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Oct 27 2013

What I’d be telling my kids nowadays

I’m one of those people who is hopelessly addicted to babbling on the internet, and even I don’t understand this statistic.

the leading cause of death for teenage drivers is now texting, not drinking, with nearly a dozen teens dying each day in a texting-related car crash.

You cannot type and drive, or read and drive, at the same time. It’s really that simple. So why are people trying?

134 comments

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  1. 1
    Al Dente

    I wouldn’t text while driving just like I wouldn’t read a book while driving. Ya gots ta keep yer attention on the road. This is not rocket surgery!

  2. 2
    Inaji

    When you posted that Herzog video a bit ago, I sent the link to Mister, as he’s abnormally attached to his cell phone. He emailed me back that he’d been close to two fatal accidents, both caused by texting while driving in one week. There are enough things to worry about when driving. Having to worry about drivers texting shouldn’t be one of those things.

  3. 3
    Larry

    Because texting your buds that you’re heading for MickeyDs is the most important thing in the world. M’kay?

  4. 4
    Alverant

    You’d think it would be easy to glance down at your phone while driving. After all people adjust the radio while driving too. (No this is not a defense of texting, just what I think people use as an excuse to do it.)

  5. 5
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    It’s amazing what and how distractions can happen. When I drive over to Michigan, I go through downtown Chicago on the freeway. The Redhead gets nervous with the heavy traffic, and talks to distract HER nervousness. I keep telling her to shut up, as I need to concentrate on traffic (bumper to bumper, and “on the brakes” in spots). If she wanted to help, go to sleep in Chicago, then wake up past Michigan City, Ind.

  6. 6
    loreo

    Louis CK gave a great explanation of part of this phenomenon:

    You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That’s what the phones are taking away, is the ability to just sit there. That’s being a person. Because underneath everything in your life there is that thing, that empty—forever empty. That knowledge that it’s all for nothing and that you’re alone. It’s down there.

    And sometimes when things clear away, you’re not watching anything, you’re in your car, and you start going, ‘oh no, here it comes. That I’m alone.’ It starts to visit on you. Just this sadness. Life is tremendously sad, just by being in it…

    That’s why we text and drive. I look around, pretty much 100 percent of the people driving are texting. And they’re killing, everybody’s murdering each other with their cars. But people are willing to risk taking a life and ruining their own because they don’t want to be alone for a second because it’s so hard.

    And I go, ‘oh, I’m getting sad, gotta get the phone and write “hi” to like 50 people’…then I said, ‘you know what, don’t. Just be sad. Just let the sadness, stand in the way of it, and let it hit you like a truck.’

    And I let it come, and I just started to feel ‘oh my God,’and I pulled over and I just cried like a bitch. I cried so much. And it was beautiful. Sadness is poetic. You’re lucky to live sad moments.

    And then I had happy feelings. Because when you let yourself feel sad, your body has antibodies, it has happiness that comes rushing in to meet the sadness. So I was grateful to feel sad, and then I met it with true, profound happiness. It was such a trip.

    The thing is, because we don’t want that first bit of sad, we push it away with a little phone or a jack-off or the food. You never feel completely sad or completely happy, you just feel kinda satisfied with your product, and then you die. So that’s why I don’t want to get a phone for my kids.

  7. 7
    throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble

    I don’t know, some kind of irrational fear that if you’re not in constant contact and being social with people, even if it means texting three letters of an acronym, seems to play a large part in the attachment to phones which young people have.

    http://www.pbs.org/thisemotionallife/blogs/teens-sleeping-cell-phones-clear-and-present-danger

    At an age when self-esteem hinges on peer acceptance, being caught in the demands of always being available is difficult. Many teens report stories of friends getting insulted, angry or upset if a text message or phone call is not responded to immediately.

    http://www.examiner.com/article/cell-phone-use-socially-anxious-prefer-texting-while-lonely-prefer-to-talk

    The results of the study supported the hypothesis that lonely individuals prefer calling others while socially anxious prefer to text when using their cell phones as a means of communication.

  8. 8
    burgundy

    I think it’s the same mental process that leads to a majority of people identifying as above-average drivers. Sure, texting while driving is dangerous – but I can do it safely. It’s those other, less skilled drivers that are the problem. Also, this one time isn’t a big deal, because it’s a really important conversation. It’s those other drivers who’ll text for any reason that are the problem.

  9. 9
    consciousness razor

    I’m not sure how much more of an issue it is for teenagers/adolescents, but in some ways a lot of it could apply to adults too. There are lots of studies that they’re still in the process of developing abilities like self-control, planning, judgment, and so on. As Alverant suggests, there may be a difference in their self-assessment: they might think they’re better at multi-tasking (or driving or whatever) than they actually are, perhaps worse at such an assessment than adults (perhaps because they’ve failed less, or because they’re worse so that Dunning-Kruger plays a part). And even if at the time they remember someone telling them about what a bad idea it is, they might unconsciously resist what they perceive to be authority.

    Maybe I’m especially anxious, but even shifting my attention for a second to fiddle with the radio gets me a little worried. Talking on the phone is much worse. And I can’t imagine myself texting and driving.

  10. 10
    Susan Brown

    Our car has controls for the sound system on the steering wheel, so you don’t have to look away from the road to change anything. (Even so, that can be distracting at times, so I just wait until I’m at a stop sign/light.)

    We lost my husband’s cousin a few years ago when right after he got his driver’s license, he apparently was distracted for just a moment (adjusting the radio?) and he crossed the center line and ran into a delivery truck. It just takes an eyeblink.

  11. 11
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Most of the people I see with phones on their ears (texting is harder to spot) are adults.
    Quite often with that strange movement where you hold your phone to the left ear with the right hand.
    That alone is as risky as driving with 0.8 0/00, I don’t understand why penalties aren’t the same.

    Nerd
    At home, we’re usually kind people who don’t treat each other roughly.
    But in the car, the driver is allowed to bark “shut up, everybody!”
    Because being able to concentrate is much more important than being kind at that moment*.

    *we kindly thank the kids later for their cooperation.

  12. 12
    Anthony K

    It’s always something with the kids. Before texting, they were having sex bracelet parties while driving. And before that it was participating in baby-sacrificing satanic cults while driving.

    I’m not entirely sure we should be letting them drive at all.

  13. 13
    unbound

    Here in Virginia, teenagers don’t get their license until they see a traffic court judge (it is held in a high school auditorium due to the numbers of teenagers involved). This is their biggest message for my oldest 2 kids getting their license (do not text) with a couple of videos of officers talking about it and even several deaths in the area due to texting.

    Even more shocking than texting is the traffic court judge who said that one of the kids she had in front of her a month or so before my oldest got his license said she wasn’t texting, but that she was on facebook.

    I know part of the issue is that teenagers think they are invincible, but really, looking at how terrible the drivers are in this county, many parents really need to take a hard look at themselves. It is the parents I regularly see running stop signs and texting in this county.

  14. 14
    consciousness razor

    As far back as I can remember, even when I was a child, those damned meddling kids were not permitted on my lawn, yet they remained there.

  15. 15
    Travis

    I am sort of weird. I really enjoy racing but I absolutely hate driving and worry a lot about the people in cars that are around me. I find that many drivers do not take much responsibility for their actions or seriously consider that they are driving around in a large, possibly dangerous machine. I’ve driven with so many people that nearly get into an accident only to laugh it off, or later hear about their stories and they do not take it seriously, there is no reevaluation of their actions. When I am out biking or walking I pay a lot of attention to the cars around me but there are still plenty of close calls where drivers are not paying attention.

  16. 16
  17. 17
    davenash

    I asked a buddy about this, because he’s an F-18 pilot for the Navy and he’s always describing flights as complicated– talking to his people and running computers. He said that the analog to driving– low level flight– is completely different. In low level flight all talk and all computer contact is entirely about the low level flight.

    The take-away for me is that you can use GPS which is about where you are and where you are headed, but your shouldn’t be checking Facebook or reading PZ Myers while driving.

  18. 18
    Inaji

    davenash:

    I asked a buddy about this, because he’s an F-18 pilot for the Navy

    Chalk and Cheese. Pilots are highly trained. What in all hells gives you the idea that the average driver is trained in any way?

  19. 19
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    As a biker, this scares the living fuck out of me. Passing a car which suddenly starts swerving all over the road as you’re doing so, ’cause the driver’s concentrating on something else… let’s just say it leaves one feeling a tad vulnerable.

  20. 20
    astropaul

    There’s some possibility this statistic is a bad extrapolation that doesn’t comport with the actual numbers:

    http://familyinequality.wordpress.com/2013/10/26/are-so-many-people-giving-birth-while-driving-and-texting-that-most-of-the-deaths-are-canceled-out/

    I hate it when my feeds fight. Straighten this out, internet!

  21. 21
    davenash

    Because my question to him was “how do you fly and talk and use a computer?”

    And I learned that 40,000 feet is very different than 1,000 feet. And if he had been an airline pilot, he would have described the difference between cruising from Denver to O’Hare and landing at O’Hare.

    So, I will still maintain that using a GPS to navigate your driving is different than browsing Facebook which distracts from your driving.

  22. 22
    davenash

    I will also add, that most drivers in the US go years and years without an accident– ipso facto, they are well trained to drive.

  23. 23
    sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d

    the leading cause of death for teenage drivers is now texting, not drinking, with nearly a dozen teens dying each day in a texting-related car crash.

    I don’t believe the statistics. The source actually says>

    Researchers at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park estimate more than 3,000 annual teen deaths nationwide from texting and 300,000 injuries.

    Even if it’s right, it’s 8 or 9 a day; bad enough, I’d agree, but not as rhetorically impressive as “nearly a dozen teens dying each day”.

  24. 24
    futurechemist

    I can’t say how many times I’ve been walking around campus and someone walks right into me because they’re so totally absorbed with their phone that they didn’t see they had veered into me. Many of them then give me a dirty look, as if it’s somehow my fault for standing or walking on my side of the sidewalk. If people can’t handle walking and texting, how could they even think about driving and texting?

  25. 25
    timgueguen

    The people I’ve seen doing stupid things with a phone while driving have mostly been adults. A good example is the woman I saw trying to park a ’70s Lincoln Continental between two cars when she decided halfway into the spot to do something with her phone.

  26. 26
    Chie Satonaka

    I work in downtown Madison, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve been startled by a driver suddenly racing up behind me or nearly weaving into my lane and hitting me, only to see the person staring down at their lap in that tell-tale posture. Yes, a lot of them appear to be college students, but I very nearly avoided a collision with someone on Friday who was easily 60 years old and chatting on his cell phone. Put your fucking phones away, people! There is no way in hell your conversation can’t wait twenty minutes until you get home.

  27. 27
    grumpyoldfart

    For more than a century drink drivers have been explaining that they are more alert when they are drunk. When they are sober they take chances but when they are drunk they drive more carefully because they know the risks they are taking.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if texters feel the same way. They know it’s risky so they pay closer attention to their driving than would be the case if they were not texting – and they prove the correctness of their theory every time they get home without having had an accident.

    And the day they don’t get home – well they don’t know about that. They’re dead!

  28. 28
    kittehserf

    Chie @25:

    only to see the person staring down at their lap in that tell-tale posture

    So that’s what it is. I neither drive nor text and only noticed someone doing that the first time the other day. My thought was “Try looking at the road, not at your dick, moron,” but presumably he was looking at his phone.

    Presumably …

    It’s bad enough when pedestrians are absorbed in their damn phones. I will not give way to someone who can’t even be bothered looking up; I’ll stand (walking stick and all) and say LOOK WHERE YOU’RE GOING nice and loud.

  29. 29
    feralboy12

    When you’re focused on something or someone who isn’t there with you, your head leaves the car. The brain, busy with another task, filters out information not essential to that task; at that point, the road turns into one of those repeating Hanna-Barbara backgrounds and unexpected things can happen right in front of you and not register in your consciousness.
    Unfortunately, it’s just how the human brain works. Adults have the same problem, but it’s like each new generation gets a new bad habit to distract them while driving. And automakers, being fond of having cute techno affectations to sell, add new distractions every year.
    Not to mention the human brain didn’t evolve traveling at highway speeds, and it’s hard to get a real sense of how far one can travel in, say four seconds at highway speed (I’ll leave the math an exercise for the student; for a bonus, convert the distance into football field units).
    Hell, I had a friend who, when we were in high school, dinged himself bad enough to walk with a cane the rest of his life; he crashed while putting in an 8-track tape. The gadgets change, people not so much.

  30. 30
    congenital cynic

    Texting in class is not nearly as dangerous, but I still kick them out of class when I catch them. Recent studies on this say that people around the texter are distracted to a greater extent than the person texting.

    And I still see a lot of people texting behind the wheel. Even though it’s illegal in our province.

  31. 31
    dukeofomnium

    Whenever I’m driving and I see someone texting behind the wheel, it makes me so angry that I have to send out a tweet.

  32. 32
    Alverant

    I read the comments here and I’m glad I take the train to work. I only have to drive a mile to and from the station and only have to worry about three stop signs. My main risk are bicycle drivers who seem to think the traffic laws don’t apply to them (they do apply in Illinois but the cops don’t do anything about it).

    They’re horrible drivers. While I haven’t seen them text (yet) I have seen them drive on the wrong side of the road, ignore the stop signs, refuse to signal their turns, wear headphones (including the kind hooked up to phones so they can make calls while they pedal), and once even cross the train tracks after the gates came down. More than once their reckless driving nearly caused an accident because cars had to swerve to get out of their way.

    And if you bring it to their attention they act like it’s their right to break the law because they’re on bicycles. I’m glad at this point you can’t text and bike, but I’m sure with more people driving bicycles someone is going to figure out a way to do it.

  33. 33
    congenital cynic

    I might have mentioned. When I’m driving, I don’t even look at the things on the side of the road that my children tell me to check out, and sometimes I even shut down their attempts at conversation with me if there is a lot of traffic and it all needs attention.

    I’ve been driving for 42 years (accident free for 37) and I don’t think for a minute that I could safely text and drive. Those who feel they can are delusional.

  34. 34
    congenital cynic

    @31 Alverant
    I’ve seen someone texting while biking. It was on our local trail system, so there was no risk of being hit by a car or truck. But they could have hit a pedestrian, or another cyclist.

  35. 35
    prfesser

    Re.#23 I agree to a great extent, except that I suspect most people who text and drive (often kids) would claim that they can swerve fast enough to avoid accidents while walking. They may be extending this idea to driving, not considering the difference between the kinetic energies involved…

  36. 36
    The Vicar (via Freethoughtblogs)

    You know, there’s no reason why the phone companies couldn’t adjust the cell phone towers to drop connection to phones which are traveling at a speed of more than, say, 10 mph. That would kill off both the texting and talking nuisances.

  37. 37
    mastmaker

    I am a cruiser: While on freeway or on regular routes (like home-to-work), I can be on auto-pilot. I maintain proper speed, distance to the vehicle in front of me that’s proper for the speed I am going at, ALL WITHOUT HAVING TO PAY ANY ATTENTION TO IT. I routinely call my family or workplace (on bluetooth obviously. Never hand-held). I normally listen to my podcasts while driving. Sometimes, I even ignore the podcast while deep in thought about some work or science-related stuff. Never caused a problem for myself or others. Worst that ever happened was that I missed an exit while in an excited debate with a cousin.

    However, What is IMPORTANT for my auto-pilot to function is that I KEEP MY EYES ON THE ROAD. If I glance down to my mobile to look at a text or email, it causes serious trouble, even if I am not distracted otherwise.

    Disclaimer: When I read the above, it sounds to me like an incoherent rant. I am not a good public speaker or a writer!

  38. 38
    robro

    Probably most people who text while driving don’t think about risks. Thinking about risks is clearly something that most of us don’t do a lot which probably explains all sorts of crazy things we do in cars. I’m sure we’ve all been behind a moving car with a couple of kids in the back seat and watch (in horror) as the driver turns around to fuss at them or take a swipe.

    I live in a city where you have to parallel park a lot and the streets tend to be narrow. People often park then immediately throw open the driver side door without looking behind them first for that oncoming bicycle much less the bus. And when they get out, they are very likely to open the door behind the drive seat to start unloading things right into the narrow street full of moving hunks of steel, things like their toddlers, things which could easily be retrieved from the curb side.

    Mea culpa: I’m not great at risk awareness myself but my partner is a master. She can conger up risks that you can’t even imagine.

  39. 39
    Lofty

    PZ:

    You cannot type and drive, or read and drive, at the same time. It’s really that simple. So why are people trying?

    Well technically, they can, 99.9%* of the time. It’s only age and related wisdom that allows you to calculate that a smallish risk of accident multiplied by a large amount of time makes serious injury or death inevitable. Humans, especially young and uneducated humans, have real trouble with this kind of calculation. Why, some kids have had their licence for years (well, a couple at least) and haven’t had a bad accident, yet.
    *statistic pulled out of a hat.

  40. 40
    chigau (違う)

    mastmaker #36
    You don’t need to drive with care and attention as long as everyone else is driving with care and attention.
    How could that plan fail?

  41. 41
    Alverant

    #33 Or drive off the trail and hurt themselves. Not to give any excuses but pedestrians are bad too. A lot of us are guilty of crossing streets against the lights when there are no cars coming and other assorted annoyances, but at least people are the most maneuverable and fastest to stop. Plus they’re not technically a vehicle.

  42. 42
    eggmoidal

    “You cannot type and drive, or read and drive, at the same time. It’s really that simple. So why are people trying?”

    I believe it is because they are addicted to texting.

  43. 43
    paulburnett

    unbound (#12) quoted a kid “she wasn’t texting, but that she was on facebook.”

    I discovered that I can update my Facebook status hands-free via Siri and my phone speaker while driving. But Siri cannot read the comments to me. Bummer.

  44. 44
    paulburnett

    Lofty (#38) wrote “*statistic pulled out of a hat.”

    37.6 per cent of statistics are made up on the spot.

  45. 45
    kevinkirkpatrick

    My kids are 7 and 5. I have no plans on ever letting them drive – cars will be driving themselves by the time they’d conventionally be receiving drivers licenses. So, no worries on that front.

  46. 46
    Inaji

    Mastmaker @ 36,

    I sure as hell hope we don’t share a location, you’re a danger.

  47. 47
    mastmaker

    @chigau(#39):

    That proves the point that I don’t make myself clear. What I meant to say was:

    I am a very safe driver, even when I am talking on the phone (bluetooth to my car audio) or listening to podcast or deep in thought, AS LONG AS I KEEP MY EYES 100% ON THE ROAD. I have observed myself devoting some part of the brain to the conversation or to listening while the rest of the brain is completely on driving task. I automatically scan all the cars around me. I speed up or slow down as the traffic allows. I allow others to merge into my line safely. I even avoid unexpected obstacles thrown at me (like a sudden merger or an occasional debris) which I reasonably can.

    This was possible only after about 7-10 years of regular driving, where I used to be hyper-alert. As the auto-pilot mechansim has taken hold, I have slowly allowed myself to wander a little, but only when on freeways or on my commute route. Never in an unfamiliar city or on vacation trips.

  48. 48
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Plus they’re not technically a vehicle.

    They are a wheeled, but not motorized, vehicle. They are subject to all the rules of the road as motorists, but at the discretion of local authorities, may be allowed to use public sidewalks. Too may bicyclists think they are glorified pedestrians. Only if their feet continually touch the ground.

  49. 49
    chigau (違う)

    mastmaker
    Your continued explanations do not make me feel any better about driving anywhere near you.
    Eyes are not the ONLY THING involved in safe driving.

  50. 50
    Hairhead, whose head is entirely filled with Too Much Stuff

    Hey, mastmaker @ 46: studies have shown that hand-free telephone talkers are just as high a risk as people who hold their phones in their hands. The distraction of the conversation itself is enough to render a driver dangerous, even when their eyes remain on the road. You’re dangerous.

    I have also seen cyclists riding on city streets, helmetless, cycling hands-free while they text, eyes down. I have met people who work with them: the former are medical professionals in ERs, the latter are called “organ donors.” (I worked for fifteen years with the worker’s compensation boards, insurance companies, and non-profits working with spinal cord and brain injuries).

    It may take a couple of decades, but driving-while-texting will eventually become as socially condemned as drunk-driving.

  51. 51
    mastmaker

    chigau (#48)

    I give up. Apparently I cannot put into words what I mean to say.

  52. 52
    mastmaker

    One last try:

    My brain seem to understand that driving is my primary task (or doing dishes: I do phone/podcast while doing dishes). I devote all the attention and processing power required to do the driving. Any residual amount of processing is given over to phone or podcast-listening. I have found absolutely no problem in breaking mid-conversation (or ignore the podcast stream no matter what was coming over) and devote more attention to the driving as required.
    Also, while in auto-pilot mode, I don’t so much as TRY to change lanes. It is just my lane and maintaining my control over it and going with the flow and making sure I watch the wheels of the car in front of me as well as the cars in the lanes to the left and right of me, to see if they try to merge in.

    As I said, I am not very good in explaining myself. I lose pretty much every single argument, no matter what it is about and what position I take.

  53. 53
    chigau (違う)

    mastmaker
    As long as you continue to believe that you have a brain function that is like an auto-pilot, you will continue to be a dangerous driver.

  54. 54
    Travis

    mastmaker,
    I think you are explaining yourself fairly well, it is just that what you keep explaining is not safe and your excuses for it fail.

  55. 55
    LewisX

    I see this problem of young people texting whilst driving as a subset of a wider problem that plagues adults in our society as well: the corrosive myth of multi-tasking that is a keystone of the management garble-waffle that seems to inform expectations of how we should live our lives if we are to be up to par, or be a good friend, or be capable of doing the job efficiently.

  56. 56
    barbyau

    #35: So passengers in cars, on buses, trains, and planes would all lose access. Or are you assuming there are only single passenger cars in which smart phones are whizzing around?

  57. 57
    ChasCPeterson

    I discovered that I can update my Facebook status hands-free via Siri and my phone speaker while driving.

    Why?
    Why is this necessary or even desirable?
    Who the fuck cares about your “Facebook status”?
    “Siri”?

    Jesus, I hate people.

  58. 58
    consciousness razor

    Jesus, I hate people.

    I’m a person too, Chas. We can hate people together.

  59. 59
    mithrandir

    mastmaker,

    The thing is, there’s quite a bit of real-world data that shows that any distraction from driving is dangerous. Your self-experience is based primarily on driving under normal circumstances, and we are suggesting that said self-experience is not a guide to how you would handle unexpected circumstances (such as being cut off, a large animal or crazed pedestrian running across the road, etc.). It is in those circumstances that the difference between being focused and distracted is the difference between a close call and an accident.

    None of this should be considered an insult to you – the human brain is not evolved for highway speeds and is ill suited to make these risk calculations. This is an occasion where you need to ignore how the situation feels to you and pay attention to the data.

  60. 60
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    You know, there’s no reason why the phone companies couldn’t adjust the cell phone towers to drop connection to phones which are traveling at a speed of more than, say, 10 mph. That would kill off both the texting and talking nuisances.

    I’m sure everyone who uses public transit will appreciate that.

  61. 61
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    My kids are 7 and 5. I have no plans on ever letting them drive – cars will be driving themselves by the time they’d conventionally be receiving drivers licenses.

    In a world where the most powerful country clings to the fucking foot-pound-second system out of sheer stubbornness?

  62. 62
    ChasCPeterson

    ok, that was a little over the top.
    It’s not so much people I hate as, well, I guess their priorities.
    Most of ‘em.

  63. 63
    kittehserf

    I’m sure everyone who uses public transit will appreciate that.

    ::snicker:: as a “Why don’t they turn that fucking stupid thing DOWN” traveller on public transport, that idea appeals to my schadenfreude.

    … Though you’d need PT that goes faster than 10mph, not a given in Melbourne.

  64. 64
    The Vicar (via Freethoughtblogs)

    @Azykyroth:

    So give the public transportation system their own WiFi hotspots, like Megabus does, which would give passengers Internet access on smartphones. Assuming, of course, that keeping people amused — the sole function of Internet access on smartphones on mass transit — is valuable enough to do this; since as far as I know every single smartphone has both free offline games and free e-book reader software with access to free e-books, I’m not sure you can make a successful argument that Internet access is actually required to occupy people on the bus.

    If mere Internet access is not enough — and as a public transportation rider, I’d say calls on the bus are super-annoying and should be stopped, but you may disagree — then find a way to shield the frame of the vehicles and install a low-power “tower” into the ceiling (or else rely on the phones to always use the nearest tower), so passengers won’t be moving with respect to the tower. Wrangle the protocols so that the bus/train-mounted tower is permitted to pass signals through even when moving. Not an insurmountable problem.

  65. 65
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Really, we need to stop pretending that this is a young people problem.
    Yes, there are several things coming together in teenagers, like being more likely to own and often use a smartphone and that risk-evaluation thingy, but we will only solve the problem if we, as a society in full, shun the use of phones while driving.
    Because as long as we talk about teens texting and driving (or talking on the phone and driving) we’re only addressing a small minority.
    I’ll give you three examples:
    1.) There are a damn many parents and grandparents who drive towards the school or the kindergarten while using their phones. Yes, grade school at 10 to 8, with lots of kids who are prone to cross the street without looking. These are not teens, they’re people between 20 and 70, and quite often the higher social class people, business-people who are actually late and “need” to make business calls while driving.

    2.) Mr. once got hit by a car’s mirror in the carpark. Yes, an area specifically designed for people to park their fucking cars. But apparently parking the car for 30 seconds was too much, so the driver talked on his phone and misjudged the distance between himself and the pedestrian. Since the window was open Mr. snatched the phone and threw it into the bushes. When the driver got upset about it Mr. offered to call the police where he could totally expalin that he just hit a pedestrian with his car while talking on his phone…

    3.) One of my friends is a cop. After using your mobile while driving was outlawed in Germany they noticed a phenomenon: People who got a ticket for using their phones would go to court. There, the trial would be opened, the driver would admit to it, pay the fine and the trial would be over while the officer who wrote the ticket was fuming that their time had been totally wasted because of course they had to show up as witnesses. Until they found out what was happening: Many people in Germany have a so-called “legal insurance” which covers your legal expenses if you need to sue somebody over your rights. But they also cover your ass if you commit an offence out of neglect or accidentially, say, like missing a stop sign or something like that. So the lawyers would tell people to protest against the ticket, go to court, admit to it. Then the lawyer would get their fee and pay the fine out of that. The whole cost, the whole waste of court and police time would be covered by the insurance. So the police started to write “deliberate” on the tickets, because it stands to reason that you cannot accidentially use your phone and the whole thing stopped because now the insurance wouldn’t cover it anymore.
    But why am I telling this: It shows that there was a broad consensus between offenders and lawyers that this was indeed not a problem. Endangering other people by using their mobile was NOT seen as a problem, it was seen as “police bullying poor drivers so we’re going to get back to the system.”

    So, none of these examples involves a teenager, so let’s stop pretending it was a problem with them meddling kids.

  66. 66
    Lofty

    Giliell

    Really, we need to stop pretending that this is a young people problem.

    It’s a problem of insufficiently educated drivers which may include a significant percentage of young people. This link (pdf) seems to suggest young people are more addicted to mobile phones than older people.

  67. 67
    sonofrojblake

    You cannot type and drive, or read and drive, at the same time. It’s really that simple. So why are people trying?

    You’re a scientist, you work it out. The kids in question have data, a LOT of it, gathered personally. They’ve driven while reading and typing EVERY DAY. Their friends, acquaintances, and parents (probably) drive while texting, or tweeting, or whatever, every day. Sure, there’s that one person they know/heard of who died, but hey, he was unlucky/not as good a driver as them/drunk/whatever.

    The inconvenient fact for your “argument” is that you demonstrably can type and drive at the same time. People are not merely trying, they are succeeding, not once or twice, but millions of times per day, all over the world. Telling people they aren’t able to do something that they know from personal experience that they’re perfectly capable of just makes you look stupid.

    Most of the time, you’ll text and drive and get away with it. The thing is, it won’t feel like you “got away with it”, unless you have a near miss that you recognise and learn from. Simply driving along and texting won’t feel like a near miss… but it is, every single time. And if you don’t learn from near misses, you’ll keep having them until you don’t miss… and then it’s too late to learn.

  68. 68
    throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble

    The inconvenient fact for your “argument” is that you demonstrably can type and drive at the same time.

    Demonstrably false. Attention isn’t a jam, able to be spread evenly over many sandwiches; rather, it’s a toothpick holding a sandwich together which you have to move from one sandwich to another, and as you do so, the one you took it out of immediately starts falling apart. PZ was right in saying that you cannot do both at the same time. Multitasking is a sham, an illusion. But you’re also right in that the illusion persists due to an inadequate and biased perception of what is being demonstrated. I just think you ran toward the wrong endzone since it seems all you ever care about is telling PZ how stupid he looks.

  69. 69
    Aaron Ginn

    Teens should drive manual transmission vehicles to keep their hands busy and their minds focused.

  70. 70
    logicpriest

    @64 Giliell
    You are entirely correct that this isn’t a young people thing. Distracted driving, as a whole, has always been the main cause of accidents. But so long as young people text more, it allows old people to blame young people and their strange ways. I grew up in and around metro areas, and I can tell you that the commuters have always done ridiculous shit while driving. Make up, shaving, newspapers, books. They get numb from the awful commute (something I completely understand – I drive several hours a day on 495 around D.C.) and believe in the magical auto-pilot. I’d love a self driving car, or a metro system that went more than a few places dead center of the city, but that is off topic :(

    That said, there is not a huge problem with music, podcasts, etc. Some minor distraction – one that can easily be ignored – is necessary for mental health on long commutes. And they can, in fact, aid in remaining awake and focused.

    Also, I’d ask that people stop claiming teens are addicted to texting. Socialization and the need for peer acceptance has always been part of human life and addiction isn’t simply texting when innapropriate. Addiction is an actual thing, with actual consequences, and not a catch all for anything them damned kids do that we didn’.

  71. 71
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    Aaron Ginn #68

    It’s also a problem here in the UK, where manual transmission is by far the norm.

  72. 72
    janiceintoronto

    While I don’t usually support ‘draconian’ punishments for offenses, I think Alaska has it right. 1 year in jail and up to $10,000 fine for texting while driving. Cause injury or death and the punishment skyrockets. http://dps.alaska.gov/AST/ABHP/hwysafety.aspx

    Should be the same everywhere.

  73. 73
    sirbedevere

    One of the things I like about riding my motorcycle is not being able to talk on the phone, read/send text messages, listen to the radio, etc. Though technology has made most of those things possible on a bike (and voice recognition texting is, sadly, on its way) I quite like the opportunity to alone with my thoughts for a while every day. And of course with all those texting/talking car drivers on the road one needs to have all one’s concentration and alertness available on a bike.

    Last year I was on my way home from school when I got pulled over for speeding: 45mph on a non-residential, divided 4-lane with wide median that surprisingly (to me) had a speed limit of 30. Just as I was pulling out my license for the officer we heard a loud crunch and looked up to see a small SUV upside down on the other side of the median. The cop and I both just stared at it in stunned silence for several seconds because it was a straight, flat road with no corner or intersection in clear, dry conditions. How could someone drive off the side of his lane and hit a parked car hard enough to flip his vehicle over in such conditions? Yeah, texting.

    The driver wasn’t seriously injured but was unable to get out of the car so they had to call in the fire department (mid rush hour) to extricate him. I got out of my speeding ticket so it worked out well for me. But it wouldn’t have if I’d been on the other side of the median when this twit had his altercation with the laws of physics…

  74. 74
    loopyj

    They get lots of practice moving themselves around without watching where they’re going long before they drive. I’m regularly nearly walked/skateboarded into by young (and older) people with their faces buried in their phones. It’s like walking around with your hands over your eyes. “Oh, I can get around just fine using my peripheral vision.” No, no you can’t.

  75. 75
    throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble

    To answer what may be a possible objection to my 67, I think the difference in your interpretation, sonofrojblake, is that you presume PZ meant “cannot” in a physical-act sense, while I’m presuming PZ meant “cannot” in an effective sense. The reason I do not presume the former is because sitting your bum in a seat during a lecture doesn’t necessarily mean you’re fully focused on the presentation, especially if you’re making googly eyes at the woman in the third row. Sure, you’ve got your fingers on your pencil, pencil on paper, and you’re making movement with your hand while some words are coming into your ears – but would you really say that what you were doing was “writing” when it turns out to be illegible?

    This is the sense of “cannot” that I think makes more sense in this case since driving is an attentive act, and not an act of being present in the driver’s seat with your hands on the instruments. Much like “writing” and “scribbling” is the difference in the lecture scenario, “driving” and “crashing” is the difference when not being attentive. Presuming PZ meant “cannot” in a physical-act sense alone is contextually anemic.

  76. 76
    chigau (違う)

    sonofrojblake #66
    People drink and drive every day.
    Usually nothing bad happens.
    We should get rid of those stupid laws.
    Right?

  77. 77
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Lofty
    The fact that young people are disproportionately affected by a phenomenon doesn’t make it a young people problem.
    Sure, you need to tailor your efforts to your target group, but pretending that there is only one target group is actively harmful.
    Because even if drivers under 25 are twice as likely to text and drive than those over 25, there are still many more drivers over 25.

  78. 78
    No One

    * are u on ur way?*

    * no*

    *u’l be late for the meting. what r u doing?*

    * I had to pull over and answer a text*

  79. 79
    hillaryrettig

    >You cannot type and drive, or read and drive, at the same time. It’s really that simple. So why are people trying?

    A precise answer to this question can be found in my friend Tim Hollister’s book Not So Fast. Tim tragically lost his teenaged son Reid in a single-car crash, and has written a data-driven book that explores the reasons (developmental, social, legal, other) why teens are unsafe drivers, and also how parents can protect their kid.

    http://nsfteendriving.com/not-so-fast.html

  80. 80
    ajbjasus

    Yup I was out cycling a couple of weeks ago and was confronted by a woman driving on the wrong side of the road whilst texting. I was furious. Attitudes do need to change, but, as an aside, one of the leading cell-phone companies in the UK is siill called “Carphone Warehouse”

  81. 81
    blf

    I had to pull over and answer a text

    Had to? Why? Just ignore the phone: Turn it off, or set it to silent. (Or don’t even bother carrying one.)

    You can check to see if there is anything important you missed during your break-from-driving. You do take breaks when driving, don’t you?

    (I realize the comment I quoted above is sarcasm, but a partial peeve of mine if this notion you “have” to answer the phone. No, you do not, unless it is your job.)

  82. 82
    chigau (違う)

    blf #80
    Very true.
    I never answer the phone.
    I listen to messages.

  83. 83
    Inaji

    blf:

    (Or don’t even bother carrying one.)

    This is me. I treat my cell phone as if it were a land line. It stays at home. Basically, I have one for emergencies, being as I’m in the sticks and on my own much of the time.

  84. 84
  85. 85
    sonofrojblake

    Huh? At least two people seem to be under the impression I’m *defending* texting while driving. Uh, no.

    The question posed was, “why are people trying to do this thing which cannot be done?”, and my answer is “Because they and other people they know do it every day without incident and they judge the risk to be small”.

    And perhaps I wasn’t pedantically, nitpickily specific enough about what I thought would be blindingly obvious: that “you demonstrably can type and drive at the same time” actually means, in reality, “you demonstrably can type while at the wheel of a moving vehicle without crashing it, most of the time”.

    Because, you see, for most drivers, and in particular inexperienced drivers, “sitting at the wheel of a moving vehicle” = “driving”.

    I had thought my last paragraph adequately explained my position – that when you take your attention away from driving to do anything, be it texting, adjusting the radio, applying makeup, shaving, cleaning your teeth or lighting a cigarette (all things I’ve personally seen other people doing in my rear view mirror at 70mph), you are a passenger. You’re sitting in the driving seat, but for those seconds, you’re a passenger. And you usually get away with it. Everyone usually gets away with it. We ALL know this. We all know that

    The failure here is of risk assessment, where Risk = Consequence * Likelihood. Inexperienced drivers look at the business of texting while driving and make a judgement on likelihood. Their judgement is skewed, because their data is limited, incomplete and subject to deliberate bias (i.e. that one guy they know who DID crash while texting is an idiot, so he doesn’t count). They rate likelihood so low that they don’t even bother to factor it with consequence. But the reality is likelihood is higher than you think and consequence includes serious injury or death. You probably wouldn’t get on a theme park ride with those odds… or would you? http://www.domainofdeath3.com/actionpark/

    In summary, I agree with those who advocate that texting while driving should be subject to severe penalties at least as harsh as those for drunk driving, and to anyone who couldn’t pick that up from my first post, I apologise for overestimating you.

  86. 86
    chigau (違う)

    sonofrojblake
    bless your heart

  87. 87
    throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble

    sonofrojblake 84:

    And perhaps I wasn’t pedantically, nitpickily specific enough about what I thought would be blindingly obvious: that “you demonstrably can type and drive at the same time” actually means, in reality, “you demonstrably can type while at the wheel of a moving vehicle without crashing it, most of the time”.

    You used contextual presumptions to shape the perceptions of the hypothetical people in your head who think PZ looks stupid for using “cannot” in the sense that would have made him look stupid (again, in your own head.) Of course I’m going to get nit-fucking-picky about that because your perception does not trump reality when it doesn’t match the most accurate possible reading of PZ’s original sentence.

  88. 88
    throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble

    To put it bluntly, fuck off with your micro-aggression and condescension, sonofrojblake.

  89. 89
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Davenash @16:
    Perhaps your buddy could chime in (or anyone else who has flown an F-18), but I find your comparison between a jet and an automobile to be bizarre.
    Of course, the operator of each has a good deal of information to process, and should be concentrated on the task at hand. Automobile drivers have one significant concern that pilots have *much* less need to worry about: people.

    Yes, pilots have other jets to be aware of at times, or helicopters, birds or jumbo jets. They don’t, however, have to worry about being on the interstate driving at 75 mph with an 18-wheeler in front of you, 3 bikers behind you, and car after car zooming past you on either side. They don’t have to worry about driving through downtown Anywheresville with other drivers, stop lights, street signs, pedestrians, etc (and of course bad weather makes things *that* much worse). Don’t get me wrong, I have no doubt that pilots have a great many things to focus on, but how often do pilots have to worry about 20 plane pileups or drunk drivers or people in a crosswalk?

    The presence of people-who are quite often unpredictable-adds another element that drivers should be cognizant of. Changing the radio station, rummaging through the glove box, and yes, adjusting your GPS are all distractions that cause driver focus to shift, however temporarily. Trying to maintain a steady speed, while noting the flow of traffic all around you, making a good attempt to check for any potential disruptions in traffic–oh, look ambulance with flashing lights or funeral procession–thats not just a one time time deal. These or other concerns like them are always going on while driving.
    There are always multiple targets vying for our attention. And I am just talking about driving alone. Add in a spouse, phone conversation, singing kids in the back or a sick dog and you have just massively increased the number of things that can take up your attention.

    Lets also not forget there are dozens of other people around you, who should be focusing on the road, but who are more than likely dealing with some distractions as well.

    Distractions while driving can be separated into three distinct groups: visual, manual, and cognitive. Visual distraction involves taking one’s eyes off the road, while manual distraction involves taking one’s hands off the wheel. Cognitive distraction occurs when an individual’s focus is not directly on the act of driving and his mind “wanders”. All distractions compromise the safety of not only the driver, but passengers, bystanders, and other individuals on the road and within the surrounding environment. Distractions influenced by technology, especially text messaging or talking on the phone, require a combination of visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver, thus making these types of distractions particularly dangerous.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distracted_driving

    If you think operating a GPS doesn’t qualify as a distraction you would be wrong. Depending on the type of GPS (on your phone or dashboard mounted), all 3 distractions could be applicable, or just 2 (a few cab drivers I have had use the dashboard GPS and program the destination before they start driving, so barring any changes, there should not be a GPS related manual distraction. But there is still the potential for cognitive and/or visual distraction). This may be part of the reason it is illegal to use hand held GPS devices in CA.

  90. 90
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    sonofrojblake

    I think you were trying to say this.

    There’s a big problem in that many people don’t apply published statistics to themselves, or never see them.

    They “prove” to themselves that they can text whilst driving by successfully doing so, until the odds catch up with them. By which time it’s too late.

    We need better education on the matter, so that people are made aware of the error they’re making.

    Is that the observation you’re trying to make?

  91. 91
    sonofrojblake

    @ Daz, 89: Precisely.

    Better education, plus harsher punishments, along the lines of driving drunk or high.

  92. 92
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    sonofrojblake

    Notice what I did? You said texting while driving is demonstratively safe. I made it clear that I meant people think they’ve demonstrated that it’s safe. Your version is in contradiction to the OP, which sets a negative light on whatever you go on to say.

    Brevity is your friend. Never take a paragraph to say what can be said in a sentence. Never take an essay to say what can be said in a paragraph.

  93. 93
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    1- I really dislike driving.. There are so many elements to keep track of. I am puzzled by those who say driving relaxes them. How can you relax when there is so much you need to be attentive to? The need to be on alert puts me somewhat on edge. Are these people just so much better at driving than I am or is it something else?
    (In thinking about what it means to be a good driver I have to wonder how many people confuse the ability to operate a vehicle with the qualities that make a good driver. Here is a list of characteristics a good driver should possess: Concentration, Anticipation, Skill, Attitude, Knowledge, & Self Discipline.)

    2- How many times has a teenager seen their parents engaged in some form of distracted driving?
    Do teens see their parents shaving while driving and whether consciously or not, begin to think such an activity is ok?

    3- Moreover, how often has said parent been distracted and nothing bad happened?
    “If nothing bad happens to mom or dad, how much should I worry about texting and driving?”

    4- How much experience do teens have driving in less than ideal conditions?
    It has been so long since I took the drivers test, that I do not recall how much driving experience I received, but I wonder if acquiring a drivers license should require more experience behind the wheel.
    We know that people-teens, young adult, seniors-text, or use the GPS or change the radio station. Is the solution to distracted driving served best by making everything illegal? Or should greater effort be made to educate people in general (though teens may need extra focus so they can avoid the bad habits their parents develoed) about the risks of distracted driving (both classroom and practice driving)?

    Graduated Driver Licensing:

    The other major strategy that states have increasingly adopted involves changes in testing and licensure for new drivers. Standard testing for a license to operate a motor vehicle assesses knowledge of traffic safety rules and operation of the vehicle. Students may prepare for the written and road tests by memorizing information about speed limits and traffic rules and by practicing parking or navigating intersections. The tests generally do not assess the capacity to handle more complex scenarios, nor do they require students to identify potential hazards or to address unexpected circumstances, distractions, or peer pressures that are common features of normal driving conditions.

    Recognizing the high risks teens face in their first months on the road and the important opportunity that testing and licensure offer to shape their driving behavior, many states have adopted some version of graduated driver licensing (GDL). As the name implies, GDL is a means of slowing down the process of obtaining the license, controlling the circumstances under whikch teens drive while they are learning, and thus increasing their exposure to higher risk conditions (such as nighttime driving and driving with teen passengers) in a gradual, controlled way.

    Typically, the GDL process has three phases—an extended supervised practice stage for teens possessing learner’s permits, a provisional licensure stage during which restrictions are imposed, and then full licensure. Many states have adopted specific practice requirements for the first phase, such as 30 or 40 hours of supervised driving, to supplement any driver education classes teens might take. The provisional license stage includes restrictions on teen exposure to circumstances that are known risk factors.

    [...]
    A program called Checkpoints, developed by researchers at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, provides a structure in which parents can work with their teens to reduce risk conditions during the first 12 months of driving. The program uses a combination of tools, including persuasive communications, such as videos and newsletters, written agreements between parents and their children, and limits on high-risk driving privileges. A controlled study, in which some families participated in the Checkpoints program and others received comparable driving safety materials but not all of the Checkpoints interventions, showed that Checkpoints families imposed and maintained significantly more restrictions on their teenagers’ driving. However, the study sample was not large enough to show ultimate effects on crash rates.

    The Checkpoints program is based on the goals of changing both parents’ and teens’ perception of their risk, as well as their expectations regarding reasonable limitations—in order to decrease risky driving, traffic violations, and crashes. Although initial results for Checkpoints are positive, Simons-Morton noted, additional research on changes in novice driving performance over the first 18 months of driving, on the nature and effects of supervised driving, on other ways to deliver support and improve parental management, and on ways to incorporate findings about the process of learning to drive into driver education and testing and licensure programs would be of great benefit.

  94. 94
    kevinkirkpatrick

    Just a quick follow up to my earlier sentiment – humans are horrible drivers. Sure, beginner drivers are the worst of the worst, and professional drivers are merely the best of the worst; by ANY measure, all humans are orders of magnitude away from “good drivers”:

    Limited perception: Checking rearview… who’s watching the truck in front of you??? Looking in front of you… what is that motorcycle in your blindspot doing???
    Reaction times: Car in front of you brakes suddenly… and 750,000 (!!!) microseconds later, you realize “that car just braked!”
    Decision making: Should I apply the brakes or swerve?
    Handling: How hard should I hit the brakes; what direction should I turn the wheels?
    etc., etc., etc….

    Autonomous vehicles can’t get here soon enough; although I remain optimistic that they will be on the market within the next 5 years, a plurality within 10 years, and mandatory within 15 years. US traffic fatalities will drop from 40k/year to < 100 per year.

  95. 95
    Inaji

    Kevin @ 93:

    Autonomous vehicles can’t get here soon enough; although I remain optimistic that they will be on the market within the next 5 years, a plurality within 10 years, and mandatory within 15 years. US traffic fatalities will drop from 40k/year to < 100 per year.

    You’re much more than optimistic, you’re downright silly. For one thing, reliance on petrol needs to be reduced, severely reduced. For another thing, what in the fuckety fuck makes you think everyone in the U.S. will just be able to waltz out and purchase a wonder vehicle? A whole lot of people can’t even afford a hybrid, ffs.

    Rather than relying on the production and takeover of wonder vehicles, you could always teach your sproggen about public transport, and the joys of walking and bicycling.

  96. 96
    Pteryxx

    footnote to Tony #92:

    Typically, the GDL process has three phases—an extended supervised practice stage for teens possessing learner’s permits, a provisional licensure stage during which restrictions are imposed, and then full licensure. Many states have adopted specific practice requirements for the first phase, such as 30 or 40 hours of supervised driving, to supplement any driver education classes teens might take.

    Frequently “supervised driving” means “with a parent” or someone approved by a parent, which can pose difficulties for estranged teens or for those whose families can’t afford a car, can’t drive due to disability, or themselves never learned to drive. So graduated licensing laws often have the side effect of closing out disadvantaged teens, which then affects their ability to find jobs.

    An example from North Carolina:

    A limited learner’s permit lets your teen drive from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. with a supervising licensed driver seated beside the teen driver. A supervising licensed driver shall be a parent, grandparent, or guardian of the permit holder or a responsible adult approved by the parent or guardian. A supervising driver shall have been licensed to drive for at least 5 years. After six months with your teen’s limited learner’s permit, your teen is permitted to drive at any time with a supervised licensed driver. Once your teen has practiced driving for at least 12 months with a supervised driver and has had no convictions for motor vehicle violations or seat belt/mobile telephone infraction in the preceding 6 months, your teen is then allowed to get a limited provisional license.
    Limited Provisional License

    When your teen turns 16 and has had his or her limited learner’s permit for at least 12 months, your teen can go to the local DMV to take the driving test. Once your teen does that, he or she can receive a limited provisional license. Make sure you come with your teen to sign the application form or provide your teen with a notarized signature on the form ahead of time.

    http://teendriving.aaa.com/NC/supervised-driving/licensing-and-state-laws

    I’ve heard that in some states, adult mentor programs (Big Brother/ Big Sister type, if not them specifically) can help teens with the supervised driving requirement.

    Here’s one in Australia: http://www.youthmentoring.org.au/program_details.php?pgDetails=NTE4

    The Transport Accident Commission, (TAC), funded VicRoads L2P – Learner Driver Mentor program assists learners under 21 years of age, without access to a supervising driver or vehicle, to gain the 120 hours of logged driving experience required to apply for a Probationary Licence. Young people are matched with a fully licensed volunteer Mentor, and use a sponsored vehicle to gain supervised driving experience.

  97. 97
    nakarti

    Al Dente: I suppose it would probably have the wrong effect : Bumper sticker: Texting and driving, Like Surgery with Rockets!

  98. 98
    kevinkirkpatrick

    Caine @ 94

    Petrol reliance is orthogonal to cars being equipped with technology to drive themselves. Not sure how to address that.

    From a costing perspective, I apologize for not being more clear: My expectations refer to market share of new car purchases, so I’m only referring to people who are in the market to buy a new car to begin with. Implied in my expectations is that self-driving cars will be available for purchase to wealthy consumers in 5 years, as an affordable option within 10 years, and mandatory within 15 for all new car purchases. Of course, those not in the market to buy their own will still benefit as the ratio of autonomous cars to human-navigated cars climbs.

    So, I’d answer your question, “what in the fuckety fuck makes you think everyone in the U.S. will just be able to waltz out and purchase a wonder vehicle” with “Nothing at all makes me think that, and I’m sorry for writing in an ambiguous way that gave that impression”.

    Anyway, on the subject of economics… a whole new industry will be coming into play: ubiquitous fleets of driverless taxis, which will quickly become more affordable than the current purchase+insurance+maintenance+fuel+tax+etc costs associated with car ownership; and vastly more flexible and convenient than any public transportation system currently on the planet. I have no doubt that Google will be leading the charge in this venue; it’s undoubtedly the revenue stream that has a search-engine company working so diligently on autonomous vehicles. It’ll take some time to get there, maybe 20 – 25 years, but ultimately I expect people will be able to subcribe to low-end transportation-service for $50 / month or so; e.g., far less than what they’d pay for just cut-rate insurance today. I’m excited not just about what this will mean for those who can’t afford vehicles of their own, but also for the societal liberation it will bring to those with physical conditions that limit or prevent their ability to drive (e.g. those suffering from poor vision, physical immobility, etc.).

  99. 99
    Rich Woods

    @Daz #91:

    Brevity is your friend. Never take a paragraph to say what can be said in a sentence. Never take an essay to say what can be said in a paragraph.

    …Never take a sentence to say what can be said in a.

    Sorry, couldn’t help it….

  100. 100
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    kevinkirkpatrick:

    Uh, have you ever used a computer?

  101. 101
    Lofty

    Giliell @76

    The fact that young people are disproportionately affected by a phenomenon doesn’t make it a young people problem.

    Fact is a young driver is more likely to be distracted by things while driving. Teach em while young so they carry their good habits into maturity. They don’t stay young for long. But yes, it’s not specifically a problem of just young people.

  102. 102
    kevinkirkpatrick

    Azkyroth @ 99,

    A timely article:
    http://www.cnet.com.au/google-self-driving-cars-safer-than-professional-drivers-339345799.htm

    Speaking at the RoboBusiness robotics conference in California last week, Google director of self-driving cars Chris Urmson said that the data collected from Google’s self-driving Lexus and Prius cars reveals that the cars are better drivers than humans, MIT Technology Review reports.

    Urmson had already noted in a blog post in August last year that, at that time, the cars had collectively driven over 482,700 kilometres without causing a single incident. The new data shows that when the cars are being driven by human operators, they accelerate and brake more sharply than when driving themselves — and that the software is better at maintaining a safe distance behind other cars.

    “We’re spending less time in near-collision states,” Urmson said. “Our car is driving more smoothly and more safely than our trained professional drivers.”

  103. 103
    Joe

    @Tony! The Immorally Inferior Queer Shoop!, #92

    How much experience do teens have driving in less than ideal conditions?

    In New South Wales, Australia, you are required to do 120 hours of supervised driving, of which at least 20 hours has to be at night time. Still not a huge amount, but it is better than nothing. That said, there is no requirement for you to have any experience with driving in the rain (which is a good thing, frankly – I learned to drive during a drought, so it hardly ever rained). I also learned to drive in the country, so I got very little experience driving in the city.

    @nakarti, #96

    Bumper sticker: Texting and driving, Like Surgery with Rockets!

    There are signs up around Canberra with messages such as “Drive n text, u b next”, “Missing a call won’t kill you” (with kill highlighted in red), and my personal favourite: “Drink and drive, die in a ditch”. I have no idea how effective they are.

  104. 104
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    Rich Woods #98

    !

  105. 105
    Davros

    My Parents had a rule that i have continued down the generations

    the Driver is the Boss
    if the driver wants something it will be done
    the Heating cooling is for the driver to decide
    Radio/CD is the drivers choice
    the driver has control over windows
    the driver says frog you jump
    the drivers word is THE LAW
    the driver is the supreme being OBEY at all times

    once you park then you are Human again

  106. 106
    proudfootz

    Since it has been established that any kind of distraction can make a driver a less safe driver – what’s the progress on banning radios, tape players, CD players, etc from automobiles?

    And shouldn’t we require no passengers in cars because of the obvious difficulty there might be a conversation?

  107. 107
    chigau (違う)

    proudfootz #105
    Quite right.
    Everyone should just stay home.

  108. 108
    anteprepro

    Alternatively: Robot chauffeurs for all!

  109. 109
    Lofty

    anteprepro:

    Robot chauffeurs for all!

    Shoals of competing driverless taxis, ready to hack each other to win the highest number of customers. Or worse. Oh, yes, dystopias can be entertaining!

  110. 110
    sonofrojblake

    @ kevinkirkpatrick:

    , I apologize for not being more clear: … Implied in my expectations is [implication that should be blindingly obvious]. [...]

    So, I’d answer your question, “what in the fuckety fuck makes you think [strawman]” with “Nothing at all makes me think that, and I’m sorry for writing in an ambiguous way that gave that impression”.

    Don’t imply anything. Don’t take anything for granted. Don’t assume people will be willing or able to make inferences.

    Explain every single thing you mean. Do it in short sentences. Use short words. Misunderstandings are never failures of comprehension, they are *always* failures of expression.

  111. 111
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    kevinkirkpatrick #97

    It’ll take some time to get there, maybe 20 – 25 years, but ultimately I expect people will be able to subcribe to low-end transportation-service for $50 / month or so; e.g., far less than what they’d pay for just cut-rate insurance today.

    In twenty-five years, we’ll have buses and metro-train services?

  112. 112
    kevinkirkpatrick

    @sonofrojblake 109, @ Caine

    Still working on this. In my earlier apology I used the phrase “Implied in my expectations is”. Even as I typed that, it felt like I wasn’t finding the correct words. Of course that wasn’t implied in my statements (if I believed it were, I’d not actually have anything to apologize for). Unfortunately, after sounding out a few other awkward-sounding variants, I stuck with that phrase. Short sentence: I suck. I now see the phrase I was looking for was “What I should have said is”. In fact, substituing that in place of “implied by” colors the whole apologetic paragraph exactly how I’d intended it to come across.

    From a costing perspective, I apologize for not being more clear: My expectations refer to market share of new car purchases, so I’m only referring to people who are in the market to buy a new car to begin with. What I should have said is that self-driving cars will be available for purchase to wealthy consumers in 5 years, as an affordable option within 10 years, and mandatory within 15 for all new car purchases.

    Anyway, trying to keep your advice in mind for future posting, thanks sonofrojblake.

  113. 113
    kevinkirkpatrick

    @Daz,

    In twenty-five years, we’ll have buses and metro-train services?

    Well, yes. What I was saying is that we’ll also have affordable point-to-point, on-demand transportation services. My mother, then in her 80′s, will be able to go to the mall, the grocery store, visit her friends, come to my place for dinner, go to her great-grand-children’s soccer games, and do so on any timeline she’d like without any dependency on the schedules of others.

  114. 114
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    What I was saying is that we’ll also have affordable point-to-point, on-demand transportation services.

    And this would be different from privately-owned transport, because…?

  115. 115
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    Oops. Prob’ly obvious, but my #113 was @kevinkirkpatrick #112

  116. 116
    kevinkirkpatrick

    @ Daz
    My mother, in her 80′s, will have all the benefits of a privately-owned vehicle, without the following concerns:
    * car purchase
    * car storage
    * property taxes on car
    * car emissions inspection
    * car safety inspections
    * car registration
    * car insurance
    * car maintenance
    * parking costs
    * filling gas tank
    * her vision, hearing, reflexes, and other physiological attributes being of sufficient condition to operate a motor vehicle safely

    For what it’s worth, even now she absolutely lights up at this possibility; particularly in lieu of her father being in a situation where he’s currently forced to live a somewhat isolated existence – far, far more dependent on others than what his current physical capacity should limit him to.

  117. 117
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    kevinkirkpatrick #116

    My apologies. I didn’t realise you’d changed topic. Yes, I can see what you describe being a valuable service for those who need it. What say we call it, oh I dunno… a taxi service?

    But, in the general context of road-use and road-safety…

    It doesn’t cut down traffic on the roads; the vehicles providing this service will be, in effect, taxi-cabs ferrying around single people or small groups. It doesn’t, in itself, provide any extra safety on the road, given that professional drivers appear to be just as bad at basic road-safety as non-professionals. It doesn’t cut down the amount of pollutants in vehicle emissions.

    In fact, if people use such on-demand, individualised services rather than mass-transport, it increases the amount of traffic, leading to more vehicles being on the road, more traffic jams and more pollutants. And more accidents.

  118. 118
    chrisreynolds

    If only if could be arranged for everyone to have a not too serious accident in the first few weeks after having their licence – so they quickly learn how easy it is. I had my first one about a month after passing my driving test, nearly 60 years ago, when my brakes failed to work properly after driving through flood water, and fortunately the only damage was a scrape. However suddenly finding you no longer had full control of the car is really scary …

  119. 119
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    Because there’s a fine for talking on the phone and driving, and texting is easier to hide. You can even put the phone down and concentrate on driving without alarming anyone.

  120. 120
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    Seriously, though, if it’s that urgent you can get off the road.

  121. 121
    kevinkirkpatrick

    @Daz,

    I’m having trouble replying to your reponse, at it very much indicates you haven’t read much of anything I’ve written.

    Me, upthread:

    Anyway, on the subject of economics… a whole new industry will be coming into play: ubiquitous fleets of driverless taxis, which will quickly become more affordable…

    Daz:

    My apologies. I didn’t realise you’d changed topic. Yes, I can see what you describe being a valuable service for those who need it. What say we call it, oh I dunno… a taxi service?

    An side: “It’s just a driverless taxi service” sounds so much like, “Pssh… they’re just horseless carriages”.
    Perhaps a better analogy: “What’s the big deal with washing machines? They aren’t going to change much around the household; they don’t do anything house servants can’t do.”

    Me (upthread):

    “…humans are horrible drivers. Sure, beginner drivers are the worst of the worst, and professional drivers are merely the best of the worst; by ANY measure, all humans are orders of magnitude away from “good drivers”:

    Me (upthread, citing a news article):

    “Chris Urmson said that the data collected from Google’s self-driving Lexus and Prius cars reveals that the cars are better drivers than humans… Urmson had already noted in a blog post in August last year that, at that time, the cars had collectively driven over 482,700 kilometres without causing a single incident… “We’re spending less time in near-collision states,” Urmson said. “Our car is driving more smoothly and more safely than our trained professional drivers.

    Daz:

    “It doesn’t, in itself, provide any extra safety on the road, given that professional drivers appear to be just as bad at basic road-safety as non-professionals.

    Aside #2: please do scroll up and read that whole article I linked to – I’d like to hear your thoughts on it.

    Finally, as for the issue of pollutants – again, mostly orthogonal to whether a man or machine is steering the car, but I’d argue that it’d most likely be a wash. Personal vehicle owners buy cars big enough to meet the greatest of their expected capacity needs… hence single drivers drive 8-seater SUVs all week long to ensure they can get their family around on the weekends. But it’s such a minor quibble – 40,000 people in this country die each year.

  122. 122
    kevinkirkpatrick

    Not sure how I lost the tail of the sentence.
    “But it’s such a minor quibble – 40,000 people in this country die each year; arguing to maintain such a horrific status quo as a means to – maybe – reduce air pollution by some insignificant percent is ludicrous.

  123. 123
    Lofty

    Driverless cars will be great, less pollution from oil spills from crashes whilst the operator is distracted/texting, less pollution from smooth co-ordinated vehicle flow. I hope to have access to them when I get to a ripe old age. Much better than some poor inexperienced taxi driver in control.

  124. 124
    chigau (違う)

    I’m quite sure that the Mars Colony will have only KITTs for transportation.

  125. 125
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    Re the name of the service (taxi), point taken. I’d forgotten what you originally called it. My bad. I do, though, feel that practical driverless vehicles are a lot further away than such optimistic press-releases give the impression of. That said, much of the technology used to detect and avoid obstacles, other vehicles and so on could just as easily be used as driver-warning aids. A good interim solution, I’d say.

    Not sure what your point is, regarding professional drivers. As far as that goes, I was in agreement with you. My point was that adding yet more (human-driven) taxis instead of improving mass-transport, merely puts yet more unsafe drivers onto our roads.

    SUVs, yes. They are a problem. In the UK the annual road-tax increases with engine-size, which seemed to slow the demand at least partly. (They have replaced Volvos as the motorcyclists bete noir, mind.)

    But it’s such a minor quibble – 40,000 people in this country die each year; arguing to maintain such a horrific status quo as a means to – maybe – reduce air pollution by some insignificant percent is ludicrous.

    Huh? Where did I defend the status quo? I merely said I thought your solution was, if not impractical, over-optimistic in its time-scale, and—whilst fossil-fuel remains the chief source of energy—wrongly focussed on individual, rather than mass, transport.

  126. 126
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    Damn, done it again. My previous was @kevinkirkpatrick #121, 122.

  127. 127
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Markita Lynda:
    I agree with you.
    Pull over if you feel the call or text is important. Many people “know” this, yet do not follow it (I am one of them. Well, was. Car accident months ago ((not phone related)). I did try to minimize my use of the phone while driving, but still any use is a distraction, no matter my rationalization. When I get a car again, I intend to work on this).
    How do we reduce or eliminate this problem?

    Make it illegal?
    Laws against texting while driving (TWD) could work to reduce texting related accidents. However, such a reduction may be short lived (On my phone right now, so I cannot pull up the pdf and quote from it. Perhaps someone else can..?). And not all states have the same type of ban. My state of Florida just enacted a new law prohibiting TWD–as a secondary offense. Which means a driver has to be pulled over for another offense. Then they can get a $30 ticket for TWD. It does not appear the new law is a serious attempt to stop or reduce TWD. Heck, even if all states had the same laws, there are not enough officers on the roads to enforce this law.

    Which brings us back to the original problem. Do we need a shift on a cultural level? Is there a deeper problem than TWD? How do we get to the root?

  128. 128
    ChasCPeterson

    Misunderstandings are never failures of comprehension, they are *always* failures of expression.

    lol.
    How long you been on the internet?

  129. 129
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Daz @125:
    (anecdote) My recent vehiclelessness (my, that does not roll off the tongue well) has resulted in taking taxis everywhere. I have noticed many drivers have bad habits, just as non taxi drivers. So yeah, adding more is not going to increase highway safety. If the drivers were made to adhere to professional standards, perhaps it would be different. As it stands, like many Americans, they probably think they are good drivers:

    While most Americans say they are good drivers and rate others as poor drivers, it appears they’re in a state of denial. Two-thirds of drivers interviewed for a recent Allstate survey rated themselves as excellent or very good drivers, but many admit to unsafe driving practices that put them and others on the road at risk:

    Forty percent admit to driving more than 20 miles per hour over the speed limit, with men more likely to speed than women (48% versus 30%).

    Almost half (45%) have driven while very tired, to the point of nearly falling asleep.

    Fifteen percent have driven while intoxicated, with men much more likely than women to have driven drunk (23% of men versus 6% of women).

    About one-third (34%) have sent a text message or e-mail while driving, but the tendency changes by age: Drivers 18 to 29 years of age are the most likely to text while driving (63%) and ages 30 to 44 are very likely to text (58%).

    Over half report having received a speeding ticket or other moving violation. Of those drivers who have gotten a ticket, 44% say they have received three or more tickets. More men than women get tickets (61% versus 46%).

    Why do we blame other people for driving badly but excuse ourselves for the same behavior? Psychologist Chris Allen says it’s not unusual in driving or other behaviors.

    “When we do something ‘bad,’ say run a red light or pass dangerously, we tend to make an external attribution, such as ‘Well, I was late for a doctor’s appointment’ or ‘I was distracted by something,”’ says Allen, a psychologist in Syracuse, New York. “When someone else drives poorly or we hear about it, we tend to make an internal attribution about the person’s character, such as ‘He must be a bad driver’ or even ‘What a jerk.’”

    http://www.cnn.com/2011/08/22/living/good-bad-drivers/

  130. 130
    Lofty

    Tony!

    How do we get to the root?

    Well, it’s people you see, those squishy creatures that imagine they are rational and above average in ability. You need to show them that they are not actually all that good. Give them harder tests to pass. A car license is waay too easy to obtain in many countries. But of course this may cost someone votes so it won’t happen.

  131. 131
    Jadehawk

    what the US needs is more mass transport, not driverless personal transport. A future with no mass transport but with fuckloads of individual robot-cars = nightmare. Everywhere will turn into L.A. :-/

  132. 132
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    I think that Alverant @41 meant that pedestrians are not vehicles. That’s true, but distracted walkers emphasize the point about texting by walking into the sides of moving vehicles.

    Cyclists need to act like drivers and not kids. They are required to obey traffic laws. Cutting to the right of vehicles turning right because “bicycles belong on the right” is a bad idea. Popping on and off the sidewalk is more dangerous than riding on the road in a predictable fashion: 2/3 of accidents involve a cyclist riding on the sidewalk or just coming off the sidewalk into the road.

    It is distracting to talk on the phone although conversations could be limited to,
    “I’m stuck in traffic” or “I’ll be there in ten minutes,” which would minimize the tendency for the brain to “go elsewhere” visualizing the speaker or ideas.

    Since we know that it’s the conversation that’s dangerous, why is it legal for police and taxi drivers to use car-to-car radio?

  133. 133
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    It’s clear from Tony’s Scientifical Facts that men should not be allowed to drive, because Gender Essentialism Rules! [/sarcasm]

    I’d love to see mass transit of the step-on, step-off variety with headways of no more than two or three minutes everywhere. Even small towns could run a bus or three. My original dream was for golf carts in town for the borrowing, but teenagers & drunks.

  134. 134
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    I will admit to texting occasionally, if it’s important, while caught in traffic. As in, stationary. But the second things start moving, I put the phone on the passenger seat. No text is so important that it’s worth my life or others’.

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