David Kirkpatrick

November 21, 2009

Mobile phones and driving just don’t mix

Even “hands-free” cell phone use. I’ve written on this exact topic for an insurance website and cited the same studies referenced in this article. I’m not even going to comment on the inanity of doing any sort of texting while driving — sending or receiving — but anyone who has ever spoken on a cell phone when driving (a group that includes pretty much anyone who has access to a car and a mobile phone) knows there were times that you lost total awareness of something happening on the road around you, be it a traffic signal, a missed exit, a near miss on a lane change, or something else. The kicker to all the studies is research has very conclusively proven it doesn’t matter if the cell phone use is hand-held or hands-free, it is simply more dangerous — much more dangerous — than driving sans mobile device.

From the second link:

Studies from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, for example, show that drivers are four times more likely to have an accident if they are talking on the phone — hands-free or not — while driving.

The reason, researchers say, is that drivers often become engrossed in their conversation, rather than focusing on driving, even if their hands are on the wheel. “Once a conversation begins, we don’t see a difference between hand-held and hands-free,” says Adrian Lund, president of the institute.

And from the first link, the pull quotes I chose for this web content created for an insurance aggregator client:

How dangerous is mixing driving with cell phone use?

The quick answer is pretty dangerous. The National Safety Commission released the results of a number of studies showing distractions, particularly cell phone use while driving, cause many accidents.

Here are two excerpts from the NSC alert:

“A study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute concluded that almost 80 percent of motor vehicle crashes and 65% of near crashes involve driver inattention within three seconds before the event. While the study looked at all different types of driver distractions, it listed use of wireless communication devices (cell phones and PDAs) as the most common form of driver distraction”

And,

“An earlier University of Utah study showed that a 20 year old driver on a cell phone had the same reaction time as a 70 year old. Regardless of age, drivers on cell phones were 18% slower in stepping on the brakes, and 17% slower in regaining their speed after braking. They also kept a greater following distance and slower speed than drivers who were not using cell phones, which contributes to congestion on the roadways.”

Based on these statistics a number of states have banned cell phone use that isn’t hands-free when driving, many more cities and towns have passed similar bans and new cell phone related ordinances are being enacted on a regular basis. The studies into the safety of cell phone use find there is little difference in the distractions created by hands-free or hand-held conversations when driving. It goes without requiring emphasis that texting while driving is very distracting and dangerous.

November 6, 2009

Texting and driving just don’t mix — even hands-free

An interesting blog post from Dan Ariely, a visiting professor at MIT’s Media Library on the “tiny irregularities” of texting while driving:

Sad story out in the New York Times describing growing concerns about texting while driving. In Britain, a woman was sentenced to a 21-month sentence after it was found that she had been texting while driving, which resulted in the death of a 24-year old design student. In many ways, texting while driving illustrates a case in which tiny, individual irrational decisions can accumulate and cause widespread suffering, not only for the individuals who are texting, but their unsuspecting victims. Unlike cases of drunk driving, in which the driver’s decision making abilities are impaired, drivers who text are at their full wits to wait until they’ve pulled over to check their texts, and yet in the process they routinely underestimate the risk they impose to themselves and others.

The professor was quite wrong, however, on one aspect of the issue:

… we can hope that cell phone companies are continuing to explore voice activation technologies that can read text messages aloud and also transcribe them from voice — thereby by-passing the problem altogether.

In researching web content I created for an insurance website, I came across this research that finds hands-free listening  to mobile devices is not much safer than hands-on cell phone use because the issue is the distraction of the usage, not merely taking eyes off the road ahead (all bold text my emphasis):

Five states currently ban the use of hand-held cell phones in favor of hands-free devices while driving. However, several studies have shown that there is little difference between the two when it comes to minding the road ahead. Both hand-held and hands-free devices involve listening. The act of listening is what distracts drivers from paying attention to the road. A study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University placed participants in a functional MRI scanner that allowed researchers to observe brain activity while the subjects “drove” on a computerized roadway. Without distractions, the area of the brain that lit up most was the area involved in spatial perception (knowing where you are and what’s around you). When the same subjects were tasked with listening to and correctly answering a series of questions as they drove, the area of the brain that lit up most was the area involving language comprehension, while activity in the spatial perception area of the brain decreased by as much as 37 percent. Multitasking places high demands on the brain.

August 17, 2009

Cell phones, safety and your auto insurance rates

Information from WeCompareInsurance.com:

Cell Phones, Safe Driving and Auto Insurance 

Automobile insurance is vital if you drive a vehicle, in fact a certain level of liability car insurance is likely required in the state the car is registered. Auto insurance is also a great place to save money because it comes in so many types and levels of coverage. One way to save car insurance money is to drive safely and avoid accidents. The subject of cell phone use and automotive safety gets a lot of attention, but the fact is driving and cell phone use just don’t go together.

How dangerous is mixing driving with cell phone use?

The quick answer is pretty dangerous. The National Safety Commission released the results of a number of studies showing distractions, particularly cell phone use while driving, cause many accidents.

Here are two excerpts from the NSC alert:

“A study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute concluded that almost 80 percent of motor vehicle crashes and 65% of near crashes involve driver inattention within three seconds before the event. While the study looked at all different types of driver distractions, it listed use of wireless communication devices (cell phones and PDAs) as the most common form of driver distraction”

And,

“An earlier University of Utah study showed that a 20 year old driver on a cell phone had the same reaction time as a 70 year old. Regardless of age, drivers on cell phones were 18% slower in stepping on the brakes, and 17% slower in regaining their speed after braking. They also kept a greater following distance and slower speed than drivers who were not using cell phones, which contributes to congestion on the roadways.”

Based on these statistics a number of states have banned cell phone use that isn’t hands-free when driving, many more cities and towns have passed similar bans and new cell phone related ordinances are being enacted on a regular basis. The studies into the safety of cell phone use find there is little difference in the distractions created by hands-free or hand-held conversations when driving. It goes without requiring emphasis that texting while driving is very distracting and dangerous.

To keep a safe driving record, avoid accidents and continue saving money with your auto insurance it’s best to pull over for any cell phone conversations when you are in your car.

Did You Know? Using a cell phone gives a 20-year-old the reactions of a 70-year-old.

Takeaways:

  1. Cell phone use while driving – hand-held talking, hand-free conversation and texting – is dangerous and distracting.
  2. Using a cell phone when driving affects many driving skills, including reaction time.
  3. Cell phone use is the most common form of driver distraction.

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February 5, 2009

Latest Volvo safety tech

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:32 pm

I love Volvos. I drove a mid-80s 240 sedan for years and still would if they continued making that body style. And I always loved the safety features, rudimentary as they were back then.

Here’s the latest — automatic braking at low speeds. The only question I have is — when you suddenly brake and the driver behind you doesn’t have this tech, aren’t they going to rear end your car? Just moving the accident one car down the food chain. I guess it does leave them at fault.

From the link:

Volvo City Safety: Minimizing Rear-End Collisions

Ever feel like your attention wanders in heavy city traffic? Volvo City Safety is aiming to make up for that. It’s a new system designed to prevent or minimize rear-end collisions in stop-and-go situations. Active at speeds up to 18 mph and standard in the Volvo XC60, City Safety uses an optical laser to continuously monitor traffic, and will recognize sudden braking by the vehicle in front of you. If you don’t react and are about to drive into the car in front of you, the system will automatically trigger an emergency stop. Volvo is also working on systems to protect pedestrians.

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Image credit: Volvo