Distracted Driving Study Could Mean More Work For Illinois Lawmakers
Last year Illinois lawmakers banned the use of hand-held devices while behind the wheel. Why? Safety reasons, I suppose. But nobody seems to know for sure. Here's the sponsor of the bill (bold mine):
The bill's sponsor, state Rep. John D'Amico, D-Chicago, concedes that he lacks scientific evidence to support his belief that hands-free is safer than hand-held. "But I just know when I am talking with the phone to my ear," he said, "my peripheral vision is much lower." He added that "his concentration level is not where it's supposed to be" when using a hand-held phone.
Again, that's the sponsor of the bill. Illinois has a new law on the books that even its biggest supporter admits is based on an anecdote, a feeling, and not on any hard evidence. Seriously. No evidence at all:
A new study in the National Safety Council’s Journal of Safety Research concludes there is little difference between the driving safety risk of hands-free versus hand-held cell phones. The study, by Yoko Ishigami, Dalhousie University, and Raymond Klein, confirms that any type of cell phone use detracts from the brain’s ability to focus on safe driving. Several other studies also support the claim that hands-free phones and hand-held phones are equally dangerous.
Under current law using hands-free devices is still legal. For now.
But if lawmakers in Springfield are willing to ban a certain behavior based on a hunch, just what might they do with facts on their side? I guess we'll soon find out.
A new study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety concludes that hands-free systems may actually increase distraction. As Beth Mosher, Director of Public Affairs for AAA Chicago says:
“We now understand that current shortcomings in these products, intended as safety features, may unintentionally cause greater levels of cognitive distraction.”
Got that? Hands-free devices can be a bigger distraction that a hand-held device. And that's not all:
The research also separately assessed Apple’s Siri using the same metrics to measure a broader range of tasks including updating Facebook and Twitter. By looking at these frequently-used features, researchers uncovered that hands-and eyes-free use of Apple’s Siri generated a category 4 level of distraction – the highest level that researchers have uncovered to date.
Siri is the most dangerous technology on the road today! Ban the use of it now, Illinois lawmakers!
And while you're at it get after eating while driving, which the NHTSA says accounts for the cause of a huge number of crashes. Perhaps having any passengers in the car at all should be prohibited. And my goodness, what about advertising billboards and the IDOT message boards across highways. After all, the very purpose of those things is to take your eyes off the road and turn your attention to a different message.
Or perhaps we could take it upon ourselves to simply drive as safely as we possibly can, despite any number of potential distractions in and out of the car. More legislation simply cannot force someone to be a better driver.