In the “no kidding?” hall of fame, a special place has been reserved for the just-released Transportation Research Board study that found cell phones (wait for it, now…) addle drivers. “The distracted driver tends to drive slower and have delayed reactions,” said University of Utah psychology professor David Strayer, who coauthored this puppy.
It’s just incredible that we need a National Academy of Sciences-funded research project to belabor what ought to be obvious to anyone who’s been out on the roads recently, and who has a smidgen of observational power and a dollop of common sense.
How many times have you witnessed the following?
* You’re waiting for a red light to change. When it finally does, there’s a lag time of several seconds before the car ahead of you begins to move. The driver is engaged in a cell phone tete-a-tete and didn’t notice the light had changed… because he/she wasn’t paying attention to the light. Sometimes, because of the delay, the light changes just as you reach it. The cell phone-distracted dawdler makes it through, though.
* You’re driving along with another car beside you. It suddenly begins to drift into your lane — almost hitting you before its driver notices you’re in the path of his SUV. (OK, it’s not always an SUV…but still.) He was too busy talking to check his mirrors.
* You’re on the highway in the supposedly “fast” far left lane, but there’s a car ahead doing just exactly the speed limit or a few MPH under it, oblivious to the dozen other cars stacking up behind. He (or she) is preoccupied by Urgent Business, which is probably nothing more “urgent” than babbling with a friend about last night’s game.
The study bears all this out and then some. It found that cell phone jabbering drivers tend to drive significantly below the pace of traffic, adding about 20 hours a year to the commute times of those not on the phone stuck behind the rolling roadblock.
The study also discovered that drivers on the phone exercise less initiative in reacting to changing road and traffic conditions, thus adding to the sclerosis that’s rapidly bringing driving in and around major suburban areas to a miserable crawl.
According to the Associated Press, “Overall, cellphone drivers took about 3 percent longer to drive the same highly traffic-clogged route — and about 2 percent longer to drive a medium-congested route — than people who were not on the phone.”
STRAYER SAYS THAT the gabblings of the cell phone drivers out there are increasing commute times by 5-10 percent, with that figure apt to rise as more people gabble for longer on their chirping, video-enabled, e-mail capable iPhones, and similar souped-up cells.
Previous studies of driver performance have found a marked reduction in capacity — specifically, ability to notice and respond to changing conditions quickly — when the driver is trying to talk on the phone and drive at the same time.
It’s no small thing, either. The reduction in capability is comparable to having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 — the legal threshold defining drunk driving in every state.
And yet, while we rightly go after drunk drivers with the everything the legal system can bring to bear, virtually nothing is said or done about people who, like drunks, choose to engage in an activity that is a demonstrable threat to the safety of other motorists. It’s also a massive annoyance for those of us not addled by cell phones, who are actually driving when we’re behind the wheel of our vehicles.
Why is this?
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?