Mobility

The stars are aligning to ban drivers from texting in U.S.

Following recent reports on the dangers of drivers being preoccupied by their cell phones, the U.S. Senate is now considering legislation to ban text messaging while driving. This could even be a step toward a total of ban of using cell phones while driving.

Following recent reports on the dangers of drivers being preoccupied by their cell phones, the U.S. Senate is now considering legislation to ban text messaging while driving. This could even be a step toward a total of ban of using cell phones while driving.

For more insights on mobile phones and other tech topics, follow my Twitter stream: @JasonHiner

Here are the big reports that recently came to light:

There are already 14 U.S. states (plus Washington, D.C.) that ban drivers from text messaging. The new legislation being proposed in the U.S. Senate would push for all states to pass a ban or lose 25% of their federal highway money. This is the same way drunk driving laws work.

New York Senator Charles Schumer said, "When drivers have their eyes on their cell phones instead of the road, the results can be dangerous and even deadly... The federal government ought to pass a law banning this dangerous and growing practice to protect the millions of Americans on our nation's roads. It is a matter of public safety."

The Washington Post reports that the ban in D.C. has made a significant impact:

"Safety experts say the District's five-year-old driver-cellphone ban offers a model of how to make such laws effective. A 2006 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety showed a significant decline in phone use by drivers in the District because of the ban. It fell 50 percent initially and remained at that level a year later."

We would expect the cellular carriers to lobby hard against these kinds of laws, however, even they are starting to see the inevitability of such legislation and are falling in line.

Verizon Wireless vice president Steven Zipperstein, said, "We support federal legislation to ban texting and e-mailing while driving. This approach is a logical extension of our previous breaks with other wireless companies to support state-wide legislation banning texting and e-mailing while driving. We applaud Senator Schumer and the Senate sponsors for their leadership."

The video below is a CNBC report that talks about the Car and Driver study:

And here is my CBS colleague Katie Couric weighing in on this topic:

About

Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.

78 comments
boxfiddler
boxfiddler

It takes celestial alignment to bring about common sense practice. Texting while driving should, indeed, be illegal. As should talking on the phone while driving. For whatever illegality is worth in this day and age of lax enforcement.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Then you have a tool to use when suing their socks off over your missing arm or paralyzed legs.

junkeeg
junkeeg

..involving teenagers. facebook page of the campaign with vids: http://www.facebook.com/safetext

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"I called my congressman and he said, quote: 'I'd like to help you, son, but you're too young to vote!' " Summertime Blues I can't get to the linked Facebook page from work, but I don't think it will work. Teenagers can't vote, and their voting parents aren't going to support it.

Beaniesway
Beaniesway

You have to be missing ALOT of brain cells if you think / believe people should be alloed (legally) to TEXT and Drive ..

mhbowman
mhbowman

I was watching a rerun of Californication the other night where David Duchovny is at the movie theater. An altercation ensues when a rude guy in front of him refuses to get of the phone. Duchovny eventually throws his cell against the wall and as he's punching him in the face yells: "Heaven forbid you miss one f'ing phone call!!" The crowd cheers. Me? I'm rewinding it to watch it again. The stuff going on on the other side of your windshield is really happening. It's not like watching TV and the results of your actions can and will affect others. When a crash happens because you're willingly driving under the influence or chatting/texting and not paying attention while moving a 2 ton vehicle at 60 down the highway it's no "accident". It's the same thing in my book. Shut up and drive.

sduran
sduran

Fortunately, I have not been hit, but I can't count the number of near misses due to idiots driving with a phone in their hand - texting OR talking. There is absolutely NOTHING as important as paying attention to driving while behind the wheel. Remember life before cell phones??? We all somehow managed. I hate laws to protect people from their own stupidity, but there are just too many stupid people out there now. Cell phones should be banned altogether while driving.

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

In the article quoting the NHTSA it says, "little, if any, difference between the use of hand-held and hands-free phones in contributing to the risk of a crash while driving distracted. Hands-free or hand-held, we have found that the cognitive distraction is significant enough to degrade a driver's performance." That doesn't make sense to me. Wouldn't hands free be more like a regular conversation with the person next to you? I don't have hands free so don't know. I do know on long drives, having someone to talk to or radio usually helps keep you awake.

jck
jck

really isn't hands-free, unless you have a phone that accepts voice commands. You still have to push a button for a dialing directory and what not on most phones. You're right tho. Being on a speakerphone or headset in a car is just like talking to someone next to you.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Whether you're conversing with someone else on the phone or someone else in the car, the distraction level is probably the same. But when the other person is in the car, there are two of you to watch the road. The person at the other end of the phone has no idea about the traffic or weather conditions, and may not even know you're driving. Radio requires less attention because you're not attempting to form responses. One of the recent studies shows it's less distracting to just listen than to converse.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

reaching into the back to slap your mouthy teenager :)

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

So one can slap the other. A more effective teaching technique is to leave the little snot at the rest area or gas station.

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

Too bad. I was thinking about getting a headset just for driving. Don't need it though. Most calls I get while driving are on the order of "Where are you? We're already at the course waiting to tee up!" Either I make it on time or I don't. No point even answering the phone at that point.

KaryDavis
KaryDavis

Being in tech support, it was important that people could reach me even when I was on the road.... I put my ear bud in and set my phone on the console next to me. The newer phones have an auto answer feature that I use so I never have to pick up the phone to answer it. If I make a call, I have short cut keys that I press while waiting at a light. It is possible to use a phone without dangering everyone around you or taking your eyes/concentration off the phone. As for it being a distraction to talk while driving, I feel no different than when someone is sitting next to me in the car. But if using a cell phone at all while driving was banned, I would have no problem following that law along with all the others that are imposed for the saftey of EVERYONE....just my two cents.

paul.eggers
paul.eggers

I agree totally with KPeoples... I use the ear bud with auto-answer. Plus, I have voice dialing, so I almost never have to look at the phone. And I see absolutely no difference in talking this way as talking to someone in the car next to me, except for the fact that while talking to someone next to me, I will take my eyes off the road momentarily to look at them (it's just habit). While talking on the phone hands-free, I never have to look away from the road.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

Thinking & talking about a techical support problem while driving has no effect whatsoever on your driving. I don't think so.

KaryDavis
KaryDavis

...its more of a scheduling thing...like when I can get to them...

slam5
slam5

do you mean when you like to make an appointment with them or when they are free and you talk on the phone to fix their problem. yes, customer pay your bills but they also has to understand that you can't be available 7x24. I had done support for 24 long hard years. when i first started, my customer used to phone me all hours of the day to fix their computer problems. i used to comply and fix it at all hours of the day. i ruined my health this way. now, i only will answer the phone immediately if i am free and driving make you NOT free. i always return their call quickly but i will not run my life.

kraterz
kraterz

Texting while driving is a danger to others on the road. You may talk about our freedoms but when others can get hurt by your carelessness, we have to draw the line here and ban texting outright.

jck
jck

I think the use of any electronic device which requires a driver to remove their hand from the wheel and deviate their eyesight from their driving duties should be made illegal. Placing phonecalls Texting Reading your pager It's just sick for people to think their right to communicate while driving is more important than other peoples' safety.

jaaronstephens
jaaronstephens

This might work for all of you corporate types but what the hourly wage person? If he running late and cellphones are banned while driving (which is what this will certainly lead to) then how is he supposed to let his manager know he is running late? And don't give me that garbage excuse that you should just plan ahead and never be late. Sometimes crap happens and you can't prevent yourself from being late.

sseifert
sseifert

You know, only 10-15 years ago, very few people had cell phones, and this was not a problem. Call before you leave the house. Pull off to the side of the road and call (we used to use pay phones). Being late is not worth putting someones life in jeapordy simply because we have a new convenience factor in our lives.

jpdagger
jpdagger

1) Buy a blue tooth 2) Pull over 3) If you know you are leaving late, call before you leave. 4) Take the call and put it on speakerphone, who the heck will know And let's be realistic: 1) I sincerely doubt that someone will make a citizens arrest if they see you on the phone 2) If you are stuck in traffic (i.e. not moving), send a msg or make call. Unless an officer is in the car WITH you, I would say you'll be fine.

slam5
slam5

How about pulling to the side of the road to put your message in? take all of 2 minutes, maybe? you are lately already and that extra 2 minutes will not matter that much? i know i sound harsh but if you get into an accident and hurt somebody seriously, how can your conscious forgive you? and don't tell me that it doesn't happen to you because you are a good driver.

Who Am I Really
Who Am I Really

than kill someone or myself because I'll beat the ticket in court every time when you take drivers ed here that's one of the things they repeatedly emphasize, [b]"Take the ticket not a life !"[/b] I don't care how skilled you are at multi-tasking there are times when single tasking is necessary You need to get into your Task Manager and set Driving.exe to "Real Time" and every other process to "Low" . ya I know it's an ancient thread but someone else brought it back from the grave etu

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

[i]Fine, then people who want to operate a cell phone, voice or text, should be required to undergo additional training and regular recertification.[/i] Just like the eye test... Can't drive until you pass it.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

And there you are, the exception that justifies the rule. "I can't fly a plane, so NOBODY should be allowed to." Fine, then people who want to operate a cell phone, voice or text, should be required to undergo additional training and regular recertification. It would help if cell phones cost as much as airplanes and required as much training to operate. Then Not every twit could pick one up retail and start operating it without endangering himself more than others.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

it is illegal to stop and pull over except in the case of an emergency or when directed by law enforcement. [i]and don't tell me that it doesn't happen to you because you are a good driver. [/i] It doesn't happen to me because I have enough sense to know when I can do so safely and when I can't. If I am in heavy traffic, I don't talk on the phone (in really heavy traffic, I even ask my passengers to be quiet!). In light traffic, I can talk safely. It's not a difficult concept. But you apparently think that because SOME people can't DO it, NOBODY should be allowed to do it. So, using that logic... I can't fly a plane, so NOBODY should be allowed to. Is that about right?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Or into a parking lot? Or from the house before you leave? Or phoning instead of texting, since it doesn't require looking at a keyboard? Define the 'crap' that happens that would keep you from using one of these solutions. Better yet, explain why people have been running late for work since the Industrial Revolution, but within the last ten years it's become imperative to call it in. How do people without cell phones deal with being late? Oh, wait, I tell the boss when I get there. As long as I'm not making a habit of it, there's not a problem. How often are you running late?

williaa6
williaa6

It's called "Dangerous Driving".

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

"Distracted driving" is already on the books in a lot of places... Maybe you we're texting, or you fell asleep at the wheel, or you were rubbernecking at an accident scene, or you were fishing around on the floor for a dropped cigarette, or you were staring at a hottie walking down the sidewalk... "Why" you were distracted is irrelevant!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I'm sure any experience highway patrol officer knows some regulation he can make fit. "Too fast for conditions", maybe?

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

[i]you might as well drive with your eyes closed.[/i] Is there a statute banning that?

jwildhair
jwildhair

There will always be extenuating circumstances when people will be occasionally late for work, dinner, school, a date...but it was no '"accident" that the girl in the first video lost her life. Not to be crass or unsympathetic, but you might as well drive with your eyes closed. I was in an "accident" caused by the driver of the other car texting.

williaa6
williaa6

I am aghast that this is even a topic for conversation. The ramifications (get the pun?) of unnecessary multi-tasking while in charge of a 1 ton lump of metal, plastic and flammable liquid, guiding it through a random set of obsticles that includes other human beings, travelling at any speed above 5mph (8kph) is too devastating to contemplate. It is plain common sense that it is dangerous. You don't need university studies to tell you that. I could make a joke about it beinga great application of Darwinian theory, if it wasn't for the fact that it often involves other people who weren't being so dumb. Here in Oz, texting or talking is banned, and you will feel the wrath of God if the police see you. Alex of Oz

Timespike
Timespike

Enough things are banned.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Drivers have an obligation to operate their vehicle in a safe manner when using the public roads. If enough drivers choose to operate their vehicles in a proven unsafe fashion, what defense do the rest of us have beyond the passing of laws forbidding that specific behavior?

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

can successfully send a text (or talk on a phone (or to a passenger), or change the radio station, or...) without losing control of their car is positive proof that it is not always unsafe. Different people have different capabilities for multi-tasking, and to penalize one for what another is unable to do is just idiotic. If we banned everything that COULD be unsafe, what would be left? A possible solution... proficiency testing... That shouldn't be difficult to implement, and would seem to be more reasonable. What do you think?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"Never give an order you KNOW won't be obeyed." If more of Congress had some military experience, they'd know better than to pass laws that structured as to be unenforceable.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

[i]I don't see how you're going to enforce it. The cops aren't going to stop everyone they see texting and check their license for an endorsement.[/i] why should they? They don't normally pull people over just to see if they have a driver's license or liability insurance, and I guarantee there are a lot more people who are missing at least one of those!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I'll tell you what. If that's what the government winds up legislating, I can live with it. I don't see how you're going to enforce it. The cops aren't going to stop everyone they see texting and check their license for an endorsement. There are a lot more texting drivers than HAZMAT haulers, and the trucks are a lot easier to spot. As to skills not declining until middle age, you must have some awfully good drivers in OH. Here the physical ability doesn't start declining until middle age, but the skills start deteriorating almost before the lamination has cooled.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

[i]I don't know what the Ohio licensing renewal requirements are, but in SC all you have to do is have your eyes checked and pay your fee.[/i] Same here. Your skills usually don't get worse until well into middle age... What I meant was proficiency in driving while using a cellphone. A test could be developed... and if you pass, an endorsement is added to your license... kinda like the endorsements added to a commercial driver's license for hazardous materials and such.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"Different people have different capabilities for multi-tasking," Agreed. "and to penalize one for what another is unable to do is just idiotic. ... A possible solution... proficiency testing..." I don't know what the Ohio licensing renewal requirements are, but in SC all you have to do is have your eyes checked and pay your fee. We don't have proficiency testing for driving beyond the initial test when one gets one's first license. I'm not sure how you would implement texting testing, or how law enforcement officers would determine who had passed the test. Regardless of testing, I think texting while driving is a bad idea. It requires a lot more attention to enter a text message than place a phone call. It takes a more attention to carry on a phone converasation than passively listen to the radio (and I don't approve of phone use while driving either), but a phone call doesn't require reading or operating a keyboard to converse. No, we don't need to ban everything that could be unsafe, but I think this is a case where the reduction in danger to all drivers and passengers outweighs the benefits to the individual. That said, I don't see how it could be enforced. We haven't been able to stop drunk driving; we can't even get people to come to a complete stop before turning right on a red. I don't know why some states inspect turn signals; the inspection is the only time some of them get used. Asking as someone who doesn't own a cell phone or a texting device, why would you place a text message on a phone while driving when you could place a voice call instead? And why can't you pull over to do so? These so-called 'conveniences' seem to be putting more stress on our lives, not making them any easier.

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