More on distracted drivers [Telecom]

Aug 4, 2:25 PM EDT

LaHood calls summit on distracted driving

By JOAN LOWY Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Tuesday he will convene a summit of experts to figure out what to do about driver cell phone use and texting, practices that studies - and a growing number of accidents - show can be deadly.

LaHood said he intends to gather senior transportation officials, safety advocates, law enforcement representatives, members of Congress and academics who study distracted driving for the summit next month in Washington.

"The public is sick and tired of people being distracted and causing accidents," LaHood told a news conference. "We all know texting while driving is dangerous and we are going to do something about it so that responsible drivers don't have to worry about it when they or a loved one get on the road."

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Just on this topic, in my city a trial just ended where a truck driver who slammed into another truck (stopped on the side of the road with a flat tyre) in a tunnel in 2007 - killing and injuring many people in the fireball that resulted - was found guilty of one particular driving offence and is awaiting sentence (IIRC).

This "professional" driver ignored the many signs in the tunnel warning motorists that there was breakdown ahead, sped past the rest of the traffic that actually had slowed down and basically ploughed into a car between the tow trucks (crushing it) as he finally hit the brakes at the last moment.

In this particular trial the jury did not convict him of a more serious offence, and i was reported that evidence presented in an earlier hearing that this truck driver answered a call on his mobile phone seconds before the collision was not allowed to be presented.

This comes after another trial where another "professional" truck driver was found not guilty after colliding with a passenger train in the country on a day with perfect, sunny conditions with the crossing lights working correctly - also killing multiple people and maiming others.

It seems that some juries containing drivers are extremely forgiving of other drivers - and if those on trial may have been using a phone, well we all do it, don't we?...... :-(

- - David Clayton Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Knowledge is a measure of how many answers you have, intelligence is a measure of how many questions you have.

Reply to
David Clayton

Did they happen to say if the jury were talking and texting on their cellphone during the trial and deliberations?

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Well, i wouldn't be so blase about it. I was driving down a near empty highway, beutiful clear weather, nice sunshine, unlimited visibilty, minding my own business, when...

... when an [expletive deleted] smashed his car into the back of my minivan. I screamed out something I'm not going to repeat, pulled off to the side, and saw plenty of damage to the rear. Oh, and my seat both had the backplane break backwards at the hinge, and had the some of the anchors into the car frame snap out as well.

(I'm not a big fan of the Nanny State but... I've got to thank Ralph Nader for getting us "full height" seatbacks. If this had been an older car, with the seat only reaching up to my shoulders, I wouldn't be here today).

obtelecom: the kid (those kids today! and their music!) who smashed into me somehow missed seeing my van. despite clear weather. despite the highway being straight. despite just about anyone else being able to notice it a half mile ahead of time...

Why yes, he was probably distracted. Guess what he was apparently doing. Hint, it involves radio waves..

Oh, based on the damage, I'd guess he was doing 90 or so mph when he rear ended me. (I was moving at legal highway speeds).

Reply to
danny burstein

There are two factors at work here: first, everyone wants 'big', faceless, supposedly rich companies (or their similarly described insurance companies) to be liable when something goes wrong... no one wants to recognize the responsibility of the ignorant or selfish individual. I'll leave it to the reader to theorize why.

The other factor is that disregard for traffic law has become so commonplace that people who obey the laws are considered obstacles to be circumvented. For whatever reason, most jurisdictions have abdicated their duty to enforce traffic laws ('educating' drivers in the process) and in stead have passed new laws which are even more difficult to enforce and hoping that increasingly severe penalties will encourage drivers to obey them. In Ontario, Canada laws have been passed against talking on a cellphone while driving (unless you're using a headset, but that's another story), or driving while using a handheld device. Penalties for drinking and driving have been made more severe at all levels (including the 'over .05 warning', which used to be a 12-hour suspension.) The provincial government even considered passing a law against new (primarily young) license holders driving with other youths in the vehicle. The city of Toronto was reported to be considering banning right hand turns on red lights at some intersections because some drivers are not paying attention and are endangering pedestrians and cyclists while doing so.

If there wasn't so much death, injury, and other damage at stake, the situation would be a laughable illustration of bureaucracy: you have laws against dangerous driving (whether you're drunk or sober, talking or not, etc.) which people do not obey because you haven't been enforcing them rigorously, but you claim to be doing something by passing more laws that will be ignored. The bottom line is that drivers continue to do as they please, claiming that they know what they're doing and it's not dangerous... until something goes wrong and someone is hurt. What is the deterrent effect of more severe penalties if motorists are (rightly!) convinced that the chances of being caught are infinitessimal?

The problem is not the cellphone. The problem is not the GPS. The problem is not the other teengers in the car. The problem is that drivers (and, possibly, passengers) do not acknowledge that controlling a heavy vehicle moving down a common pathway is a dangerous, potentially deadly, activity and conduct themselves appropriately, including prioritizing their activities or deciding not to do something because they need to focus on driving. There are existing laws against bad driving which could improve safety immensely if enforced but politicians do not have the courage to crack down on bad driving because most of the people who vote for them do it and would resent being pulled over for what "everybody" does. So they blame scapegoats like cellphones rather than drivers. This is NOT a technical problem!

I can't see how this could change for the better, but I can certainly see it getting worse... and, frankly, I'm frightened.

Reply to
Geoffrey Welsh

I don't know about other states, but for most drivers you don't even have to go into the DMV to renew you license but once every 10 years and all you do then is take and eye test. The last time I took a test was 32 years ago, I do understand the driving laws have enforced them for many years, and when I took the test I did not miss one question. What needs to be done is require at least the written test when you do have to go to the DMV. I for one would not have a problem with that ans the roads would be much safer. I noticed a car next to me to day and the driver was watching s movie on a DVD player in his car, that has been against the law for many years.

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On Wed, 05 Aug 2009 17:19:14 -0400, Geoffrey Welsh wrote: ..........

It may well get worse, but with cellphones there is now the technical ability to prove that a particular handset may have been on a call at the time of a particular incident (reading/writing text can't be caught, though).

For most places passing a driving test means getting from point A to point B without breaking too many laws, it doesn't really prove that you sufficient driving skills (or the proper attitude) for the increasingly hazardous environment that the roads are these days - and the developed countries are way ahead of places like India and South Africa where the road trauma rates are horrendous in comparison!

I don't know what the real answer is, but I would think it has to start with people recognising that being allowed to drive a vehicle is a privilege that can be lost, not a god-given right regardless of the threat it may pose to innocent people.

-- Regards, David.

David Clayton Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Knowledge is a measure of how many answers you have, intelligence is a measure of how many questions you have.

***** Moderator's Note *****

The "real answer" varies according to your background, status, wealth, and position in society.

If you're an executive in the cellular industry, you'll probably oppose any change that reduces (or threatens to reduce) cellular revenues. Nothing personal, it's just business, and your only human, so you'll find excuses to justify the use of cellphones while driving.

If you're a politician, you'll listen to the cellular executive, because he has money to pay for the TV ads on your next election campaign, _unless_ enough people (it's a large number, btw) come to believe that _you_ should do something about it, in which case you'll adopt a public posture which gives the impression that you're doing something but does, in reality, make little or no difference.

If you're a salesman, worried about making your quota and dropping off the present for your lead customer's daughter's birthday and how to sell the next mid-life kicker on your somewhat outdated product line, you'll be feeling the same thing that a heroin addict feels when the needle goes in: you know it's hurting you in the long term, but you can't get past the need to feel productive and important and successful _now_. You'll lobby against, ignore, and/or find ways to hide your cellular use while driving.

If you're a bureaucrat in a large corporation (several come to mind ;-)), you'll probably resent the fact that cellular calls are an intrusion on your driving time, which may be the only quiet interval in your day. You'll keep the phone off and check voice mail after you're at the office, and you'll applaud laws that forbid cellular use while driving.

"You know where it ends Yo, it usually depends on where you start" - Everlast

Reply to
David Clayton

I didn't see that mentioned, but I seem to recall some reports of jurors being threatened with contempt if they were caught doing such things in previous court reports.

Reply to
David Clayton

Of course, that doesn't show who was using the phone. If I'm driving with a family member and the phone rings, I hand it to her and ask her to answer it.

Too bad you can't legislate being reasonable.

R's, John

Reply to
John Levine

I keep telling myself I'm going to write an 800-page book criticizing what American society has become.

I am not a liberal elitist. I have never sympathized with any totalitarian regime be it left or right-wing. In fact I consider myself to be mostly libertarian and it's because of this is why I am so critical of American culture and soceity. I firmly believe so many social ills have their roots in the fact that people simply don't know how to conduct their own lives nor do they practice personal responsibility. I do not advocate telling people how to live their lives. However since more and more adults are showing themselves incapable of acting responsibly, it opens the door wider and wider for government intrusion in all our lives.

In college I knew two people. One was born in the USSR, a country that still existed at the time. The other was a black man from South Africa, this being the Apartheid era. They both said to me a number of times over the years I knew them that Americans squander their freedom. Our personal freedoms have never seriously been challenged since the founding of the republic, so we really don't value them. At the time I dismissed the criticism as people taking cheap, easy shots at the greatest nation on earth. But 20 years later I see what they mean. Freedom to many Americans means to freedom to act as childishly and [boorishly] as possible. The reaction I have seen from people concerning cell phone bans while driving reminds me of watching a toddler at a supermarket being told he can't have any candy. Instead of deciding to be part of the solution and only use a cell phone when it's safe they throw a tantrum, say "they'll never take my cell phone away" and pepper it with accusations of a police state.

Author and social critic, James Howard Kunstler, is even more cynical calling certain segments of our adult population "violent clowns" based on how idioticly they dress and [how] they take everything as a personal affront.

I realize this strays pretty far from telecom, so I'll being it back. In my mind restoring order and safety by regulating cell phone use is akin to handing New Orleans residents tattered umbrellas to survive the next Katrina. It's not going to do much. I don't think we have the political will any more to hold everyone accountable for their indiscretions. Yeah, we get tough with child predators and murders. But asking someone to refrain from cell phone use to put a dent into the 40,000+ traffic deaths, which far exceeds our murder rate, is simply too much. Remember the Beltway Sniper from a few years back. During his killing spree four times as [many] people in the Virginia/DC/Maryland area were killed in crashes. But that's somehow okay.


Reply to
John Mayson

California, in general, is so under-policed that enforcement is selective at best. If the sanctions are made severe you can bet good defense attornies will argue selective enforcement as being unconstitutional.

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