Monday, September 13, 2010

Enforcing hands-free for car phone use is useless

Sweden is the only European country where using a hand-held cell phone while driving isn't illegal. All other countries require hands-free equipment. Now the lobby organization Motormännen demans similar legislation in Sweden. The questions is, why?

According to studies the distraction of talking on the phone is what causes undesirable behavior in traffic, not whether or not you're holding the phone in your hand. There are no facts to support banning the use of hand-held phones in favor of hands-free equipment.

Motormännen point out that between 10-20 people die or are severely injured in car accidents every year because of phone use, both talking and texting. First of all, between 10 and 20? The difference between those number is way to high to tell anything, really. Second, there is a huge difference between talking on the phone while keeping your eyes on the road, and writing a text message. Combining these two activities in the statistics is just plain wrong.

Let me point you guys to this report (PDF) prepared for the European Commission in June 2009:

Hands-free versus hand-held?
Studies indicate that the use of hands-free phones causes as much
important driver distraction as the use of hand-held phones
. Some studies show that in-car telephone
conversations while driving can impair drivers more than listening to the radio or talking to passengers.
An epidemiological study of crash involvement found that mobile phone use was associated with a greater
likelihood of crash than passenger carriage and increasing numbers of passengers


Effects of texting?
Many young drivers admit to the largely illegal activity of texting while driving. Text
messaging has a detrimental effect on safety-critical driving tasks
such as lane-keeping, hazard detection
and the detection and appropriate response to traffic signs.

There we are. So stop with the bullshit and focus on the facts. If you want to ban phone conversations in cars then by all means do so, but stop pretending that everything will be fine if we just use hands-free equipment. In all fairness, Sweden appears to be the only country in Europe that hasn't based a law on pure propaganda. That's probably a first, and they deserve credit for that.

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