Thursday, February 3, 2005; Page A07
Drivers who use cell phones end up driving like elderly people, with slower reaction times and a tendency to miss what is right in front of them, researchers said yesterday.
Even when they used "hands-free" devices, young drivers who normally have the quickest reflexes drove like 70-year-olds, the team at the University of Utah found.
"If you put a 20-year-old driver behind the wheel with a cell phone, their reaction times are the same as a 70-year-old driver who is not using a cell phone," said psychologist David Strayer, who led the study.
Writing in the journal Human Factors, Strayer's team said it tested people 65 to 74 years old against drivers 18 to 25 years old using a driving simulator. Braking time slowed 18 percent when young or elderly drivers used a cell phone, the researchers found.
-- From News Services
Obviously people are fed up with cell phone use in the car. I saw a bumper sticker that read "Would you drive any better if I shoved that cell phone up your ***". I got such a laugh that I only think of that when I see some idiot, weaving along at 10 miles below the speed limit, actively engaged in a conversation, ignoring the kids in the car. Maybe if we could incorporate some part of that slogan into a law, oh never mind, I read the latest post on 'consumption', someone would enjoy it!
Hearings on cell phone restrictions start
Many bills this year will address talking and driving
By JEFFREY GILBERT
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau
AUSTIN - Four years ago, 18-year-old Brandon Grisham was killed on a Fort Worth road after swerving to avoid another car whose driver was merging into his lane while talking on her cell phone.
Hoping to protect others from the same fate, Brandon's mother, Dorothy, lobbied the House State Affairs Committee on Monday in favor of several bills aimed to restrict cell phone use while driving.
"My (family) and I are confident that each of you have witnessed someone (so) distracted by their cell phone conversation that they are oblivious to their surroundings," she said. "They impede traffic, cause increased lane changes and greatly multiply the amount of accidents."
No action was taken on the bills Monday. The committee is expecting two or three more to be filed within the next two weeks, and will decide where to go with them at that point.
Both hands on the wheel
Three of the bills were filed by Rep. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio. One would prohibit cell phone use while driving unless the driver uses a hands-free device and another would prohibit the use of a cell phone while driving through a school zone. Both allow for calls under emergency situations. A third bill would put restrictions on minors using cell phones.
"All we are trying to do here is ask folks to pay attention to what they are doing and keep both hands on the wheel," Menendez said.
A fourth bill, filed by Rep. Helen Giddings, D-De Soto, would prohibit a school bus driver from using a cell phone unless the bus is stopped, there are no passengers or there is an emergency.
School bus drivers "have to operate a two-way radio, watch their gauges, be alert to road hazards and conditions and maneuver the bus through traffic," Giddings said. "A single driver must also supervise up to 65 students. They have too many things to do ... to be having a casual conversation."
Three senators � Rodney Ellis, D-Houston; Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio; and Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo � have filed similar legislation to restrict cell phone use. Ellis and Wentworth are focusing on all drivers, while Seliger's bill affects minors. Those bills have been referred to the Transportation and Homeland Security Committee.
Henry Flores, of Sprint PCS in Austin, testified Monday against the bill that would require a hands-free device, but was neutral on the other three. He said there are too many other distractions while driving to focus solely on stopping cell phone use and said this bill unfairly discriminates against responsible drivers.
"Reading maps, changing radio stations, addressing their children, changing CDs or cassettes. These are what we should be focusing on, inattentive driving," Flores said.
Menendez said that even if these bills prevent one tragedy, they would be worth it.
"Not every Texas resident uses a cell phone, but every Texas resident could be put in danger by someone who is distracted," he said.
Report: Cell Phone Use While Driving Up
By LESLIE MILLER
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON � More people than ever are driving under the influence of their cell phones, according to a survey released Tuesday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The survey showed 8 percent of drivers, or 1.2 million people, were using hand-held or handsfree cell phones during daylight hours last year, a 50 percent increase since 2002 and a 100 percent rise in four years.
All that talking is a potential safety issue, said NHTSA spokesman Rae Tyson.
"While we don't have hard evidence that there's been an increase in the number of crashes, we know that talking on the phone can degrade driver performance," Tyson said.
The District of Columbia and New Hampshire no longer allow talking on hand-held cell phones while driving, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.
Some communities, such as Brookline, Mass., Santa Fe, N.M., and Lebanon, Pa., require handsfree cell phones, but about a half-dozen states prohibit local governments from restricting cell phone use in motor vehicles.
Young drivers, between 16 and 24, increased their talking on cell phones by 60 percent between 2002 and 2004.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it wants all 50 states to ban those with learner's permits from using cell phones or other wireless devices while driving. New Jersey and Maine are the only two that have passed such laws.
The survey was conducted between June 7 and July 11, 2004, at 1,200 road sites across the country and, in some cases, supplemented by telephone surveys.
One more reason to ban these things:
Officer had nude photos of suspect, report says
He downloaded them off her cell phone after her DWI arrest, document shows
By STEVE MCVICKER
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle
It began as the fairly routine arrest of a drunken-driving suspect on a Houston street.
It quickly evolved into a maze of questions as investigators checked out reports that a Houston police officer had found nude photos of the driver stored in her cellular phone, downloaded them and later showed them around the courthouse.
Patrolman Christopher Green has been reassigned to desk duty pending the outcome of an internal investigation. His partner, George Miller, also has been reassigned while the department looks into reports that he called the DWI suspect's home to ask her out.
"We're sort of waiting to see what's going to happen," said Houston Police Officers' Union attorney Aaron Suder, who represents the officers.
Complicating matters is the fact that the 25-year-old woman, a native of China who is here on a student visa, speaks little English, her attorney says.
Suder and Police Department officials would not discuss details of the investigation Thursday. Suder also said the officers would not comment.
However, according to a search warrant request by the Harris County District Attorney's Office, the two officers assisted when the woman was arrested Nov. 24 on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.
Phone taken during search
During the arrest, they discovered that the woman had stored sexually explicit photos of herself in her cell phone, and Green downloaded the images onto his personal digital assistant, according to the search request.
The district attorney's office sought the warrant after being contacted by attorney Ned Gill, who is defending the woman against the DWI charge.
The warrant was granted in February, and an investigator confiscated Green's PDA during a search of his home.
Gill said he has no idea why his client, a Houston Community College student, had nude photos of herself on her cell phone.
He said he also doesn't know why the officers examined the phone.
Two weeks after the arrest, he added, the woman received a phone message from Miller, inviting her to join him at a restaurant.
Gill said he gave the district attorney's investigator a copy of the tape, dated Dec. 9.
According to court records, Miller acknowledged making the phone call, but said he was merely attempting to help the woman get an attorney.
Deputy says he saw photos
Court records do not indicate whether the PDA that was found in Green's home contained the nude photographs.
However, the search warrant request states that Deputy Sheriff Toby Devine told the investigator that Green showed him the photos on a day in January when the woman had a court hearing.
Devine works as a bailiff in that court.
Assistant District Attorney Celeste Carter told the investigator that Green also showed the pictures to her, according to the document.
Assistant District Attorney Edward Porter, who has been reviewing the evidence for possible criminal violations, refused to comment.
HPOU attorney Suder said he doubts the officers will face criminal charges, but he's not sure about possible disciplinary action.
"I suspect the department will do something in the next couple of months," Suder said.
I read somewhere that it is not so much the one hand driving or dialing but the act of talking on the phone which gives rise to the distraction of the driver. It may be that allowing hands-free phone usage will only marginally affect the number of accidents caused by drivers using their phones. (If the numbers are at all significant , a proposition I am at most agnostic about) Dan has a point: drivers are distracted by any number of activities. Don't we already have the means to stop and ticket folks who are endangering other drivers no matter what the cause?
States Bar Teen Drivers Using Cell Phones
By ROBERT TANNER
> AP National Writer
There are a few things that the average teenager absolutely must have in 21st century America ? a license to drive is one, a cell phone is another. But police officers, parents, and, increasingly, lawmakers are coming to the conclusion that those essentials are a dangerous mix when combined with inexperience on the road.
A growing number of states are creating legal barriers to keep young drivers from using cell phones, even as few ban adults from talking ? at least handsfree ? while driving.
"It's not a silver bullet solution, but it's one piece of a puzzle we need to put in place if we're serious about eliminating highway deaths, highway crashes, as the No. 1 cause of death of young Americans," said Maryland Delegate William Bronrott.
The year began with just two states limiting cell phone use for teen drivers. But as legislative sessions moved ahead, lawmakers in six states passed bills to bar all cell phones, handheld or handsfree, for teenage drivers with learner permits or provisional licenses.
Now, laws in Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and Tennessee say young drivers must keep the phone off. Illinois's measure is waiting for Gov. Rod Blagojevich to sign it into law, but his staff says he intends to. Maine already bars cell phones for drivers with provisional licenses up to age 21, and New Jersey bans them for those drivers at any age.
At least a dozen more states considered similar measures in recent months and balked, though advocates say they'll be back.
Lawmakers don't necessarily expect teenagers to like it ? and they don't.
"I don't know anybody who says it's a good idea, or it's fair to single out 16- or 17-year-olds," said Adam Bonefeste, a 17-year-old from Springfield, Ill. Nearly all his friends have their own cell phone, and everybody needs to drive for work, school and social life, he said.
"I drive and talk on my cell phone all the time," he said. "I've never had any problems, never run into anything or got a ticket."
Whether or not they're using cell phones, teenagers are much more likely than older drivers to get into accidents. At age 16, boys get into 27 crashes per million miles driven and girls 28 crashes. Those numbers drop quickly as drivers age. By the time drivers reach the 20-to-24-year-old group, there are eight crashes per million miles for men, and nine crashes for women, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, based on 2001 data.
Those crashes take a deadly toll. The insurance institute says that 32 16-year-olds died per 100,000 drivers in 2003, four times the fatality rate of the 30-to-59 age group.
Researchers say there is clearly a problem with teenage drivers becoming easily distracted on the road. Their work has bolstered efforts to ease teenagers into the driving world, giving them more time to learn, restricting nighttime driving and barring other teenage passengers, who sometimes incite dangerous behavior. Now 45 states have some version of what's called graduated drivers licenses.
But many researchers say convincing evidence is lacking on any link between cell phone use and accidents ? even with academic studies like one published last winter that found young motorists talking on cell phones react as slowly as senior citizens, and are more impaired than drunk drivers.
"It's just not clear," said Susan Ferguson, vice president of research at the insurance institute. The National Transportation Safety Board and the Governors Highway Safety Association both endorse bans for cell phone for novice drivers. But they back off on bans for adult drivers.
State legislators and governors, too, have proved largely reluctant to limit or ban cell phones for all drivers. New York banned handheld devices in 2001, and since then only New Jersey in 2004, and the Connecticut legislature ? this year ? approved a ban. Connecticut's law is waiting on the governor's signature.
"This is part of an evolution, part of a revolution as we learn more and more about human factors in driving," said Ellen Engleman Conners, the chairman designate at the National Transportation Safety Board. More research is being pursued to shape public policy, but until then, it makes sense to protect teenagers because their vulnerability to distractions and accidents is indisputable, she said.
It's easy to pass a law, but harder to change behavior, said Sheriff Dave Owens in McLean County, Ill. "Just the fact that that becomes law ... is that enough to get people to stop? We have speeding laws in this country and people routinely speed," he said.
In Maryland, advocates had pushed for years to get tougher restrictions on teenagers that included many of the elements of graduated drivers licenses. They had always failed ? until this year, when a series of fatal crashes sharpened public attention to the problem.
"There were 18 teens killed in about three months," said Bronrott, a longtime advocate of safe driving rules. "It was a huge wakeup call."
[I hope that wasn't a cell phone call in a car.]
Studies Show Cell Phones and Driving Don't Mix
The reason talking on a cell phone makes drivers less safe may be that the brain can't simultaneously give full attention to both the visual task of driving and the auditory task of listening, a study by a Johns Hopkins University psychologist suggests.
The study, published in a recent issue of "The Journal of Neuroscience," reinforces earlier behavioral research on the danger of mixing mobile phones and motoring.
"Our research helps explain why talking on a cell phone can impair driving performance, even when the driver is using a hands-free device," said Steven Yantis, a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences in the university's Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.
"The reason?" he said. "Directing attention to listening effectively 'turns down the volume' on input to the visual parts of the brain. The evidence we have right now strongly suggests that attention is strictly limited - a zero-sum game. When attention is deployed to one modality - say, in this case, talking on a cell phone - it necessarily extracts a cost on another modality - in this case, the visual task of driving."
Yantis's chief collaborator on this research project was Sarah Shomstein, who was a doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins. Shomstein is now a post-doctoral fellow at Carnegie-Mellon University.
Though the results of Yantis' research can be applied to the real world problem of drivers and their cell phones, that was not directly what the professor and his team studied. Instead, healthy young adults ages 19 to 35 were brought into a neuroimaging lab and asked to view a computer display while listening to voices over headphones. They watched a rapidly changing display of multiple letters and digits, while listening to three voices speaking letters and digits at the same time. The purpose was to simulate the cluttered visual and auditory input people deal with every day.
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), Yantis and his team recorded brain activity during each of these tasks. They found that when the subjects directed their attention to visual tasks, the auditory parts of their brain recorded decreased activity, and vice versa.
Yantis' team also examined the parts of the brain that control shifts of attention. They discovered that when a person was instructed to move his attention from vision to hearing, for instance, the brain's parietal cortex and the prefrontal cortex produced a burst of activity that the researchers interpreted as a signal to initiate the shift of attention. This surprised them, because it has previously been thought that those parts of the brain were involved only in visual functions.
"Ultimately, we want to understand the connection between voluntary acts of the will (for instance, a choice to shift attention from vision to hearing), changes in brain activity (reflecting both the initiation of cognitive control and the effects of that control), and resultant changes in the performance of a task, such as driving," Yantis said. "By advancing our understanding of the connection between mind, brain and behavior, this research may help in the design of complex devices - such as airliner cockpits - and may help in the diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders such as ADHD or schizophrenia."
This type of work also informs debates about the safety of mobile phone use while driving. It suggests that when attention is focused on listening, vision is affected even at very early stages of visual perception. A paper describing the research appeared in the Nov. 24, 2004, issue of the Journal of Neuroscience (10702-10706).
...Well, I guess they'd better ban radios and CD players in cars from now on. Not to mention passengers who might actually want to talk and distract you from the road. Heaven forbid.
Driving while talking on a cell phone is no more inherently dangerous than either of the above, and in my opinion, less dangerous than driving while eating, fixing make-up, doing your hair, reading the newspaper, shaving, or whatever other oddities we've all seen driving down the highway. Focus on the driver, not the object.
I think the difference between listening to the radio or a CD is that you are not concentrating on the music in the same way you are concentrating on a conversation. However, I agree that other distractions, such as eating, putting on make-up or combing your hair can be dangerous also.
Yes, all those other things are dangerous, too. In fact we've had this portion of the discussion before - see my post dated 1-2-03.
The fact is, virtually every study so far that attempts to quantify this effect (and there is an effect) has concluded that it is the conversation itself, not the act of holding a phone, that poses the threat. And researchers DO think that in-car conversations are at least somewhat different - possibly because your passengers can sometimes see when you need to shut up and pay attention. But then again, lots of wrecks are caused by drivers arguing with passengers, too.
Still, where this topic is concerned, I am more and more disturbed by people's defensiveness when the issue is raised. You would think that people were being asked to give up their kidneys instead of delaying a phone call. The facts are mounting that we cannot pay as much attention as we should when driving and yakking on these things. It's not as though anyone is suggesting clamping your head in a vise while you drive, or shackling your hands to the wheel. At most, what's advocated is prohibiting driving while chatting. How bad is that? The evidence indicates reation times on par with intoxication or at least extreme age while talking on the phone. Armchair opinions about how well we can all drive while talking really don't carry much weight in light of this mounting evidence to the contrary. So why not accept the possibility that there is a detrimental effect? If you don't believe the evidence that's out there already, why not get behind more advanced studies to see how strong the effect is? This is, after all, a safety issue that potentially affects all of us. Hiding our heads in the sand because we like using the devices is, well... misguided at best.
The phone is, after all, just a convenience! We all got by just fine without them for years and years. So WHAT if you miss a call or, heaven forbid, have to pull over and talk a few minutes later? Yes, it's nice to be able to have the conversation, but is that really worth the risk?
I imagine if you pulled up all the debate surrounding seat belt laws, you would find a lot of these same sorts of anecdotal, personal complaints. But the bottom line is that the desire for this personal convenience is likely going to be outweighed by the risks associated with cell phone calls while driving. At that point, society may gain the courage to discipline itself through a ban. Until then, accidents will happen more frequently.
You have a good point, David, but it may not be so much defensiveness you're seeing as trying to focus on the actual problem. Do cell phones cause distraction in drivers? Of course they do. I haven't seen anyone seriously argue that they don't, just a few discussions of the level of distraction. But the point is that many other things cause equal or greater levels of distractions, and yet there's no rush to legislate them away. Cell phones have become our scapegoat that we can blame all poor driving on, while self-righteously saying WE can't possible be poor drivers because, after all, WE don't use our cell phones while driving.
A distracted driver is a distracted driver, and they're just as deadly whether the method of distraction is a cell phone, a tube of lipstick, or the driver's own personal dream world. I don't think that cracking down on cell phones is the solution, because they're only a symptom of the problem. Start teaching people not to drive when distracted in any way and there would be a change. Take away their cell phones and they'll keep being bad drivers for every other reason.
By that theory, we shouldn't ban watching TV while driving because it is just another of many distractions.
And by that theory, we should ban everything but staring straight ahead at the road while driving. You do have to decide where to draw the line sometimes, on both sides, and sometimes the right solution isn't simply making something illegal.
Essentially, the argument I've seen put forward is "Using cell phones while driving causes distraction, so we should ban them." I think that's overly simplistic. If the argument is "Using cell phones while driving causes distraction over and above all these other distracting things we allow while driving, and the only practical solution is to ban them," that's a different story. But all the studies I've seen here have pointed just at cell phones and said they're distracting, nothing more. There are some things so distracting while driving, such as TV, that the only practical thing to do is to ban it. But while cell phones may be on that level, I don't think it's by any means certain, and so it's premature at the least to say simply ban them.
I hope I've made my position a bit clearer!
[This message was edited by Andrea Westerfeld on 07-06-05 at .]
Lots of otherwise responsible drivers, who wouldn't dream of watching tv, reading, eating, etc., while driving, will talk on the phone because, hey, everyone does it. And there is not one other single distraction that is so universal and easy to identify as a problem. So when you try to legislate safety, why wouldn't you start with the most pervasibe problem? Would anyone disagree that there are more cell phone-using drivers than intoxicated or seat belt-less drivers on the road in Texas?
"I can't think of a better way to do it" isn't always the best way to come up with a new law. (Though it happens often enough!) Is an actual ban the best solution in that case, though? Perhaps some intermediate idea would work better, such as increasing the fines for traffic offenses committed while using a cell phone?
Just to muddy the waters all the more, have you given any thought to what will happen when cell phones BECOME TVs?
As it is, the devices are already distracting on more than one level. I have seen people trying to read / type text messages while driving.
Of course, now we have cameras and video cameras included, too. The manufacturers aren't content any more that everyone has a phone - they have to keep adding features so the lemmings will keep buying the latest models. And the next fad will be streaming video on your little phone. Essentially, you will have a TV in your hand. What then?
No laws are perfect. Speed limits exist not because NO drivers are safe at higher speeds, but because most of us aren't - and because we recognize that even the best drivers aren't always driving under the best of circumstances. So we impose laws which all drivers must obey, in the interest of common safety.
For what it's worth, I agree that many things are distracting - and if the legislature chose to pass a "don't drive while distracted" law, and the law could pass a challenge for vagueness, then I'd be all for that. Short of that, though, I agree with Neel that the phones are the most pervasive, the most accepted form of driver distraction that I've seen lately.
And yes, an actual ban is the way to go. Officers need the ability to stop a driver that is using a phone for that reason alone. People's behavior won't be modified by statistics, by pleas from Mothers Against Cell Phones or by commercials from the Ad Council. People are far too selfish and prone to justifying their own actions. Only fear of getting caught & punished will make people avoid talking on phones while driving. And we all know how difficult it would be to show that the car that flew by at 85 mph was being driven by someone using a phone.
Hands-free phones don't really make drivers safer
WASHINGTON � Using a cell phone � even a hands-free one � while driving quadruples the risk of getting into a crash with serious injuries, a study finds.
Research released today by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety suggests that using a hands-free device instead of a handheld phone while behind the wheel will not necessarily improve safety.
"You'd think using a hands-free phone would be less distracting, so it wouldn't increase crash risk as much as using a handheld phone. But we found that either phone type increased the risk," said Anne McCartt, one of the study's authors and the institute's vice president for research.
The study found that handheld devices were very slightly riskier than hands-free ones, but the difference was not statistically significant.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal, found no difference in the risk posed to male and female drivers or to drivers older and younger than 30.
More motorists are using cell phones on the road than ever, and lawmakers are grappling for ways to reducing driver distraction.
Talking on handheld cell phones while driving is banned in New York, New Jersey and the District of Columbia. In Connecticut, drivers will have to use hands-free devices beginning Oct. 1. Some cities, such as Chicago, Santa Fe, N.M., and Brookline, Mass., require hands-free devices in automobiles.
Eight states � Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma and Oregon � prevent local governments from restricting cell phone use in motor vehicles, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The study found injurious crashes were four times as likely when drivers were using cell phones.
The researchers used cell phone records to compare phone use within 10 minutes before an actual crash with cell use by the same driver during the previous week.
It studied 456 drivers in Perth, Western Australia, who owned or used mobile phones and had been in a crash that put them in a hospital emergency room between April 2002 and July 2004.
Each driver's cell phone usage during a 10-minute interval prior to the accident was compared with use during at least one earlier period when no accident occurred. Each driver, in effect, served as his or her own control group in the study.
The institute had tried to conduct the study in the United States but could not get access to records from phone companies. The phone records were available in Western Australia, where handheld phone use has been banned while driving since 2001.
Weather was not an issue in the crashes, with nearly 75 percent occurring in clear conditions. About nine out of 10 crashes involved other vehicles and more than half of the injured drivers said their crashes happened within 10 minutes of the start of the trip.
Many studies examining cell phone use in vehicles have been based on police reports, but critics say those records are unreliable because it is difficult to corroborate whether a driver was using a phone.
A survey released earlier this year by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 8 percent of drivers, or 1.2 million people, were using cell phones during daylight hours last year. It represented a 50 percent increase since 2002.
Jim Champagne, chairman of the Governors Highway Safety Association, said the study reinforced the need for driver education. His organization urges state lawmakers to refrain from enacting handheld cell phone bans because they "incorrectly send the message to drivers that as long as they are hands-free, they are safe."
CELL CALL LISTS REVEAL YOUR LOCATION
Imagine you're living in a shelter for battered women.
And the address is secret.
Or, you're a government informant hiding in witness protection.
Does it worry you that someone could pay Internet brokers to find your location -- within 500 to 1,000 feet -- based on your cell phone calls?
The Chicago Sun-Times on Wednesday obtained e-mails of Internet brokers offering to sell information on the location of cell phone calls.
"The average American would be aghast to know this is happening," said Rob Douglas, an information security consultant who has testified before Congress about the sale of telephone and financial records.
The Sun-Times reported earlier this month that Internet brokers are selling lists of phone calls without permission from the owners of the numbers -- no questions asked.
For the full article, go to
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