[LINK] Mobile phone use set to be banned in vehicles - nanny state?? A-pillar blind spots . . .

Robin Whittle rw at firstpr.com.au
Mon Feb 7 16:19:18 AEDT 2011

I don't think its right to describe tackling the problems of
distracted drivers as "Nanny State".  If it was purely a question of
the drivers harming themselves, then perhaps this could be argued.

My concern about distracted drivers is that one may be driving towards
me and kill me and my passengers, with me having no way of avoiding
it.  Also, these drivers have passengers in their vehicles.

Cell-phone and other forms of mobile communication arguably save lives
by reducing the amount we need to travel by driving.  For instance, if
we had to drive everywhere instead of making any phone calls, the road
toll would be higher.  Likewise if every time we wanted to call
someone, we had to drive to a phone box - and yet that would only work
for people who were at home.

There's a potential danger in banning phone use while driving - in
that people will take radical action to get off the road, to find a
parking spot or to stop on the side of the road, so they can respond
to an incoming call.  This is made far worse by the unreasonably short
times allowed for the phone to ring before the call is handed to the
revenue-generating voice-mail.  I would strongly support legislation
requiring all cellphone services be required to support long ring
times, such as 2 minutes - and to default to something reasonably
long, like 1 minute.  That would reduce the threat of distraction in
the drivers who are driving towards me, so I think that's a good idea,
and hardly a form of nannyism.

It is frequently difficult yo find somewhere to pull over - and I
found it much worse when driving in the American South.  Whether it
was minor country roads or the interstates, my impression is that it
was more difficult to find a place to pull over than here in Australia.

For all I know, I and my loved ones and friends are still alive and
are uninjured due to the success of various road safety campaigns.  I
recall the road toll in Victoria used to be as high as 1064 - "Declare
war on 1064" I think it was.  Now the road toll is 287:


I can't easily find statistics going back more than a few years, but
this page:


indicates the 1064 figure was in the early 1970s, and that in 1952 the
toll was 336.  That was 8.5 per 100,000 people.

The 2010 figure of 287 is 5.17 per 100,000 people.  I guess the early
1970s figure would be over 20 per 100,000 people.  If ten years of
that rate persisted, one in 500 people would be dead and many more
seriously injured.

There's much less drink driving today, but more use of other drugs,
including prescription drugs which affect attentiveness.  There's more
use of marijuana, I think - including stupefying / paranoia inducing
skunk-weed.  Also, I think there's probably more caffeine use, which
causes anxiety, sleep disturbances aggression and tiredness.  (It
makes you tired in general, for days afterwards - just perks you up
for a few hours after use.)

Modern cars have better brakes and handling, but they have worse
visibility.  My 1979 VW Kombi has excellent visibility, with the
A-pillars relatively narrow and not too far from vertical.

The crash test requirements cause more and more cars to have very
thick "A-pillars" - the metal parts at each side of the windscreen.
Worse still, these are at an increasingly horizontal angle.  I nearly
had a crash due to these in a 1999 model car, which is not extreme in
this regard - I had never realised there was a blind-spot caused by
the horizontal width of the A-pillar.

Modern cars increasingly have tinted windows and smaller windows.
Popular SUVs look increasingly like armoured personnel carriers or
riot wagons - there's very poor visibility to the rear.

Modern cars tend to seal out the noise of other vehicles and isolate
people from the reality of what is going on.  I think their generally
superior handling may lead to surprises when the tyres suddenly no
longer grip.  (ABS systems are a real benefit - probably a life-saver
in many situations.)

Then there are sound systems and even people having DVD player screens
in cars - maybe in view of the driver.  Add in mobile phones . . . .

Its a wonder the road toll is so low.  To the extent this has been
achieved by government action, I applaud this action.

The trick will be the trade-off between banning some or all forms of
cell-phone use and the consequent safety problems as people need to
pull over to make calls, or respond to incoming calls, including
stopping to read voice-mail when they get an SMS message just after
the phone rings and is not answered.

I think there should be a ban on using two earphones for any purpose,
such as driving listening to MP3s.  I am not sure that there should be
a ban on professional drivers using hands-free cellphones with a
single earpiece - since I guess long distance truck and bus drivers
have generally developed the skills to use them well, and this would
be safer than having them pull over to make or receive calls.

I think cell-phones need to have an easy to use kill-switch which can
turn every aspect of the damn thing off very quickly, and then
re-enable it similarly.  The minute or so these self-obsessed devices
spend booting and shutting themselves down is totally excessive and
leads to people being reluctant to turn them off entirely when driving.

I think GPS navigation devices are a worry - people put them high up
on their windscreen like a head-up display, but this will get in the
way of visibility in some directions.

But are these things worse than the problem of people trying to
navigate with maps?   I doubt I would ever use a GPS - unless it had
Darth Vader's voice and He could try to direct me around the South at
night . . .   but trying to stop and read a map has its own problems
in fast-moving traffic.

I don't know to what extent TV screens are banned in the front of
cars.  It is the sort of thing which in the past did not need to be
banned, because either it was impossible to implement or everyone had
enough sense not to.  But these two constrains are rapidly becoming
historical curiosities.

Now that an I-phone or similar or tablet or whatever can sit in a
cradle or be blu-tacked to the dashboard and be merely a cell-phone,
but also a music (video . . . ) player, and also do Google Maps, GPS,
**Facebook**, Twitter or whatever . . .  I think there does need to be
some hard-edge regulation of what drivers are allowed to have in their
field of vision and placed in their ears.

Likewise, there should be much better regulation of the A-pillar
problem.  When I looked into the Victorian (or was it Australian)
regulations on this in 2007, the technical specification for the
driver's visibility was simply that it be "adequate".  Here it is:


   12.1.  A motor vehicle must not be so constructed or equipped
          nor must anything be affixed thereto in such a manner as
          to prevent the driver from having an adequate view of
          traffic on either side of the vehicle and in all
          directions in front of the vehicle to enable the vehicle
          to be driven with safety.

But these A-pillars are too wide and at too shallow an angle.  It is
particularly bad for motorcyclists, which are smaller in the field of
vision and so more likely not to be seen at all.


There was some good research into this in the UK when I looked in 2007
- a survey of popular cars in a special test arrangement - but I can't
easily find this on the Net now.  An article from 2005 is:

  Killer Pillars The Blinding Truth

I think this is a case of misdirected attention to safety - making the
crash test requirements so stringent, without specifying that driver
visibility should not be degraded, leads to people having more
crashes.  That is arguably a form of nannyism - forcing people to buy
cars which supposedly protect them, but instead make them a threat to
other people on the roads, as well as to themselves and their

 - Robin

> http://smh.drive.com.au/states-urged-to-impose-total-ban-on-mobile-phone-use-in-cars-20110206-1aiez.html

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