Menus Subscribe Search

Follow us


Feds Seek Ban on Cellphone Use for Drivers

• December 13, 2011 • 2:42 PM

As past Miller-McCune articles have shown, driving while using your cellphone is a bad idea, and the U.S. government is doing its best to make sure you can hear that message now.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation launched a new website, distraction.gov, to chide drivers about using cellphones (or “personal electronic devices,” PEDs) while they were behind the wheel. The feds had already told government employees they couldn’t text and drive while on Uncle Sam’s business, and later extended that rule to commercial truckers while on Sam Walton’s.

As Emily Badger wrote for us in February 2010, putting up a nagging website was really all the federal government could do to address what’s pretty much an issue for the states.

On Tuesday, DoT went a step further and called on the individual states and District of Columbia to enact a nationwide ban on PED use while driving. Lots of states have already set down that road, banning handheld cellphone use or texting — the Governors Highway Safety Association offers a handy chart here — but lots of states, such as Missouri, don’t.

And it was in Missouri a year ago August that a madly texting pickup driver helped engineer a crash that killed him and a passenger in a school bus while injuring another 35 people. The National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation into that crash led to Tuesday’s call for a nationwide ban.

“The Missouri accident is the most recent distraction accident the NTSB has investigated,” the agency wrote in a release. “However, the first investigation involving distraction from a wireless electronic device occurred in 2002, when a novice driver, distracted by a conversation on her cellphone, veered off the roadway in Largo, Maryland, crossed the median, flipped the car over, and killed five people. Since then, the NTSB has seen the deadliness of distraction across all modes of transportation.”

As NTSB Chair Deborah A.P. Hersman said in making Tuesday’s recommendation, “We will never know whether the driver was typing, reaching for the phone, or reading a text when his pickup ran into the truck in front of him without warning. But, we do know he had been distracted — cognitively, manually, and visually — while driving.”

[class name=”dont_print_this”]

By the Way

BY THE WAY
When news breaks, this blog shows that Miller-McCune has the topic covered.

[/class]

Driving while distracted, or inattention blindness, are pretty well studied phenomena, especially if we go beyond the demon phone (and its unicycling clowns) and lump in the equally diabolical French fry or styling brush.

In reviewing a then-new device that disabled a driver’s cellphone once the car started, our Matt Palmquist suggested that researchers feared new technology was really better than the old — conversations with passengers, eating, drinking, lighting cigarettes, applying makeup, and listening to the radio” — at taking minds off the road. “There is good reason to believe that some of these new multitasking activities may be substantially more distracting than the old standards because they are more cognitively engaging and because they are performed over longer periods of time,” he quoted University of Utah psychology professor David Strayer. Strayer’s own research, Palmquist wrote, had determined that “the risk from cellphone use is as great as that of the intoxicated driver, only in different ways.”

(Our 2009 piece prefigured one aspect of Tuesday’s announcement: the NTSB urges the Wireless Association and the Consumer Electronics Association to develop technology that disables phones while vehicles are in motion.)

Might there be a more powerful weapon out there for convincing people to put down their PEDs, especially since even the government’s own statistics suggest this remains an uphill battle? We offer another cellphone-use warning from Palmquist: “Do it and you might get dumped.”

“According to University of Minnesota professor Paul Rosenblatt’s paper [in Family Science Review], communication with family members suffers for the same reasons cellphone use is hazardous to driving — it slows motorists’ reaction times and reduces their attention spans. “A delay in the conversation could be a problem if the person on the other end of the conversation interprets the delayed reaction as an indicator of ambivalence, of not having a ready answer or of hiding something.”

Sign up for the free Miller-McCune.com e-newsletter.

“Like” Miller-McCune on Facebook.

Follow Miller-McCune on Twitter.

Add Miller-McCune.com news to your site.

Subscribe to Miller-McCune

Michael Todd
Most of Michael Todd's career has been spent in newspaper journalism, ranging from papers in the Marshall Islands to tiny California farming communities. Before joining the publishing arm of the Miller-McCune Center, he was managing editor of the national magazine Hispanic Business.

More From Michael Todd

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

November 26 • 4:00 PM

Turmoil at JPMorgan

Examiners are reportedly blocked from doing their job as “London Whale” trades blow up.


November 26 • 2:00 PM

Rich Kids Are More Likely to Be Working for Dad

Nepotism is alive and well, especially for the well-off.


November 26 • 12:00 PM

How Do You Make a Living, Taxidermist?

Taxidermist Katie Innamorato talks to Noah Davis about learning her craft, seeing it become trendy, and the going-rate for a “Moss Fox.”


November 26 • 10:28 AM

Attitudes About Race Affect Actions, Even When They Don’t

Tiny effects of attitudes on individuals’ actions pile up quickly.


November 26 • 10:13 AM

Honeybees Touring America


November 26 • 10:00 AM

Understanding Money

In How to Speak Money, John Lanchester explains how the monied people talk about their mountains of cash.


November 26 • 8:00 AM

The Exponential Benefits of Eating Less

Eating less food—whole food and junk food, meat and plants, organic and conventional, GMO and non-GMO—would do a lot more than just better our personal health.


November 26 • 6:00 AM

The Incorruptible Bodies of Saints

Their figures were helped along by embalming, but, somehow, everyone forgot that part.


November 26 • 4:00 AM

The Geography of Real Estate Markets Is Shifting Under Our Feet

Policies aimed at unleashing supply in order to make housing more affordable are relying on outdated models.



November 25 • 4:00 PM

Is the Federal Reserve Bank of New York Doing Enough to Monitor Wall Street?

Bank President William Dudley says supervision is stronger than ever, but Democratic senators are unconvinced: “You need to fix it, Mr. Dudley, or we need to get someone who will.”


November 25 • 3:30 PM

Cultural Activities Help Seniors Retain Health Literacy

New research finds a link between the ability to process health-related information and regular attendance at movies, plays, and concerts.


November 25 • 12:00 PM

Why Did Doctors Stop Giving Women Orgasms?

You can thank the rise of the vibrator for that, according to technology historian Rachel Maines.


November 25 • 10:08 AM

Geography, Race, and LOLs

The online lexicon spreads through racial and ethnic groups as much as it does through geography and other traditional linguistic measures.


November 25 • 10:00 AM

If It’s Yellow, Seriously, Let It Mellow

If you actually care about water and the future of the species, you’ll think twice about flushing.


November 25 • 8:00 AM

Sometimes You Should Just Say No to Surgery

The introduction of national thyroid cancer screening in South Korea led to a 15-fold increase in diagnoses and a corresponding explosion of operations—but no difference in mortality rates. This is a prime example of over-diagnosis that’s contributing to bloated health care costs.



November 25 • 6:00 AM

The Long War Between Highbrow and Lowbrow

Despise The Avengers? Loathe the snobs who despise The Avengers? You’re not the first.


November 25 • 4:00 AM

Are Women More Open to Sex Than They Admit?

New research questions the conventional wisdom that men overestimate women’s level of sexual interest in them.


November 25 • 2:00 AM

The Geography of Innovation, or, Why Almost All Japanese People Hate Root Beer

Innovation is not a product of population density, but of something else entirely.


November 24 • 4:00 PM

Federal Reserve Announces Sweeping Review of Its Big Bank Oversight

The Federal Reserve Board wants to look at whether the views of examiners are being heard by higher-ups.



November 24 • 2:00 PM

That Catcalling Video Is a Reminder of Why Research Methods Are So Important

If your methods aren’t sound then neither are your findings.


November 24 • 12:00 PM

Yes, Republicans Can Still Win the White House

If the economy in 2016 is where it was in 2012 or better, Democrats will likely retain the White House. If not, well….


November 24 • 11:36 AM

Feeling—Not Being—Wealthy Cuts Support for Economic Redistribution

A new study suggests it’s relative wealth that leads people to oppose taxing the rich and giving to the poor.


Follow us


Attitudes About Race Affect Actions, Even When They Don’t

Tiny effects of attitudes on individuals' actions pile up quickly.

Geography, Race, and LOLs

The online lexicon spreads through racial and ethnic groups as much as it does through geography and other traditional linguistic measures.

Feeling—Not Being—Wealthy Cuts Support for Economic Redistribution

A new study suggests it's relative wealth that leads people to oppose taxing the rich and giving to the poor.

Sufferers of Social Anxiety Disorder, Your Friends Like You

The first study of friends' perceptions suggest they know something's off with their pals but like them just the same.

Standing Up for My Group by Kicking Yours

Members of a minority ethnic group are less likely to express support for gay equality if they believe their own group suffers from discrimination.

The Big One

One in two United States senators and two in five House members who left office between 1998 and 2004 became lobbyists. November/December 2014

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.