Photo by Jim Legans Jr., via Flickr.

The problem of talking and texting while driving was put back into the spotlight yesterday as the National Transportation Safety Board called for an unprecedented nationwide ban on the use of cell phones and other devices by drivers, even hands-free technology.

Of course, this has been a known problem for quite a while — a battle between the law in many states and our societal addiction to staying in constant touch.

The real surprise in the NTSB recommendation is the push to ban the use even of hands-free devices for talking in the car, going further than existing legislation in Washington state and elsewhere around the country.

I’m a devoted user of the built-in hands-free calling technology through my stereo, and I’ve become disciplined about putting my phone in my pocket or keeping it out of reach when driving. Hands-free calling, to me, is similar to being engrossed in a radio show or a conversation with someone else in the car — not nearly as dangerous as retrieving a lost binky for the passenger in the back.

But the NTSB clearly feels strongly about this, and its recommendation is renewing the national discussion. Here’s our question: How are you doing with all of this? Vote in our poll below.

Comments

  • Guest

    To ban hands-free talking is complete lunacy. I talk hands-free using my Mark Levinson car audio system as a “microphone” and a “speaker phone.” To the untrained police eye, it looks like I’m talking to my fellow passengers when I do so. Does the NTSB intend to ban conversation between human beings who are actually sitting in a car?

    Frankly, the NTSB has much better things to worry about than me and my perfectly responsible driving behaviour.

    • Anonymous

      The facts disagree with your assumption that hands-free cell phone usage is safer than holding a phone up to your head.  Check out the ten linked sources on the Wikipedia article: 
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_phones_and_driving_safety#Handsfree_device

      Driving while using a handsfree cellular device is not safer than using a hand held cell phone, as concluded by case-crossover studies. [19][20] epidemiological,[1][2] simulation,[9] and meta-analysis[11][12]. The increased “cognitive workload” involved in holding a conversation, not the use of hands, causes the increased risk.[21][22][23]

      • Guest

        And I ask you, Tim, what’s the difference between hands-free mobile talking and hands-free human talking? Should I be banned from talking to my loved ones who accompany me in my car?

        • Milling

          The difference is that the people in your car share the same context regarding what is going on around you.  When your attention needs to be more focused on the driving because some jerk cut you off, they recognize the issue and make allowances.  When you are talking with someone without the same environment context, you subconsciously recognize lack of understanding and don’t shift your attention as you should.

        • Milling

          The difference is that the people in your car share the same context regarding what is going on around you.  When your attention needs to be more focused on the driving because some jerk cut you off, they recognize the issue and make allowances.  When you are talking with someone without the same environment context, you subconsciously recognize lack of understanding and don’t shift your attention as you should.

          • Guest

            “Hang on, Tim. Some mendicant just cut in front of me. I need to Tweet about this.”

            Now Tim, with whom I am conversing, knows to back off. I shall inform Tim later when he may resume his conversation.

  • Anonymous

    There should be an option up there for texting behind the wheel strictly using handsfree.

    Thank you Windows Phone. (and with Siri on iPhone 4S this should start to become a popular option)

    • Guest

      Isn’t “texting … using handsfree” functionally identical to a voice conversation? My friend Tim states that the “[19][20] epidemiological,[1][2] simulation,[9] and meta-analysis[11][12]” are the same, and that Wikipedia believes that such exchanges are dangerous.

      That said, I handsfree text a lot when I can’t stand the voice of the person with whom I text and when I can’t be bothered to type using my virtual keyboard.

  • http://www.intrinsicstrategy.com FrankCatalano

    How about the, “I don’t text behind the wheel, but occasionally peek as incoming messages appear on my phone’s screen to see if I should?”option.

    Seriously, those who text while driving are dangerous idiots. I frequently see people in moving cars holding their phone at the top of their steering wheel with more eyes on the phone than the road, either driving very slow or very erratically. Where is Darwin when you need him?

  • Guest

    I can’t wait for the day I step into my hands-free car and let technology do the driving.  Then I can talk, text, eat, shave…whatever I want while my robo-car takes me to my destination.  In the mean time I will drive responsibly while I talk, text, eat, shave, etc.   It’s not about what you do inside the car, it’s about the driving.  Know how to drive safe or stay off the roads.

  • http://www.kelly-clay.com Kelly Clay

    I’m pretty sure I was more of a hazard on the road today while trying to eat a granola bar while driving than I ever am while talking using my hands-free set. At least when using the bluetooth I have two hands on the wheel *and* more attention focused on the road. And what about when I’m drinking my latte and driving (like most of us do in Seattle?) There’s no hands-free for that, either. (Yet. I’m still waiting for that IV drip.)

  • Michele

    Why not band listening to the radio, drinking coffee and putting on lipstick while driving too. This is up there with Congress declaring pizza a vegetable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=94500172 Kyle Kesterson

    I love driving while talking on the phone, texting, surfing the net, checking email, eating, clipping my nails, playing with my dog, taking photos etc… any excuse I can find to drive with my knees really. Knee driving is underrated.

    The ban on even hands-free is crazy. Basically gives police the excuse to pull over anyone they “suspect is talking on the phone”, but will commonly be mistaken for: reciting lines for your play, talking to your dog, singing, chewing gum obnoxiously, yawning and who knows what else. Way to make everyone criminals NTSB.

  • Steve

    Just as everyone always rates themselves as better than average workers, better than average looking, etc., so will everyone say “I can text/talk non-hands-free while driving just fine!”. Well the reality is many (most?) people cannot. How many people have a hard time chewing gum and walking? I kid there, but not too much.
    Seriously, we all see traffic weavers all the time, those distracted from driving because of their attention on the phone (and other things, but lets keep this focused). Chances are, every one of us was a distracted weaver at at LEAST once before. I like my ability to multi-task, and I believe I will not create an accident from using my hands on my phone while driving. What I am fearful of are those who cannot perform this well. Those drivers hitting me is much more likely to create an accident.
    Or is this simply a fantasy I’ve created? That I AM immune.
    The simple undeniable fact is that when you’re driving and become distracted, your vehicle, a multi-ton hunk of metal traveling at a high momentum, becomes more likely to become a destructive force capable of maiming and death.
    Yes that is still true even if not distracted.
    Do the math. Calculate the risk. Driving a car can become an unconscious activity. Allowing someone to have their attention, their hands and their eyes focused somewhere else other than on driving increases the likelyhood that some day, you will be on the receiving end of that multi-ton hunk of metal.
    Using a keyboard/touch screen while driving is simply not safe.

    • Guest

      Steve,

      When radios were about to be installed in cars for the first time, lawmakers banned them. They believed that drivers would endanger themselves and others by listening to audio programs while driving.

      Today, our lawmakers believe that mobile phones present a danger to drivers and pedestrians. This is similarly based on fear and worry without any grounding in scientific fact. Frankly, I will sleep easier when I know that the anti-technology crowd is ready for me to drive while talking.

      Driving and talking. Drive. Talk.

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