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

Kim Holburn kim at holburn.net
Mon Feb 7 17:05:44 AEDT 2011

On 2011/Feb/07, at 4:19 PM, Robin Whittle wrote:

> 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.

Having lived in other countries I can tell you Australia is a nanny state compared with most other countries, possibly all of them.    Except maybe New Zealand which I believe has banned people from using iPhones in cradles on their dash.  

> 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.

Driver distraction is a big worry.  But is it really causing all these accidents?

> 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.  

Why is this an issue?  Why can't we have spots for this on all roads?

> 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.

Phone companies want you to make a call each time you call someone and charge you for it.  How difficult is it to get them to turn off messaging?  "What... you want the phone to ring until it stops without a message?  I don't think we allow that."

> 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:
> http://www.tacsafety.com.au/jsp/statistics/roadtollannual.do?areaID=12&tierID=1&navID=17
> I can't easily find statistics going back more than a few years, but
> this page:
> http://archive.arabnews.com/?page=17&section=21&d=18&m=6&y=2007&mode=dynamic&sectionlist=no&pix=interact.jpg&category=Interact
> 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.

So there hasn't been a sudden rash of drivers distracted by electronic devices crashing.  Who'd've thought?

> 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.  

There is a lot of evidence that being drunk has a deleterious effect on your driving and is the cause of a lot of accidents.  Is there any such evidence about Marijuana?  Didn't think so.  On the other hand there are quite a few prescription drugs that are known to be very bad for driving.  Unfortunately we don't have the ability to test for any of these except alcohol in a way that relates to the debilitation caused by the drug. 

> 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.


> Its a wonder the road toll is so low.  

Not really.  Cars are getting safer.  People less drunk.

> To the extent this has been
> achieved by government action, I applaud this action.

The government will fix it?

> 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.

Or perhaps there really is no need to do this.  If the road toll isn't showing a big spike and people are using cell phones all the time while driving perhaps this is really not an issue.

> 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.

And your evidence for this additional law is?

> 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've heard people have got lost trying to navigate with maps.  And got themselves into all sorts of jams.  

> I doubt I would ever use a GPS - unless it had
> Darth Vader's voice

I've got one with Darth Vader's voice.  It was funny for about 5 seconds then I changed it to Trevor.

> 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.

GPS's are fantastic when you are driving around complicated places you're not familiar with.  Especially dense cities.  

> 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.

Or we could let them decide on the basis that people are rational beings and will try and survive which seems to be happening.

> Likewise, there should be much better regulation of the A-pillar
> problem.  

Part of the Pillar problem is that they have air-bags in them.  Personally I think air-bags are stupid.  A weird American approach to safety where they think that driving around with explosives in your car is somehow a good idea.  If you are in the wrong position when an airbag goes off you are more than likely to sustain broken bones.  I have friends in the Rural Fire Service in South Australia who tell me a number of firepeople have been quite badly injured by airbags going off while they're trying to get injured people out of damaged cars after accidents.  So much so that they have special harnesses to try and hold the airbags should they fire while they are reaching into the car.

Kim Holburn
IT Network & Security Consultant
T: +61 2 61402408  M: +61 404072753
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