Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

July 21, 2009


NY Times -In 2003, researchers at a federal agency proposed a long-term study of 10,000 drivers to assess the safety risk posed by cellphone use behind the wheel. They sought the study based on evidence that such multitasking was a serious and growing threat on America's roadways.

But such an ambitious study never happened. And the researchers' agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, decided not to make public hundreds of pages of research and warnings about the use of phones by drivers - in part, officials say, because of concerns about angering Congress. . .

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

That letter said that hands-free headsets did not eliminate the serious accident risk. The reason: a cell phone conversation itself, not just holding the phone, takes drivers' focus off the road, studies showed.

The research mirrors other studies about the dangers of multitasking behind the wheel. Research shows that motorists talking on a phone are four times as likely to crash as other drivers, and are as likely to cause an accident as someone with a .08 blood alcohol content.


Anonymous Mairead said...

This is definitely not rocket science. Humans are limited-capacity serial processors, and tasks that require concentration compete with one another for brainshare. Get two tasks going that require more than half-a-brain each and one or both of them is going to get starved, with potentially disasterous consequences.

There are even little party-trick tests to demonstrate this established fact.

July 21, 2009 7:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For municipalities and states strapped for cash, ticketing drivers talking on cell phones would be a great new revenue source.

Having been rear ended by a driver on a cell phone, whose negligence has left me in constant pain for nearly a decade, people who talk or text while driving should be subject to stiff penalties similar to drunk driving.

July 21, 2009 10:59 AM  
Anonymous Mairead said...

Bummer about the pain, and I hope you've finally recovered.

As to the idea of criminalising distracting behaviors while driving, I'd agree. In a way, it's hard to blame people for not understanding the danger involved in doing something that seems effortless but
isn't. The only way to bring it home to them is to put it legally on a par with behaviors known to be terrible such as DWI.

I'm a utility cyclist, and am appalled and terrified by the occasional death of a cyclist killed by some idiot driver failing to act with even minimal care.

Like the man in his mid-70s, lifelong cyclist, killed by a 19yo woman who was downloading ringtones! She was so oblivious to anything but her damned ringtones that her car was completely off the road when she hit him with the driver's side of her car.

Or like the man in his mid-60s, again a committed cyclist, who was actually dismembered by the car of a woman hurrying to get to a sale at a mall.

Cars are dangerous weapons, and people should be required to use every bit of their brains and reflexes when operating them.

July 21, 2009 12:36 PM  
Blogger robbie said...

This was secret? I distinctly remember hearing about the subject of the conversation being as distracting as the conversation itself years ago. Who hid it?

July 22, 2009 11:02 PM  

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