Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"'We’re looking at a problem that could be as bad as drunk driving, and the government has covered it up.'"

Congress suppressed a federal agency's empirical study that warned of the high risk of driving while talking on a cell phone, including hands-free. The apparent reason: Congress didn't want the agency to lobby states based on the research, especially on the issue of hands-free phones.

"The highway safety researchers estimated that cellphone use by drivers caused around 955 fatalities and 240,000 accidents over all in 2002."

If the New York Times' report is accurate down to each and every insinuation, then Congress has, in effect, chosen to injure and kill innocent Americans in order to keep voters happy.


Jason (the commenter) said...

As it stands today, I don't really see the laws against using a cell phone while driving as doing anything to decrease the use of cell phones while driving.

What I would like to see is evidence that drivers who are distracted by using cell phones, wouldn't be distracted by something else.

From what I've seen, distracted drivers will be distracted with or without cell phones. The laws that people come up to control them are to make money, not reduce accidents.

Did accident rates increase in areas as cell phone reception spread to them? No.

Do accidents increase around red-light cameras? Yes.

One thing I don't know is: Did members of Congress who had this report suppressed get money from hands-free phone makers or carriers? I bet I can guess the answer.

LemmusLemmus said...

A priori, I find it hard to believe that cell phone use has no negative use on driver concentration and hence the occurence of accidents. I believe there are lab studies which put "drivers" in a simulator with or without cell phones and that show a clear negative effect of cell phone usage, but I haven't seen them.

As for the raw traffic accident numbers, the third and fourth graph in this post are relevant, but the two series are not in good agreement concerning the trend during the years in question.

reader_iam said...

We've been on many driving trips (6 roundtrips since late April alone) of significant distance, and I can tell you that the number of times we have seen erratic driving and then noted that the driver is talking on a cell phone or, worse, *texting* (!!!) has spiked markedly and alarmingly. We have a point of reference in that we have been to everyone of the multiple places, and thus have driven the relevant routes in all seasons, and conditions, many times over the past 14 years.

People are stupid and selfish, and while I realize that cars are a necessary part of American life, I also subscribe to the notion that it's a privilege to operate a heavy piece of equipment as it speeds down the highway. I have no problem with reasonable limits on how you can operate vehicles, and I think this can include cell phone usage. What's reasonable and how one avoids enforcement creep is a tougher issue, I know. But it can get pretty damn scary out there when people are driving 70 mph in the rain through the mountains of Pennsylvania, for example and--of all stupid-a** things--texting! Do I think a cop ought to be able pull an idiot like that over and bust him/her? You bet I do.

"Right" is the only relevant "r-word". There's this other little one called
"responsibility," too.

(Disclosure: We had a vehicle totaled back in April by someone who inattentively made a left turn while he was using his cell phone. Thank God he wasn't at speed, given the amount of damage he was able to do on the driver's side at relatively low speed ... . And you'll have to excuse my lack of respect for the rights of purposely irresponsible drivers.)

reader_iam said...

"Right" isn't the only relevant "r-word". There's this other little one called "responsibility," too.