Wednesday, June 25, 2008

New Cell Phone Law: Don't Be Stupid

Beginning July 1, drivers must use a hands free set in order to talk on a cell phone while driving in California.

I'm of a mixed mind on this issue.

On one hand, the real issue has nothing to do with cell phones. On the other hand, reducing distractions while driving is a good thing.

The latest research (Public Policy Institute of California, University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center) shows a couple of interesting things.

First, hands-free requirements had zero effect on accidents except in bad road conditions.

Second, other research in Canada and Australia showed that cell phone usage did affect accident rates -- whether the driver used a hands free device or not.

The issue is not the cell phone. The issue is distractions.

On July 1, we will still be able to do the following while driving:

  • Dial the cell phone!!!!! Eyes off road during this activity.
  • Punch an address into the navigation system
  • Eat Chinese food (with chop sticks)
  • Adjust the radio
  • Read books, magazines, etc.
  • Put on make-up
  • Shave -- Electric, please
  • Review stock ticker on the satellite radio
  • Tend to the baby
  • Hold a dog on our lap
  • Reach for objects on the passenger seat
  • Look for junk in the glove box
  • Change CDs, remove the old, find the new, etc.
  • Drink coffee
  • Read printed maps
  • Watch videos
  • Check data feeds on the PDA/smart phone
  • Drive like a crazed lunatic who must change four lanes at once
  • Curl our eyelashes
  • Change clothes
  • Drive while tired
  • Operate a laptop on the seat next to us
  • and More!

Check out videos of people driving while distracted: The related article is here:

Here's the statistic that tells it all:

"Almost 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes happen within three seconds of some form of driver distraction, according to the report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute."

I'm not sure why people are fixated on the cell phone. You can be distracted by anything.

Let's hope the State Legislature doesn't waste money making laws against every other stupid activity human beings can come up with.

Our company has long had a policy that prohibits all cell phone use while driving a vehicle. We didn't do this for safety reasons, per se. After all, our technicians can still spill coffee or hot cigarette ashes on themselves while driving. They can change CDs, read books, and shave.

So why did we pick on cell phones? Because our society is fixated on cell phones, and we can easily foresee a lawsuit if one of our people is in an accident and is talking on a cell phone.

It would be easier to just pass a law that says "Don't be stupid." But we don't have the money needed to build 7,000 new prisons. Although we could save a lot of money by eliminating 10,000 existing laws that amount to the same thing.


  1. Anonymous8:33 AM

    Good stuff, yet Apple (based in California, no less) failed (again) to implement any type of voice command in the new 3G iPhone (one of the most popular consumer electronic devices in history), being released next month.

    How does a company known for its product design fail to include such a basic feature found in phones that are 4 years old? Especially on a TOUCH device? Especially when they are based in a state that is implementing a hands-free law in a few days?

  2. Anonymous9:01 AM

    If I understand the law correctly, you can still text while driving. TEXT! I admit, I've done it, and almost killed myself doing it. Holding a phone up to your head is nothing compared to texting while driving.

    But, if I was a bluetooth headset manufacturer or retailer, I sure would want this law to go into effect.

  3. Excellent point on Apple. Josh (who works for us) is covetting a new iPhone. I have a Crackberry with voice command. Works 75% as well as I'd like.

    On texting: Beginning July 1, teenagers cannot text while driving.

    Adults: No Problemo.

  4. I've had a cellphone in my car for at least a dozen years now. Originally they were fixed to the car and called car phones. They were completely hands free and tied into the car stereo system. What a concept! It's being touted as the new in the stores right now. Nothing new, is new.

    As an aside. I love using the time in the car to talk to people. Nothing heavy duty. Not solving computer problems. Just talking. Much like having another person in the car with me. I need to check in on my mother at least once a day. In the car from here to there is the perfect place to say hello, how are you and listen to her tell me about the latest happenings.

  5. Good point.

    I used to buy expensive car phones, but when you change phones every 2 years, it becomes real expensive to re-buy the $500 car kit.

    The car kit quality has almost disappeared, and the ones that are "universal" have the lowest quality.

    Some manufacturer needs to commit to making a kit that I can use on at least the next three phones, then I'll go back to it.

    In the meantime, blue tooth has become the de facto standard, even though most of the devices are not high quality.

    Maybe I'll just give up driving and talking at the same time . . .

  6. Anonymous12:02 AM

    What a stuuuupid statute!

    OK, one is required to use a hands-free device. So then is one allowed to hold the hands-free device to their ear? If one isn't allowed to hold it to their ear, then what is the length of time allowed to have your hand on it? What if it needs adjusted or won't stay in place.
    If one is allowed to hold the hands-free device to their ear then what is the "law" for?
    What if one is using a hands-free device and they desire to lean on their hand with their elbow propped on the arm rest? What's the point?

    It is stated that those over 18 are allowed to text. Is that because it would be difficult to distinguish between someone dialing and someone texting?

    I saw an interview with a CHP officer and he said that they will be stopping ANYONE for texting too. He said that texting was still considered using the phone without hands-free.


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