The Spokesmen 48 – WADA Gum

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  1. February 22, 2010

    David, David, David. Dare I say that was a typically American response (especially for a Canadian, right?) to Carlton’s argument that it is never appropriate to use a mobile whilst driving. You want to retain the “choice” to use it – presumably until the law prises your phone from your cold dead fingers?

  2. February 22, 2010

    That pretty much sums up my argument. Yes. Perhaps I’ll make bumper stickers like the ones the gun companies give to their customers. 😉

  3. February 22, 2010

    The position on choice is a tenable one as long as the risk is to you as the individual making that choice, or where others consent to the risk being imposed. (Examples being extreme sports (risk to the participant) or contact martial arts (there is risk to and from the participants, but all have agreed to accept it)).

    I think it’s a less tenable position where you’re imposing a risk you have chosen to take upon others without their consent, and it seems to me that this is the case here. Passive safety features of the raodway and of your vehicle make it unlikely that you’ll be injured severely in most cases where you’re in conflict with vulnerable road users or street furniture.

    As to whether that risk exists or not, there’s a nice round up of the available research here;

    (Links to the cited papers are at the end – I’m familiar with the University of Utah one, although it’s a while since I read it, less so with the others).

    The key to the level of “distractedness” is the cognitive workload, it seems, meaning that there’s little difference between hand held and hands free in terms of how they affect reaction times and hazard perception. (One referenced study bucks that trend, commisioned by headset manufacturer Plantronics).

    I’m not aware of any research comparing mobile use with Talk Radio or audiobooks – I’d assume that because you’re not supplying one side of the conversation, the cognitive workload is less – one of the papers above may cover this though.

    Personally, my phone does not get answered when I’m driving (or riding) – I check it when I stop, and call back if necessary.

    I guess if anyone’s to do it, a trained pilot is a better bet than most folk on the road…

  4. February 23, 2010

    I am 100% with Carlton on the issue of mobile phone use while driving. While behind the wheel, a driver should do NOTHING but concentrate on the road. Driving a car is by far the most dangerous activity that the average person engages in on a regular basis, but we (in the U.S. at least) tend to treat the act of driving very casually. That passive approach to driving explains why the U.S. has one of the highest, , if the not the highest, fatality rate per capita in the world. 45,000 deaths each year in the U.S. is inexcusable, but we just refer the majority of those deaths as “accidents”. I am not saying that the average driver doesn’t care about the lives of others, but until a horrible “accident” occurs, the average person just don’t give the act of driving much thought. That attitude about driving is the root of the problem. It doesn’t matter whether the distraction is a cell phone, shaver, or a hamburger… driving a car without paying full attention to the road puts others at risk.

    While I agree with David’s point that driving will never be completely safe and that distractions can never be eliminated completely, I don’t believe that simple stating that fact absolves a driver of the responsibility to focus completely on the task at hand while behind the wheel. Sure, we are all busy, but multitasking behind the wheel is simply not worth the risk.

  5. February 23, 2010

    Funny…I stopped the podcast midway through that conversation to leave the previous comment. I should have listened completely, but it is an issue that I tend to get worked up about so I was in a hurry to add my 2 cents. Anyway, it was great to hear Carlton (and Rich) talk about that casual attitude toward driving when I resumed the podcast.

    I’ll try to listen all the way through before commenting next time…but no promises. Great discussion guys!

  6. February 24, 2010

    One further point occurred to me about a possible difference between David’s activity as a pilot and hands free conversation while driving.

    I’d assume (again, eek!) that the cockpit radio traffic is mostly related to the task in hand (where the plane is, where its going, updates on conditions, &c &c). It’s not about who’s done what at school, projected widget sales figures, or what’s for dinner. I think that may be an important difference in the level of distraction in the two types of conversation (one is keeping you in the vehicle & focussed on its state at that point in time, one is taking you out of it and focussing on things outside of your immediate task).

    Police driver training certainly used to include the use of commentary (the driver would relay his actions, position, intended actions &c) to controller by radio during pursuits[1]. I think that’s more similar to David’s analogy between the conversation happenning whilst piloting an aircraft, and most in car handsfree conversation.

    [1]I don’t know if this is still the practice, and whether there is any research on the effect on hazard perception & reaction time. I’d assume (again!) that if it were detrimental, the Police would have stopped doing it (or got the non-driving officer to do it).

  7. February 24, 2010

    “While I agree with David’s point that driving will never be completely safe and that distractions can never be eliminated completely”

    The point is what you do with that knowledge though. Do you say “Well, crime exists, so let’s abolish the law” or do you minimise the risk where you can, by taking out risks that do not need to be taken? (given that you have to drive, how can you mitigate the risk to yourself and others of that?)

    One of the huge problems with the risk associated with risky driver behaviours is that they overwhelmingly put others at risk rather than themselves, particularly in the urban context where speeds are low enough for the car’s passive safety features to protect the driver.

  8. Tom
    February 24, 2010

    Listening to this podcast and I hear the following.

    “As you can hear in the sort of pained responses from Tim and Rich, it’s like yeah I really want to say that you shouldn’t, but we all do and it’s kind of hard to avoid these days.”

    This sounds to me much like years ago when the campaign against drunk driving first got started. People were justifying themselves by saying “everybody does it” or “I only had one drink.”

    An attitude change is needed about distracted driving just like the one that took place about drunk driving.

    Carlton is right on the mark.

  9. Simon Marriott
    February 25, 2010

    First of great podcast! Great discussion! I was sat on the train (not driving:-) ), thinking podcast or carry on reading this here book called ‘Traffic’!

    I think you all agreed with each other. Carlton was right to say the science says this and this is my view and society should decide. David and some of your other colleagues were bang on when you reflected the majority view of society which is, yes i can collectively accept x more deaths a year and allow me to do this. Personally my view is the same as Calrtons but i accept this isnt societys view and so i can do little except persuade and walk/drive my own talk.

    Hey Carlton (and David) did that Traffic book contain anything that suprised you? I’m spending the whole book going, well Duh? and ? Say something i dont know!

    PS Love the show!

  10. Matt
    March 7, 2010

    I’ve got to agree with Carlton on the mobile phone issue. I’m sure there are drivers who could drive safely at 90 mph, but I doubt we would agree that everyone should be allowed to drive at that speed. Likewise, I’m sure there are people who can operate a car relatively well while intoxicated and do so everyday, but I’m sure we wouldn’t want that to be legal as well. Maybe David disagrees.

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