to be able to prevent cellular signals in the drivers seat only, with an override if you turn your hazard lights on. But the FCC, on recommendation from the telecom industry, refuses to grant permission for test.

You can read more on that in a post I did for CarTalk:

Brock Masters 6 years ago

Is hands free talking on a cell phone really any different than talking to passengers? Passengers are probably as distracting if not more than hands free talking on the cell. How about kids in the back seat?

Food_for_Thought 6 years ago

I have no problems with a cell phone ban, that EXCLUDED "hands free" calling. I'd like to see the supported statistics of accidents that are caused by "hands free" calling.

kernal 6 years ago

Because some people can't walk and chew gum at the same time.

patchley 6 years ago

Here are two you might like, because they looked at phone records after crashes. There are more that show exactly the same thing, including our own work:

SP McEvoy, MR Stevenson, AT McCartt, M 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. Analysis of phone records showed that talking on a phone during the period before an accident increased risk 4.1 times. Hand-held and hands free units produced equivalent risk.

DA Redelmeier & RJ Tibshirani 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. Analysis of phone records showed that talking on a phone during the period before an accident increased risk 4.3 times. Hand-held and hands free units produced equivalent risk.

Food_for_Thought 6 years ago

How did these studies establish which people used "hands free" devices? Were all those involved in such accidents polled/surveyed? I'm curious how the two were distinguished? "Hands free" technology that is built-into the vehicle is not that wide-spread yet, and I don't see how carriers could tell that a user was using a "hands free" device at the time of the accident.

Not calling the studies false or slanted, but I'm curious how exactly they determined that regular and "hands free" device usage had equivalent risk.

beaujackson 6 years ago

My ultimate hope: Two drivers texting kill each other.

patchley 6 years ago

Sadly, they will probably kill someone you know who is generally a safe driver.

The "Faces of Distracted Driving" series shows why:

Pete Kennamore 6 years ago

How does the NTSB address Insurance Industry that found that in states with cell phone bans, the number of drivers using phone did in fact go down? However, there was no corresponding reduction in the number of accidents.

jaywalker 6 years ago

Should have been hands free only a long time ago.

3up3down 6 years ago

Bottom line folks. You can complain all you want about we should pass this or not. It won't make a difference when the federal government tells the states, "you ban cell phones or we cut your highway budget." People you have zero say in this. Get over it.

juma 6 years ago

What about dogs on your lap. I can't believe how many drivers have some dog on their lap. A few years ago a motorcyclists was killed on the turnpike and the driver of the car said ' his dog distracted him'. Why is this allowed??!?!?!?!!?

kawrivercrow 6 years ago

I foresee the unintended consequences of this being worse than the original problem. If only a small fraction of all averted phone callers makes a furtive (or not so furtive) move to pull over to the road side, parking lot, etc. to use the phone, the odds of a wreck via other mechanisms is now amplified.

Furthermore, I have to wonder about the statistical methods used to conclude that it "increases the likelihood of a crash by four to four and a half times, a similar rate to drunken driving". If this is true, then is there any corroborative evidence showing a rise in non-alcohol accidents that corresponds with the precipitous increase in cell-phone usage over the last 10 years? It would be easy to cherry-pick the studies that show the desired outcome while ignoring the studies that don't support a researcher's goal.

gphawk89 6 years ago

Ban 'em. Everywhere. Driving or not. I'm tired of loud annoying ringtones that people purposefully don't answer right away so everyone can hear their ringtone. I'm tired of people yakking loudly on cellphones. I'm tired of cellphone-yakking pedestrians either not watching where their going or standing motionless blocking other pedestrians' way (although it is funny when they walk into each other, walk into a pole, fall off a curb, etc.).

Darwin 6 years ago

Banning cell phone use while driving is a very good concept...however enforcement will be a major issue as the laws always seem to change which hinder the Police in their ability to do their jobs. Or is the lawyers. The Police will likely have to have someone on video which is BS. Oh no...we can't take the Officer's word on this, we need to see the tangible proof. With the numerous other duties/responses they have to deal with, this will almost have to be a "selective enforcement". change the subject...I wish they would crack done big time on people that can't seem to use their turn signals. Seems to be an epidemic these days.

voevoda 6 years ago

It makes sense to ban devices that require drivers to remove a hand (or both hands) from the operational components (wheel, shift, etc.) of the automobile. Hands-free devices may not be less distracting, but at least drivers don't literally have to drop what they're doing in order to respond to a situation on the road. So I'd allow hands-free devices, but encourage insurance companies to charge significantly higher rates for drivers who use them while driving. And any driver who is involved in an accident while talking on the phone (or texting, etc.)--something simple to determine from phone records--should lose both his license and his cellphone. Doesn't matter whose fault it is, technically speaking: talk on the phone while driving--have an accident--lose your license and your phone. That would cut down on this bane on the human race.

friendlyjhawk 6 years ago

Hotdamn! A KU expert says the National Transportation Safety Board made a good recommendation. That sure will make me feel better about it.

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