Thursday, January 04, 2007

A cell phone question

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed legislation that prohibits the use of handheld mobile phones while driving in the state.

Effective July 1, 2008, the legislation prohibits drivers from using a wireless telephone while operating a motor vehicle unless the driver uses a hands-free device. Drivers who violate the law will face a base fine of $20 for a first offense and $50 for each subsequent offense.

The law allows drivers to use a wireless telephone for emergency purposes, drivers of commercial vehicles to use push-to-talk phones until July 1, 2011, and allow drivers of emergency response vehicles to use a cell phone without a hands-free device.

California joins Connecticut, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, New York, and some local jurisdictions ( as in counties, but not whole states ) in prohibiting the use of handheld mobile phones while driving.

Speaking of the "Governator", another thing he's pushing for is to have California residents take measures to help reduce global warming. One thing Arnold's asking drivers to do is to drive less or use more fuel efficient cars. Makes sense. That's one of the things we as motorcycle commuters are trying to do. Part of treading more lightly on the Earth is to emit less pollution. The word on the street, though, is that Arnold's usual mode of transportation is one of four Humvees or his private jet. Is this a case of "Do as I say and not as I do"? Let the little people bear the brunt of the sacrifice. Typical government. Anyway, I digress.

I'm not sure that using a hands-free device on a cell phone is going to help much. I had this brilliant idea while I was riding in the pouring rain the other day. I watched a person in a BMW car weaving around in their lane on the freeway. Guess what she had glued to her ear? I'll give you three guesses and the first two don't count. ( sorry, old redneck saying ) Anyway, here's my idea.

I think people going in to take the driver's test should be tested while talking on a cell phone. They should have to call into the DMV office and talk to a co-examiner. This co-examiner should do their best to be distracting during the conversation. You know, asking questions that require deep thought, telling jokes, etc. During the actual drive test there should be harmless but realistic hazards encountered. Inflatable dolls ( get your mind out of the gutter, I'm trying to keep a "G" rating, here ) could pop up in crosswalks, cardboard cut-outs of cars could be pulled quickly across intersections, along with other entertaining things we could all think of. If the student could successfully deal with these while carrying on a cell phone conversation then they could get their license. At least they would have shown an actual ability to multi-task. Not the imagined ability that most people think they have.

If a student driver would actually tell the examiner that they just couldn't see how it would be safe to drive and talk on the cell phone ( gasp! ) the test would be terminated and the student passed on the spot!

Here's a couple of questions for you all.

Do you think hands-free devices actually reduce the hazard a talking driver poses?

If a driver were using an ear piece you couldn't see the cell phone glued to the driver's head. As a motorcycle commuter would you prefer to see the actual phone, thus having more warning as to the hazard this driver represents?

Just some food for thought and a possible friendly discussion!

Miles and smiles,



dan_durham said...

Just got home from work - 35 miles of freeway at 2am at 32 degrees. Even if I felt like dozing off it just would not happen on two wheels.
Especially in those conditions..being out there exposed to it all really makes you feel alert and alive.

As far as your topic of discussion goes I don't think it matters to a motorcycle commuter if we can see the phone or not. It goes without saying that there can be a million things distracting a cage driver, be it mental or environmental (by environmental I mean fiddling with knobs, cell phone use, etc...) Not to mention, many cage drivers feel so darn secure in their bubble that they throw caution out the window in regards to their driving habits.
On a bike, I prefer to just assume drivers are "spacing out" cell phone or not. I've had too many idiots cut me off or nearly T-bone my bike. At least *I* was paying attention...
Now that my eyes are trained, I notice more and more often people driving with nearly flat tires and other "accidents waiting to happen" while out riding (or driving!).


gary said...

I can just hear The Governator now:

"Rrresistance is FUTILE! You vill all be azzimilated by ze Bluetooth Collective!"

Ride well,

Dale said...

Well, we all heard about Arnold crashing his Harley. So, should we be glad or upset that he's in a Humvee and not on a bike?

I assume that EVERYONE is on their cell phone, or reading a book, or curling their eye lashes, or doing god-knows-what but NOT paying attention to the road.

I hate cellphone-addicts. Not only are they a menace even when driving a simple shopping cart, but we're all forced to listen to their inane conversations as well (when they aren't in a car).

Allen Madding said...

I just assume if they're in a cage, they're dangerous. I quit looking for signs of distraction and assume they all are. Kinda like when I approach an intersection and my light is green, I assume the waiting cars are going to turn out in front of me. 9 out of 10 times, I'm right. The other time I am plesantly suprised.

Anonymous said...

It's the conversation that makes people stupid not the method of communicating. Study's have shown that using a hands-free kit does no better at making a safe driver.

So, just HANG UP THE PHONE! And drive...

balisada said...

When I had my learners permit, my dad told me that EVERYONE else on the road was ONLY there only to hit me, or to hit something that would hit me, or impede my progress in some way.

Otherwise, they would all be at home watching TV.

So, while I was amazed when I saw my first person reading a book while driving on the interstate, generally I am prepared for the stupidity of other drivers. But they can be so clever sometimes!

I think that Dan has the same idea that I have (drivers feel safe inside their cages and forget that some of the others on the road do not have the safety cage and airbags that they have, and there are a million distracting things anyway, inside and outside the vehicle), and Anonymous has stated something that I thought was a valid study as well. It's not the phone that is distracting, it's the conversation.

So I think that it's a step in the right direction, but 50 years ago, there was no law against drinking and driving, and no law against domestic violence.

I am sure that it was a difficult transition to make the public understand that Drinking and Driving and Domestic Violence is a real issue that needs to be dealt with. But they persevered and generally we are safer in those respects.

Perhaps our grandchildren will one day see someone talking on the phone while driving and be horrified at how dangerous that person is: "Quick honey, turn down that street and get away from that lunatic, before he kills someone."

Combatscoot said...

What bothers me is this technology making it into motorcycle helmets. Years ago, I bought a Honda Nighthawk which had been dressed-out to look like a Silverwing alternative. The first thing I did was rip-out the CB and the radio. I always have some kindof' soundtrack playing in my head when I ride anyways, why do I need such distraction? And now, you can jabber at someone on another motorcycle, or use your cell-phone to call someone while you are riding? Insane.

irondad said...

Overall I'm glad to see you're all a bunch of distrusting souls! You can never assume anything.

You're right about the vehicle insulating people from their actual driving. It's a combination of feeling safe and the actual disconnect from their physical surroundings that happens. 35 miles of freeway at 32 degrees? You qualify for the "hardcore" club!

Those bluetooth devices do look like something from Star Trek.

Maybe we should let accident prone people go ahead and ride. Sort of a cleansing of the gene pool thing. I always marvel at how empty headed people must be to need that phone plastered to them all the time.

Intersections are dangerous places anymore, for sure. Here in Oregon a red light means three more cars can go through. It's amazing how many riders are hit by left-turning cars. You have a good strategy.

It is, after all, a car and not a phone booth.

Studies have definitely shown that it's the conversation process itself posing the big hazard. Conversation with another passenger in the car doesn't seem to have quite the same effect. One interesting aspect is that the passenger can see a hazard at the same time as the driver and knows to quit talking. Doesn't happen so easily in a cell phone conversation.
I hope people do eventually wake up but I don't think it will happen in my lifetime.

Yeah, the last thing we need is motorcyclists joining the insanity!