back to article Drunk driving: No more dangerous than talking on handsfree mobe

Driving with an illegal or almost-illegal level of blood alcohol is often no more dangerous than taking a call using a hands-free device at the wheel, according to new research by scientists in Australia and Spain. Sumie Leung Shuk Man of Barcelona uni carried out the study in cooperation with colleagues Down Under. He and his …

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  1. Ragequit
    Stop

    Tested a drivers skill...

    in a simulator... What exactly was tested? Reaction times? I could see how drunk driving and demanding phone calls could be correlated in reaction times. But what of decision making? Someone on a hands free set merely has to stop talking and seriously concentrate on avoiding/mitigating an accident whereas somebody under the influence of alcohol can't instantly become sober.

    Don't get me wrong it's not impossible that a conversation can distract a driver as anybody who has seen the driving 'skill' of soccer mom in a mini-van can attest to, but I don't believe it's so black and white as they are making it out to be.

    Besides are they going to make talking to passengers illegal too? Researcher based link bait this is.

    1. Ole Juul

      Re: Tested a drivers skill...

      I agree that it is not so black and white. However, I think the lesson here is that it is not about making more laws. It is about the fact that "due care and attention" is an overreaching factor which could make the present laws seem to be poorly correlated with the real situation.

      1. Ragequit

        Re: Tested a drivers skill...

        Just as important (or maybe more so) is just good driving habits. Giving yourself stopping distance, looking for oncoming traffic at intersections regardless of what the light says, etc. It annoys me to no end to see so many drivers here in the states tailgating and/or weaving in and out of traffic. Of course rubberneckers looking at vehicles pulled off the highway don't help either. Stationary photo radar on highways is a mistake as well imo. People seem more inclined to speed on the bits with no coverage and slam on their breaks every time they see a pole/mast.

    2. Khaptain Silver badge

      Re: Tested a drivers skill... Accumulated risk

      I agree with most of what you mention but what has not been mentioned is the fact on its own "handsfree mobe" conversations might not be very dangerous.

      BUT if the driver is already bored, tired, irratated, had a disagreeable discussion with wife, or already had a couple of pints down the pub then any or all of these factors accumulated with the handsfree mobe chat will definately increase the risk of serious accident.

      Most people only have a very limited attention span, speed seriously reduces our peripheral vision, alcohol is a known killer, fatique is terribly difficult to fight of - so by further adding a subsequent task that reduces ones attention even further is definately not a great idea...

      It's not really the "handsfree mobe" that is is the problem, it is pushing oneself beyond the limits of reasonable concentration that it is the problem. The article could easily have replaced "handsfree mobe" with "solving mental puzzles" or "thinking about the new scene in your next shakesperean style play".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Tested a drivers skill... Accumulated risk

        Accumulated Risk? That's an interesting term. Thinking about that idea leads me to a few conclusions on risks while driving.

        A) Distracted driving situations are, in the moment, often just as dangerous as impaired driving situations.

        B) Any and all Risks being taken at a given moment accumulate, but more importantly

        C) Time is an important factor here. During the 3 seconds someone is reading a text, they are relying on dumb luck to avoid an accident. However, the stereotyped sloppy drunk is just as dangerous every second of their drive, and may actually get more dangerous as they drive if they were drinking just before they left.

        So it seems perfectly rational to group penalties and risk such that momentary disability/distractions are treated less harshly then continuous ones. Though on that basis, DUI and driving tired should have the same penalties, with large implications for commercial drivers/pilots/ER Doctors. This includes the local police in my part of the world, who generally are working extended shifts, and constantly driving around struggling to keep their eyes open.

      2. t.est
        Holmes

        Re: Tested a drivers skill... Accumulated risk

        If it's all about how concentrated we are on driving that really matters, then we need to bump up the speed regulations.

        As Jeremy Clarkson so "scientifically" showed, no problem to drive in a sleeping bag, nor sew a button while driving in those slow speed's really is't that troublesome.

        So to make people concentrate on driving, there is only one solution more speed.

        There is nothing worse for me and more boring than driving 80 kph on a lonely road. It's better than any medication for sleeplessness.

        I bet nobody want's to talk on the phone while going twice or more the normal speed limit.

    3. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: Tested a drivers skill...

      Another point. If you send a text while stuck at a red traffic light, the worst thing that can happen to you is that you miss it going green and you get lots of irate drivers sounding their horns to let you know it has gone green. Of course if you send a text while driving at 60 mph on a country road, you deserve every punishment coming to you, and more.

      1. Terry Barnes

        Re: Tested a drivers skill...

        ...or you could obstruct an emergency vehicle, fail to spot a situation developing behind you or on the junction - if you're in your car, with the engine one, on the road - pay attention. If you need to not pay attention, park.

    4. LarsG
      Meh

      Re: Tested a drivers skill...

      Texting and driving then killing an innocent motorist is an imprisonable offence, just ask Lord Ahmed the peer who spent '16 days' in prison for that very offence.

      Of course had he been drunk at the time he may have got an extra couple of days before his pals in the legal system got his sentence reduced. It should be noted that it appears he claims it was a Jewish conspiracy that put him into jail rather than the fact that he drove texted and killed a person.

      We will have to see whether this is true and the statement he made on an Asian television channel actually happened though he has no recollection of the interview.

      If one of the little people did this they could expect 3 years in prison, but hey, being a Peer of the Realm has its perks does it not.

    5. Chuunen Baka

      Re: Tested a drivers skill...

      "are they going to make talking to passengers illegal too?"

      With a passenger you can break off briefly in mid sentence to do some driving stuff and they can see why you've stopped talking. A phone call has different etiquette.

      1. Lallabalalla
        Thumb Down

        Re: Tested a drivers skill...

        Yes - you have to say "hang on a minute...", do the driving thing, then resume your conversation. Even a semi-evolved simian such as myself could manage that.

        1. Wize

          Re: Tested a drivers skill...

          I am surprised no one has mentioned smoking.

          I'm not just talking about the ones who roll their own while driving (seen a few in my time).

          Think what happens when a lit cigarette is dropped on your crotch. A dropped mobile can be ignored if you have to give full attention to the road, but not something burning away at your tender areas.

          1. Tom 38 Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: Tested a drivers skill...

            I am surprised no one has mentioned children.

            I'm not just talking about the ones who let them roam around the backseat instead of strapped in (seen a few in my time).

            Think what happens when an child starts kicking the back of your headrest. A dropped mobile can be ignored if you have to give full attention to the road, but not a small child playing whack-a-mole with your noggin.

            [In case it's not clear, I'm saying there are a plethora of daily things that we do in cars that can be distracting. We do not need a separate law covering each and every one of them, there is 'Driving without due care and attention' for issues that do not cause major injuries or fatalities, 'Dangerous driving' for those that do, and 'An accident, no action necessary', for Plod/CPS to use his discretion on]

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "Think what happens when a lit cigarette is dropped on your crotch"

            The correct response to this is demonstrated in "The Big Lebowski" (1998): pour your beer over it to extinguish.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Lallabalalla - conversational psychology

          'Yes - you have to say "hang on a minute...", do the driving thing, then resume your conversation. Even a semi-evolved simian such as myself could manage that.'

          That's all well and good for a functional conversation between rational people with no dominance/subservience relationship or any other psychological game taking place (e.g. needy/carer, abuser/victim/rescuer or pecking order protocol) where both participants exercise appropriate personal boundaries at all times. Unfortunately observations of everyday human psychology backed up by studies such as Eric Berne's suggest otherwise.

          I've lost count of the number of times a conversation I've observed as a third party has dragged on too long, while one of the parties to it has been wanting to get away from it but was too polite to close it quickly - often while a house door is open and all the heat inside is going outside or a meal is getting cold or burned.

          A/C due to not wanting a row with guilty parties well known to and regularly observed by me, but this logic together with the research in the article suggests even hands-free calls should go the way of drunk driving. At least as a driver if you are having a conversation with a passenger, the passenger is likely to have some comprehension of the shared risk by being present within the shared context of imminent danger. The same certainly isn't true of the party on the other end of the line, who might well be the drivers boss with matters more urgent to them to discuss than their underling's immediate situational safety.

      2. Greg J Preece

        Re: Tested a drivers skill...

        With a passenger you can break off briefly in mid sentence to do some driving stuff and they can see why you've stopped talking. A phone call has different etiquette.

        First thing I say to anyone when I pick up hands-free: "I'm driving, so bear with me." Then they know why I've suddenly stopped talking halfway through a sentence.

      3. Nuke
        Holmes

        @Chuunen Baka - Re: Tested a drivers skill...

        Chuunen Baka wrote :- "With a passenger you can break off briefly in mid sentence to do some driving stuff and they can see why you've stopped talking"

        Depends who it is. Not my sister-in-law for example, either as dirver or passenger. I think she would still be yammering on about grocery prices in the aftermath of a crash, if it had not killed her.

      4. Dazed and Confused

        Re: Tested a drivers skill...

        > With a passenger you can break off briefly in mid sentence to do some driving stuff and they can see why you've stopped talking. A phone call has different etiquette.

        Nope, when talking while driving the etiquette is to tell the person on the phone you're driving. So they should expect you to have higher priority events to deal with.

        Whereas if you look at lots of people talking to people in the car you'll notice that they are following the normal human etiquette and looking at the person they are talking too.

        Driving with the kids in the back is even worse. Lots of times you'll see parents turning right around to deal with little Jonny in the back and so playing bugger all attention to the road ahead.

        The difference is just that you might be able to try and out law drink driving or even mobile phone use while driving, but you're never going to be able to out law talking to passenger or concentrating on the kids in the back.

    6. Stuart 22

      Re: Tested a drivers skill...

      Why did not the first line read drink driving IS AS DANGEROUS as using a phone?

      Those of us who have had several life threatening moments due to the inattention of someone driving using a phone can actually see that and consider the penalties, or rather lack of enforcement, for these offences are insufficient. Drink drivers are invisible unless tested hence enforcement is even more hit and miss.

      Driving is inherently dangerous to other vulnerable road users. Whilst it is economically and socially unacceptable to restrict responsible driving that does not mean that unnecessary indulgences such as illegal drinking and mobile use in making it even more dangerous should not be treated extremely harshly and not mollified on the basis of one is not particularly 'more' dangerous than the other.

    7. JetSetJim Silver badge

      Re: Tested a drivers skill...

      Perhaps the testers could have saved a bit of time and watched this film:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbjSWDwJILs

      An organisation in Belgium pretended that the driving test had been extended to also cover texting while driving, so students demonstrated their abilities on a closed course. Predictable results.

      1. Esskay
        Facepalm

        Re: Tested a drivers skill...

        Another issue here is how do you define drink driving? One beer? One standard drink? Over the legal limit? Incapable of speech? Did they adjust for body weight? fat content? gender? "drink driving" is such a broad term, and the effects of alcohol so diverse, that it simply isn't possible to say that it's "the equivalent" of such and such behaviour - it is what it is.

        Whilst I understand the study's purpose is (possibly) to raise the point that we can't get too hung up on demonising one issue to the point that it's legislated into absurdity, making blanket claims does nothing to further the credibility of either the researchers or the study.

        1. Pookietoo

          Re: how do you define drink driving?

          Blood alcohol content - simples.

    8. James Micallef Silver badge
      Trollface

      Tabloid hyperbole FAIL

      Article title: "Drunk driving: No more dangerous than talking on handsfree mobe"

      Article reality: Talking on a handsfree mobe is as dangerous as drunk driving

      Article subhead: "'Should be allowed', advise researchers", implying that the researchers are calling for drunk driving to be allowed. (or at least, higher limit)

      Article reality: The "should be allowed" refers to handsfree calling

      <-- Lewis, you are such a troll!!

      1. Red Bren
        Joke

        Re: Tabloid hyperbole FAIL

        Lewis' sub-headings usually betray his sympathies on the story in question. So I think we can safely conclude that he posts his articles from his mobile, while driving home having had a skin-full at lunchtime...

      2. Esskay
        Facepalm

        Re: Tabloid hyperbole FAIL

        yeah, serves me right for El Reg'ing after half a bottle of red.

        Carry on

    9. Pookietoo

      Re: are they going to make talking to passengers illegal too?

      Apparently talking to passengers is less demanding - the compression used in mobile communication is lossy and your brain has to work at filling the gaps.

    10. Anonymous Coward
      Pint

      Re: Tested a drivers skill...

      I've tested this in my own "simulator".

      A steering wheel/pedals attached to an Xbox 360, F1 2012 and the Monaco circuit.

      Sober - put in a relatively good time, top 6.

      After a dozen pints - wall, wall, wall, wall.

      Have a great St Patricks day, folks! But leave the motor at home.

    11. Anonymous Coward
      Happy

      Re: Tested a drivers skill...

      As a confirmed christian researcher of gods gifts to all people, including pot, powders, pills, opiates, speed, booze, ether, Hmmm magic mush rooms etc... and Ummmmmmm more etc... and even more etc., like hypothermia, sleep deprivation etc.,

      That the results of these tests are absolutely true.

      Talking on the mobile phone is like being stoned off your face, fumbling for pencils and taking notes is worse... texting is just out there....

      Add in variable traffic conditions, sleep or the lack of, prescribed and other meds, the degree of concentration to sustain the conversation, remember things, who to call, what to get etc.

      Unless it's a fast and urgent call - like - "Quick - yer mums in hospital - better hurry up - she is in a bad way." and "Which hospital?" - I think it should be a case of talk or drive, but not both.

      If you have EVER listened to yourself on talk back radio, with a 4 second delay, while your on the phone and your voice is coming back at you through the stereo...

      That is like tripping without doing drugs and it completely fucks your concentration....

      Absolutely.

      No mobile phones in cars...

      Hands free perhaps... depending if it is safe to do so.

      No traffic, straight roads, minimal congestion...

    12. Gordon 11

      Re: Tested a drivers skill...

      Someone on a hands free set merely has to stop talking...

      For some people talking has precedence in their brain to most other tasks.

      My wife can't understand why, when I'm driving, I will stop listening to her (she's in the car too) when approaching road junctions.

      1. Hollerith 1

        Re: Tested a drivers skill...

        Who knows if my post posted? Always getting error messages on El Reg... :(

    13. <shakes head>
      FAIL

      Re: Tested a drivers skill...

      you can always hang up on a phone call sobering up for a section of demanding road takes hours

    14. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Re: Tested a drivers skill...

      Passengers - well, that's exactly it, isn't it?

      Talking on a hands free kit is as dangerous as talking to a passenger - within reason.

      As the passenger is with you, there's the assumption you have that extra set of 'eyes' to alert you - er, to decisions that require a split-second - hmm. maybe not then?

      Eating and drinking (non-alcoholic drinks) at the wheel - that's legal, afaik - but taking on a non-hands-free phone isn't. I assume chatting on a phone takes more concentration than swigging a coke/coffee or eating a banana.

      Heck, ever tried to open a packet of crisps whilst driving? Or get the lid off a bottle? - Yep, easy enough, but you'll be distracted.

      Surely, aside from drunk driving, the simple law of 'reckless' driving should apply.

      If a traffic officer can clearly see your posing a danger, pull over, fine.

      That's regardless of what your doing - on the phone, drinking coffee, hanging out the window, shagging - whatever.

      Sometimes the law really is an ass.

      1. Vic

        Re: Tested a drivers skill...

        > Talking on a hands free kit is as dangerous as talking to a passenger

        I've seen research that states exactly the opposite; things like the round-trip delay mean that phone conversations are significant;ly more distracting than local ones.

        > Eating and drinking (non-alcoholic drinks) at the wheel - that's legal, afaik

        It's not. It may be lawful under some circumstances, but the Highway Code Ruile 148 specifically mentions eating and drinnking as a source of distraction, and thus such behaviour may well lead to prosecution for driving without due care and attention or worse.

        For example, a nursery nurse was fined for eating an apple while driving in 2003. It was one of the most incredible examples of misuse of police resources in history (they used a helicopter, FFS).

        > Sometimes the law really is an ass.

        Frequently so. But more often, IME, what is actually an ass is someone's (incorrect) belief of what the law actually is...

        Vic.

  2. graeme leggett

    The difference between mobile use and drinking and simulators and reality

    As Ragequit says - in the first case the driver can stop the mobile use at any time during the journey, the driver--with-a-couple-of-pints-inside can't.

    Though there do seem to be drivers out there who find it difficult to put the phone down for even a moment. Anecdotal but I once saw a driver go right round a roundabout with the phone clasped to ear.

    How do they get the simulators to be "real" enought to get results they can trust. I presume they run the same simulation against each driver Even with a top-end simulator won't there be a slight disconnect in the test subjects brain because they can't get injured.

    1. AVee

      Re: The difference between mobile use and drinking and simulators and reality

      The simulator point is valid I guess, being in a real car with a real risk of getting killed if you screw up does (I'd hope) make a difference. I know that I tent to fall silent on phone conversations while driving when 'interesting' stuff happens on the road, because I get distracted from the phone call. In a simulator however, the call might well be more important, at least subconsciously. It is really hard to take a simulation just a serious as real live.

    2. The Indomitable Gall

      Re: The difference between mobile use and drinking and simulators and reality

      The other thing is that once you start drink, the impaired judgement not only has a direct effect on your ability to drive, it has the indirect effect of making it easier to say "another wee half won't kill anyone."

      Famous last words.

    3. DanceMan
      Boffin

      Re: The difference between mobile use and drinking and simulators and reality

      Give up the whining about simulators, folks. It's been tested years ago out in cars on courses, and the results were the same.

      As far as talking to passengers, when my kids were young more than once while pondering the answer to some question from my daughter I had to react when she yelled, "Dad!!!!!" So yes, it's potentially dangerous also.

      Back in my aggressive years I once pulled around to the right (Canadian) at an intersection to go around some numpty who wasn't proceeding through, only to stop abruptly to avoid the ambulance that was coming, whose siren I had not heard with the stereo cranked up.

      I'm seeing idiots with the phone to their ear or in their lap all the time. Driving is harder than it was when I learned decades ago. There is much more traffic, it moves faster, there are more decisions and they come at you quicker. You have to pay attention, concentrate, and avoid the distractions, no matter what they are.

      Enforcement is a joke, always has been and likely always will be. It's just revenue collection and quota enhancement. We probably can't afford all the cops it would take for real enforcement, and bad driving is so widespread it probably would not be politically supportable. All you can do is pay attention, etc., so you don't get hit by the idiots. And try not to be one of them.

  3. The Axe
    Mushroom

    Texting whilst driving leads to arrest

    "And while texting at the wheel would perhaps lead to a a charge of driving without due care and attention or similar, it's typically hard for police officers to spot a texting driver and the offence generally goes unpunished."

    Though when it does get noticed, and it is easy to spot after an accident just by looking at a phone's record, it does lead to jail time. Though it does depend on whether you are a politician or a nobody.

    Phillipa Curtis got 21 months for causing a death but the Labour Solicitor General, Vera Baird asked for it to be extended as she felt it unduly lenient. However when Lord Nazir Ahmed did the same thing and only got a few weeks Vera was surprisingly quiet. Something to do with being friends with the dodgy Lord who thinks his sentence (he only spent 2 weeks in jail) was the result of a Jewish conspiracy.

    One rule for pigs, another for the plebs.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Texting whilst driving leads to arrest

      I agree with everything you have written except for the reference to pigs. That's a bit harsh and uncalled for.

      1. hplasm
        Big Brother

        Re: Texting whilst driving leads to arrest

        It's an Animal Farm reference.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Texting whilst driving leads to arrest

          Not quite correct, but I see your point, though the use of pig to describe a Muslim Peer...

          1. AceRimmer

            Re: Texting whilst driving leads to arrest

            If a man acts like a pig then he's a pig, his religion has nothing to do with it

    2. Richard Barnes

      Re: Texting whilst driving leads to arrest

      In Lord Ahmed's case, I think the police established that he sent his last text 2 minutes before the accident, so it was not possible to prove that the texting was the cause of the accident. That's one of the reasons his sentence was lighter.

      1. LarsG

        Re: Texting whilst driving leads to arrest

        Yes but he didn't quite manage to send the last text before he killed the guy. He was still in the process of writing it. Being a Peer has its advantages when claiming 'honesty'.

        The interview he made tells a different story.

  4. William Donelson
    Stop

    BE CAREFUL. Someday it WILL happen to you...

    BE CAREFUL. We have a good friend who's daughter was crippled by a man who ran into the back of her at a (red) traffic light while talking on his cellphone.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: BE CAREFUL. Someday it WILL happen to you...

      That's the primary problem right there, ditto for driving under the influence.

      Personally, I have no problem with someone killing *themselves* by being stupid, but the issue is that they will hurt or kill others. To me, that is premeditated manslaughter. Premeditated because it is by now known by everyone what can happen, so choosing to do it anyway means it should be deemed done on purpose.

      1. Thomas 4
        Stop

        Re: BE CAREFUL. Someday it WILL happen to you...

        The article also fails to take into account people's innate stupidity when given a modicum of freedom. A half pint quickly becomes a pint, then a pint becomes two points and then next thing you know you've put some poor bastard in a wheelchair for life.

        My driving instructor was a vicious little sod but one thing he said still sticks in my mind. "A car is a weapon. Like any other weapon, if you're careless or irresponsible with it, you will kill someone."

    2. Martin Budden Bronze badge

      Re: BE CAREFUL. Someday it WILL happen to you...

      A few weeks ago I was in a long queue of cars at a red light. I could see that the driver behind me was texting, so I got out and politely asked her to put her phone away as I didn't want to be rear-ended. She apologised and put the phone away. The rest of the journey was uneventful.

  5. Silverburn
    Happy

    Read article. Thought April 1st. Dissatisfied.

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    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Could apply even to "real" conversations.

    As an earlier 'tard said, it's all about the "due care and attention". Me and the missus have coined the phrase "swivel-heads" to describe the [mostly elderly, or mums with kids] drivers who seem incapable of carrying on a conversation in a car, without swivelling their head to the side or [in the case of mums with kids] over their shoulders, to look at the person they're speaking to.

    Thankfully, the majority of folks seem to be able to talk to their passengers whilst looking forward at what's actually happening on the road in front of them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Could apply even to "real" conversations.

      Most French drivers are incapable of conversing without looking at the passenger.

      It's a cultural thing, I suppose and very scary.

      Aside: drunk texting should also be banned!

      1. mike2R

        Re: Could apply even to "real" conversations.

        Since we are into cultural stereotypes, I got a lift from an Italian once who seemed absolutely incapable of talking without taking both hands of the wheel to gesticulate.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: Could apply even to "real" conversations.

      My Mum got a lift from a friend who's deaf. Unfortunately sign-language requires both hands*. She had a nice conversation, but a rather scary drive.

      *British Sign Language is 2 handed, the Americans only use one, which I guess means they're safer drivers...

    3. Martin Budden Bronze badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Could apply even to "real" conversations.

      Then there's the opposite of "swivel-heads": people who seem incapable of turning their head when reversing out of a parking spot. They commonly cause minor yet very annoying crashes in carparks.

    4. Pedigree-Pete
      Happy

      Re: Could apply even to "real" conversations.

      Swivel heads should try using their rear view mirror. Also effective for delivering a Paddington staern stare to rear seat kids.

  8. Mephistro Silver badge
    Facepalm

    "'Should be allowed', advise researchers"

    That's he most dangerously misleading heading I've ever read in ElReg. And that has to be a f*cking World record!

    Just to make things clear: What the scientist say is that using a handless mobe while driving should be allowed -after more studies, of course. NOT that drunk driving should be allowed.

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge
      Facepalm

      Re: "'Should be allowed', advise researchers"

      OK, so you actually, seriously believe *anyone* would read that headline and think "Oh, that's OK then, I'll have a few before I go home?".

      This is not the Daily Mail, you know :)

      1. Mephistro Silver badge

        Re: "'Should be allowed', advise researchers" (@ Fred Flintstone)

        'so you actually, seriously believe *anyone* would read that headline and think "Oh, that's OK then, I'll have a few 'before I go home?".'

        Err... Yes, I do. Have seen it happen often enough in other contexts. I.e.: A*holes taking a bit of out-of-context/false info and applying it to any crazy theory they happen to support, while at the same time disregarding whatever data doesn't fit with their worldview.

        I concede though that whoever does this is probably beyond salvation.

  9. Stacy
    Thumb Down

    As daft as the test on Myth Busters

    I watched the test on Myth Busters where they concluded that driving whilst talking on the phone was as dangerous as drunk driving.

    What were they doing? Driving around a complex course whilst putting complex logical and mathematical problems at the driver. And they were not allowed to say 'Hold on a second, the road is getting a little complex.'

    Removing your concentration from the road is dangerous. Full stop. Be that fiddling with the radio, sat nav, phone, seat, mirror or being distracted by passengers or people outside of the car.

    I do use a hands free kit in the car, and you know what, just the same as when I have a passenger I can say "Give me a sec" and ignore the call completely. The only difference I can see with a passenger conversation is that assuming they have two brain cells they will shut up automatically and not need the "hold on" comment.

    The problem of dangerous driving comes from people who just do not know how dangerous cars are and so don't give them the respect they reserve. Stopping them using hands free is not going to stop that problem - they will still be dangerous drivers if they don't know the amount of concentration they need to drive safely!

    1. David M

      Re: As daft as the test on Myth Busters

      Absolutely. Driving is difficult. It's made almost entirely from distractions, but the vast majority of drivers cope with this perfectly well, every minute that they're behind the wheel. To ensure this, we require every driver to take some lessons and a test. Perhaps it's time to just accept that people are going to use the phone whilst driving and add this to the test, so drivers can learn how to do it safely.

    2. Chris 3

      Re: As daft as the test on Myth Busters

      > I do use a hands free kit in the car, and you know what, just the same as when I have a passenger I can say "Give me a sec" and ignore the call completely.

      I'm really not sure it is *quite* the same. Yesterday, I was waiting to turn right down a sidestreet and a car in a queue was overlapping the box junction, so I couldn't complete the turn. I was facing him, looking straight into his face asking him to back up a couple of feet. He was completely oblivious on the hands free talking in animated fashion. After about 30 seconds I ended up tooting him, and which point he startled back into the real world and backed up.

      People on hands free do *not* seem to behave the same way as people with a passenger in the car, perhaps because passengers have at least some awareness of what's going on and tend to shut up without being asked, or when the driver suddenly stops talking realises why and again curtails the conversation.

      You're a natural exception, I'm sure but hands free seems possitively dangerous in many situations for a large percentage of drivers.

      1. magrathea

        Re: As daft as the test on Myth Busters

        My theory is that your mind automatically creates a context for a conversation the purposes of easy mental imaging and in the case of talking to someone outside the car that conversational context is outside the car.

      2. Stacy
        Happy

        Re: As daft as the test on Myth Busters

        Well, thank you for the compliment :)

        I would counter the argument though with multiple cases of the same story where no hands free phone was involved and the driver was simply spaced out and not taking any notice of their surroundings. It takes me back to bad drivers will be bad drivers, full stop. I'm sure giving them an extra distraction does not help, but I'm also sure that concentrating on lighting the cigarette, without burning their eyebrows off, or looking the window controls to throw the dog end away (I hate it when people do this, you want to smoke in your car, keep your rubbish in there with you!) and trying to throw it out without it coming back in and setting fire to the car is also a bad idea.

        I like the though of the idea of the context of the conversation though, very interesting thought...

    3. JP19

      Re: As daft as the test on Myth Busters

      I commented years ago when the stupid mobile while driving illegal, hand free ok legislation was introduced :-

      A twat with a mobile phone is still a twat when you take it away.

  10. jake Silver badge

    Bottom line.

    Try it on a race track, under controlled conditions. Observe the results. You will never text/telephone/drink/rock-out/keep an eye on the sat-nav/yell at the kids in the back seat/whatever whilst driving again. Ever.

    Talking to a passenger, not so much. There is a reason Rally drivers have a navagator.

    Don't believe me? I double-dog-dare you to actually try it.

    When you are driving, pay attention to driving. It's kind of important.

    1. Terry Barnes

      Re: Bottom line.

      Exactly. If people aren't prepared to do it properly, then driving isn't compulsory. They can take the bus or the train instead.

  11. Magister

    Concentration

    I did an advanced driver training course some years ago (really enjoyable). The instructor made a comment that "the average driver's concentration time is about 15 minutes in every hour". To put that in context, if you are in the middle lane of the motorway, have one car to your left, one to your right and one more each to your rear and front, only one of those 4 drivers is actually aware of your existence; but the problem is, which one?

    Essentially, the driver goes into "auto pilot" - they know the road as they drive the same way every day at the same time. Many of the normal functions are done without an actual concious decision; be that gear changing, breaking or indication.

    Don't believe me? Try remembering the details of the drive in this morning. What was the colour of the last car in front of you? What was the first road sign that you saw? Often, people will complete a lengthy journey and say that they don't remember parts of it (or sometimes all). This is often without the distractions of mobile phone, radio, passengers etc.

    1. Chris Miller

      Re: Concentration

      In an ideal world, every driver would have the skills, reflexes and (most importantly) the concentration of an F1 champion. But this isn't an ideal world. Many will be thinking about the meeting they're driving to, the argument they had before they left, the squalling infant in the back, or just lost in their own private world. Driving, particularly motorway driving, can be very boring (although thanks to Bucks CC, we have to concentrate on the road to avoid running into the huge potholes that occur every couple of hundred yards).

      The best driving advice I ever received was on an IAM bike handling course: "assume every other driver is a homicidal maniac with a half-bottle of spirit inside them, and you won't go far wrong".

      1. Corinne
        Thumb Up

        Re: Concentration @ Chris Miller

        The best driving advice I ever received was on an IAM bike handling course: "assume every other driver is a homicidal maniac with a half-bottle of spirit inside them, and you won't go far wrong".

        You missed the bit I was told - "homicidal maniac with a grudge against you..."

        1. DavCrav Silver badge

          Re: Concentration @ Chris Miller

          "You missed the bit I was told - "homicidal maniac with a grudge against you..." "

          Oh, so he'd been playing Real Racing 3 as well?

          I used that (unscientifically) last night to test driving while drunk, and this morning for driving while hungover. I crashed into more things than usual, so I can recommend not driving with a bottle of wine in you.

    2. Steve 13
      FAIL

      Re: Concentration

      And yet nobody ran into me this morning on my commute, and whilst I can't tell you the colour of any of the many cars that I passed, I can tell you that I was aware of them and hence didn't drive into them.

      The fact that driving becomes an automatic skill is a good thing, there are different levels of ability at any given skill, but automatic, unconscious competence is the highest level. If you had to think about driving, rather than just doing it, you'd probably be sat next to your instructor trying to figure out how to co-ordinate two feet and two hands to make the car go without running into stuff (ie learning).

      1. Terry Barnes

        Re: Concentration

        You somewhat miss the point about statistics. The concentration argument is similar to the speeding argument. No-one suggests that if you speed you will instantly crash. No-one suggests that if you stop concentrating you will instantly crash.

        What statistics do suggest - in fact more than suggest, prove - is that either of those things increase at a macro level the rate at which people crash.

        We're reasonably good at car occupant safety in this country - congested roads and a modern car fleet mean that most accidents happen at speeds that a car's safety systems can deal with. What we're awful at, compared to our European neighbours, is the safety of more vulnerable users. If you have children, by far the greatest risk to their health is being hit by a car - a car driven by someone not concentrating or speeding.

        If you ever do an advanced driving course you'll be taught - like a pilot - how to adopt a systemic approach to driving. A continuous cycle of Observe, Assess, Plan and Act. Only by consciously following those steps will you reduce your chances of having an accident.

        1. Dr_N Silver badge

          Re: Concentration

          "No-one suggests that if you speed you will instantly crash."

          Oh yes they do. I've met many 65mph-no-matter-where-i'm-driving drivers who are adamant that if you do 72mph on the motorway you are going to die die.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Concentration

            "No-one suggests that if you speed you will instantly crash."

            "Oh yes they do. I've met many 65mph-no-matter-where-i'm-driving drivers who are adamant that if you do 72mph on the motorway you are going to die die."

            I live with one of those. I've given up trying to put forward a logical case for driving to the road conditions.

            Anonymous because I value my testicles.

      2. Graham Marsden
        Thumb Down

        @Steve 13 Re: Concentration

        "automatic, unconscious competence is the highest level"

        Yes, but that is *not* what the majority of road users have. They do things automatically right up until the point that something goes wrong, then they slam on the brakes or swerve or freeze up in panic because their skills are only good enough to let them cope with every day situations.

        What they do *not* do is use good observation and planning to see a situation *before* it develops. They're mostly just watching the back of the car in front or giving a casual glance in their mirror if and when they think about it rather than considering what other vehicles may be doing.

        Remember that the Driving Test only ensures that someone has the *bare minimum* of skills to be allowed out on the road in charge of a vehicle and once you've passed that Test you will almost never need to demonstrate that your skills are still up to scratch.

        Unfortunately when youy couple that with being under the influence of alcohol (even if not above the legal limit) or being distracted by using a mobile phone on the move, what you get is a recipie for disaster...

      3. Pookietoo

        Re: The fact that driving becomes an automatic skill is a good thing

        Wrong - it deserves/requires more attention than that.

        1. Stacy

          Re: The fact that driving becomes an automatic skill is a good thing

          I'd say somewhere in between. Driving should be an automatic skill. Awareness of your surroundings is where your concentration should lie, letting your automatic driving skill deal with what you observe.

          1. Vic

            Re: The fact that driving becomes an automatic skill is a good thing

            > Driving should be an automatic skill.

            *Vehicle control* should be an automatic skill.

            Driving is far more about observation, assessment and planning than it is about waggling wheels and pressing pedals. And it is that planning sequence that should take sunstantially all of a driver's concentration.

            Vic.

            1. Steve 13

              Re: The fact that driving becomes an automatic skill is a good thing

              "Driving is far more about observation, assessment and planning than it is about waggling wheels and pressing pedals. And it is that planning sequence that should take sunstantially all of a driver's concentration."

              The fact that someone should be doing these things doesn't mean that they should be able to recall inconsequential details about the journey they just made.

              Doing these things should (ideally) be at the level of unconscious competence as well. If you have to think about doing them, then you aren't good enough at doing them.

    3. Nuke
      WTF?

      @Magister - Re: Concentration

      Magister wrote :-

      "the average driver's concentration time is about 15 minutes in every hour". .. Don't believe me? Try remembering the details of the drive in this morning. What was the colour of the last car in front of you? What was the first road sign that you saw?"

      So? The fact that you might not remember these things does not mean you were not concentrating and driving well. After seeing a film do you remember the script, word-perfect? You seem to be confusing concentration with memory. I am well aware of the other cars around me all the time, but as soon as I part company with them I forget about them.

      I actually have a lousy memory. But it does not matter what colour another car is, let alone needing to remember it, as long as you react to it properly at the time The human brain is capable of rejecting and forgetting irrelevant information and a good job it is, as our memory would soon get clogged up if it did.

  12. Majid

    Humans cannot do 2 things that require concentration.

    Its a limitation of how our brain works. There is no need to fund research for every individual case. You just have to prove a task requires concentration, if you prove that you cannot do it with any other task that also requires your concentration.

    So for example its not a good idea:

    to shave while writing a letter.

    to ski while writing a letter.

    to ski while having a conversion.

    drive while having a conversion.

    drive while shaving.

    etc etc..

    And yes some conversions you can do with other tasks, but that are the ones where you werent really listening (thus not concentration), and just 'ehehing' the gaps in noise from the other side. So in the future when a cop pulls you over because he sees you were talking in the car, you can get away with it by claiming it was your mother on the other side of the line ;-)

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Humans cannot do 2 things that require concentration.

      There's also the idiot myth about multi-tasking to lay some blame on. It never really claimed that women could equally concentrate (better than men) fully on two or more tasks at once, though that's how it's portrayed, suggesting that women (and men though less well) are able to do this. In fact, of course, it never said that they could concentrate fully on the tasks. And could not do so since it's a contradiction in terms. Concentrate = undivided attention to the task.

      www.wisegeek.com/what-is-concentration.htm

      Mar 4, 2013 ... Concentration is the ability to focus the mind on a task while ignoring other things .

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Humans cannot do 2 things that require concentration.

      "to shave while writing a letter."

      I often reply to email while running the Norelco over my Finnish kinda, sorta, maybe, ish, beard.

      "to ski while writing a letter."

      Daft concept. Ignored.

      "to ski while having a conversion."

      The wife and I often have a conversation when skiing together.

      "drive while having a conversion."

      Last time my Wife drove me up Pike's Peak, she was quite happy to have a conversation with me. At speed, even.

      "drive while shaving."

      Dry shaving is muscle memory. If you have a spare limb, it doesn't get in the way of whatever else you are doing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Humans cannot do 2 things that require concentration.

        « "to ski while writing a letter."

        Daft concept. Ignored. »

        I know what I'll be trying this weekend. Trying to decide whether it will be pen and paper, a computer, or a typewriter. Piste or freeriding?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Humans cannot do 2 things that require concentration.

          "I know what I'll be trying this weekend."

          Ok, so I've tried. Dictating over the phone actually works, as long as the prose is not too complicated or the ride not too complex. You also need a good signal, but if staying on-piste that's not normally a problem.

      2. Silverburn
        Flame

        Re: Humans cannot do 2 things that require concentration.

        Dry shaving = You sadist...

        Real shaving takes hot water, soap, a brush and a sharp blade.

        <-- what it feels like after dry shaving.

        1. jake Silver badge

          @Silverburn (was: Re: Humans cannot do 2 things that require concentration.)

          My ten year old Norelco rechargeable three-head razor does a perfectly good job on my north-of-the-arctic-circle Finn poor excuse for a beard, day to day.

          When it comes to "have to be included in weddings, first birthdays & funerals pictures", I use my Grandfather's straight razor. Better cut, yes. But hardly worth the time, day-to-day.

    3. Gray Ham
      Joke

      Re: Humans cannot do 2 things that require concentration.

      "its not a good idea:

      [to] drive while having a conversion."

      ... especially if you're driving to Damascus ... you'll go blind!

  13. Terry 6 Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Increasing a mostly pointless risk

    Taking a short call is probably, in theory, relatively safe, compared to being even mildly drunk for the whole journey.

    However, in reality we seldom really need to take, let alone make, a call while driving, and people who think that the call is so important that they need to take it are, perhaps, also likely also to be the ones who give the call more attention than the driving.

    Hands free calls are and useful and safe for a quick update - (I'm running late/stuck in traffic/meeting has been cancelled etc) - but not for a significant conversation.

  14. Silverburn

    Just ban driving and cars. That'll really cut the accident rate.

    Joking aside - IMO - we're at the "diminishing returns" stage with accidents - it's going to take *a lot more* restrictions on "activity X causes Y number of accidents" to see any improvement on the current statistics. Yes there are some easy wins - drinking & driving, using mobile etc, but after that...where do we go? Do we start going down ever smaller rabbit holes until we get to stuff like "Glasses wearer with dirty glasses cause Y number of accidents a year" or "using intermittent wipers instead of 'full on' in rain causes Y accidents per year"?

    Lets face it: Humans = error = accidents. if you want to drive or use the roads in whatever way, you need to accept some level of risk.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Bunch of Slackers...

      If scientists would pull their fingers out and get on with inventing personal teleportation devices, instead of conducting pointless research to come up with dubious correlations and biased statistics, we wouldn't have to worry about idiots on the road...

      1. Nuke
        Meh

        Re: Bunch of Slackers...

        AC wrote :- "If scientists would ..get on with inventing personal teleportation devices, . we wouldn't have to worry about idiots on the road..."

        Like many of the eco-bubbles proposed as cars these days, and judging by what I've seen on Startrek, they would be well short of transporting some of the stuff I find myself carrying around. I never saw Captain Kirk in that teleport with fencing panels, paving slabs, carpets, or old cookers, like I need to transport.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I love this survery....well how it's reported anyway.

    Set you baseline to Shit, then when X= Shit, then that's ok and should be allowed.

    Next one to try:

    Banging head hard against brick wall repeatedly is no more dangerous than being punched in the face repeatedly by a heavyweight boxer. Therefore it's OK to bang you head against the wall repeatedly.

  16. Sean Houlihane

    Driver training

    Training more drivers to be better at managing problems is likely to give far better returns than pretending the problems can be avoided. In the case of a phone call, the call should get the peripheral attention, not the driving activity - but this has to be instinctive for the driver.

    It's not an easy sell, but learning accident avoidance skills does help. Sadly, most people in a not-fault accident don't realise that often they could have mitigated the scenario to some extent regardless of the actual fault.

    Technology might be able to contribute too, but there does seem to be a trend to wards expecting drivers to be idiots and designing the car to cope...

    1. Terry Barnes

      Re: Driver training

      Your argument being that it's better to let things catch fire and have fire extinguishers available than it is to prevent the fire in the first place? Most people would argue neither is sufficient and that both measures should be adopted.

    2. Nuke
      Meh

      @ Sean Houlihane - Re: Driver training

      Wrote :- "Training more drivers to be better at managing problems is likely to give far better returns than pretending the problems can be avoided."

      Having been in safety-conscious industries for some time, I can tell you from experience that many people are just un-trainable, or become so as they get older. The authorities should simply be more ruthless about banning incompetent drivers IMHO. Needing to re-taking the driving test every 10 years would help, shotening to 5 when you are over 60.

  17. Stephen White
    WTF?

    Erm, in what way does their research suggest drink driving should be made legal rather than banning all use of mobile telephony by the driver (hands-free or not)? It suggests both increase the risk for the occupants of the vehicle and innocent third parties.

  18. MJI Silver badge

    A few points

    Tiredness is as bad as drink driving, drunk and tired is the real killer.

    Phones and driving, not black and white, Stuck in a jam - no issue, going round a roundabout - well throw the book

  19. Terry Barnes
    Thumb Down

    Ackcherly...

    There have been studies that show why - specifically - using a mobile phone is more dangerous than tuning a radio, talking to a passenger, smoking a cigarette or even using a half-duplex device like a CB or taxi radio etc...

    If you are holding a duplex - i.e. both-way - conversation with someone you can't see, the same part of your brain that is used for dealing with spatial problems gets used to create a pseudo-image of the person you are talking to. Driving is a spatial problem. Being able to talk duplex to someone you can't see is a very recent thing in terms of human history and evolution (as is being able to travel faster than a horse can run). If you use a mobile phone while driving, you are significantly impaired. Our brains don't know how to do this very well yet. It's partly the reason that some people will get up and walk around when using a mobile - subconsciously their brain is encouraging the person to go and look for this person who they can hear but not see - they must be hiding behind something.

    It's easy to test this for yourself. Fire up Tetris. Tetris is a game that deals with a spatial problem, though there are far fewer inputs and variables than you experience when driving.

    Play it three times. First, on your own with no distractions. Secondly, with someone sitting beside you and talking. Thirdly, talk to someone on a mobile while you play it. Don't make the topic of conversation the task or Tetris, make it a typical 'what shall we have for dinner' or 'have you thought about our holiday this year' or 'can we fit in an extra bit of work for client X' conversation.

    I guarantee that after this experiment you will never use a mobile phone while driving again.

    1. Stacy

      Re: Ackcherly...

      Except for the fact that I can't stand Tetris I want to try this.

      Can I say to the person I am talking to "this is getting complex, hold on" the same as I do on the car phone though to make it exactly the same? Or do I have to fudge the results by forcing myself to talk though the complex bits which I would normally not do?

      1. Terry Barnes

        Re: Ackcherly...

        Behave as you would when driving. If you typically ask people to hold on, do so. It won't change the outcome.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: Ackcherly...

      You've never worked in a cube farm. If you can't do your job while having to listen to one side of 8 conversations, you'll go crazy.

      1. Terry Barnes
        Stop

        Re: Ackcherly...

        And how many safety critical real-time spatial problems do you tend to solve in your cube farm?

        1. Stacy

          Re: Ackcherly...

          I may have to give this a try then!

          Thanks

    3. Anthony Cartmell
      Thumb Up

      Re: Ackcherly...

      Can't vote this one up enough. I am convinced that when I'm talking on the phone I somehow "move" to somewhere else other than where I actually am. Whether I'm mentally imagining myself next to the person on the other end, or whether I'm just trying to block out the local environment to concentrate on the speaker, I don't know. It may be the lack of facial clues means I have to concentrate more on the sound of the voice, to detect the other person's emotions.

      Also completely agree with the "faster than a horse can run" thing. Humans have evolved both physically and mentally to cope with things that happen in nature: collisions up to around 20mph, objects approaching at up to the same sort of speed, and so on. We have not yet evolved to cope with things that "attack" at higher speeds, nor with situations that change very quickly from safe to life-threatening. Our reaction times are around 150 to 300 milliseconds, even when we're waiting to react to something. Reaction times to unexpected occurrences (like a motorway pileup in front) are much longer.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "natural world"

        A tennis player can hit a small object travelling at over 100mph, just as an example.

  20. Senior Ugli
    IT Angle

    Im just waiting for a mate

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmsleJGJP6A

  21. Danny 5
    FAIL

    possibly one of the dumbest things i've ever read

    Phones turn off, but you'd have a hard time trying to turn your drunk off.

    I make a LOT of handsfree calls and always tell the other party that i'm driving and may tune them out if traffic demands it. Alcolhol impairs your abilities, from reaction times to sight and everything in between. Alcohol has this effect on any and all, while handfree calls will only affect some.

    And someone researched this? Really?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Pint

      Re: possibly one of the dumbest things i've ever read

      Yes. and this isn't the first time, but may be one of the first to study the similar effects of hands free phones.

      Car & Driver did an on-track drunk driving test with their writers back in the 80's (maybe, I can't find it in google and don't collect C&D) and what they found was that one of their drivers got better on the course, the more he drank. He got better even more than their control (non-drinking driver) did.

      In the end, they couldn't say drinking and driving could save lives, but...

      1. Terry Barnes

        Re: possibly one of the dumbest things i've ever read

        Define 'better'. Completing a controlled course in the shortest possible time is in no way equivalent to driving on public roads with other traffic, with pedestrians and cyclists.

        1. AceRimmer1980
          Boffin

          Re: possibly one of the dumbest things i've ever read

          5th Gear did something like this in the UK. Not on a track, but at a training centre designed to simulate public roads, while being well away from public roads.

          There was a drunk driver (illegal), a driver stoned on weed (illegal) and a sleep-deprived driver (legal). The metric of 'better' was quantity of accidents, near-misses, and general driving precision at normal road speeds.

      2. Nuke

        @ theodore - Re: possibly one of the dumbest things i've ever read

        "they found was that one of their drivers got better on the course, the more he drank. He got better even more than their control (non-drinking driver) "

        I am old enough to remember when I was small, when the Breathaliser was being proposed, that many people (drinking men actually) made the argument that they drove better when drunk. In fact they used to boast how drunk they sometimes were when driving.

        One guy I remember loudly boasting that he drove back home from the pub every night with his nearside wheel scraping the kerb - because he was so drunk he could not see it. Unbelievable of course (parked cars?) but it shows how such guys saw no shame in it.

        It is funny how present day claims (often arising on El Reg) that people are less likely to have accidents the faster they drive, sound just like the drinking claims of those guys in the late 1960's.

  22. London1974

    That this "scientific" study was done, in part, in Spain which has one of the highest level of deaths due to drunken driving is staggering. You almost wonder, such is the lunacy of the headline, whether it a study funded by a brewery!

    1. Terry Barnes

      The headline is Mr Page's - nothing to do with the study.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    I can confirm

    Texting definitely impairs my counter steering and throttle skills.

    Beer does not.

    Talking on handsfree does not.

    So I should be allowed to drift my car under the influence of few pints and talking to someone on the phone at the same time, but I should lose my license if I text someone.

  24. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. This Side Up

      Distractions

      Yes there are lots of distractions but some are easily avoidable. I know very well that if I'm listening to a radio programme and typing a reply to El Reg at the same time I won't remember what was on the radio. The same applies to having a phone conversation or texting whilst driving: you're thinking about what you're saying or typing whilst driving on autopilot. It's not just a visual distraction - it uses a lot of your mental capacity so less is available for driving. And it's not just plain reaction time that suffers. You end up gazing straight ahead and not glancing sideways or using your mirrors, observation suffers and you don't perceive hazards until too late.

      Business conversations are likely to be far more distracting than a simple "I'm stuck in a traffic jam". In fact I think the law goes too far with handhelds. It should be OK if you're stopped with the handbrake on and the gearbox in neutral or park. As it is you must remove the ignition key before using the phone.

    2. Stu_The_Jock
      Facepalm

      Nice blonde

      And how many people reading this instinctively glanced to one side to see aforementioned blonde, despite knowing they are sitting in a room on their own ?

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just wrong

    "Driving with an illegal or almost-illegal level of blood alcohol is often no more dangerous than taking a call using a hands-free device at the wheel"

    Bullshit.

    1. Terry Barnes
      IT Angle

      Re: Just wrong

      So you have your own published study that counteracts this one?

      I am amazed daily by the number of people who post on an IT and computing site who seemingly have no faith in evidence, statistics or the scientific method. Maybe I've worked in the wrong companies, but I don't recall ever meeting a successful analyst, programmer, systems engineer or DBA who laughs in the face of evidence and instead goes with whatever their gut reaction to any input is.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        IT Angle

        Re: Just wrong

        Maybe the demographics who posts on an IT and computing sites just doesn't like being told what they can and cannot do based on scientific research and statistics since it's all about the "averages" and most people in that demographic consider itself way above average due to inflated egos.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Just wrong

          "based on scientific research and statistics"

          Well, bear in mind that 40% of people know that 90% of statistics are made up.

          Or to put it another way, there's a very good and real reason that the saying "lies, damned lies, and statistics" has been around for a fair old while.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just wrong

        "So you have your own published study that counteracts this one?"

        No, do you?

        Having looked at the source one would note that a significant risk occurs only with a "cognitively demanding conversation" or "texting", according to the conclusion, which is quite different to the more sensationalist summary version published here that I quoted in my much downvoted post above.

        I use the hands-free in my car a lot (it's built in and voice activated, so no fiddling involved), very convenient in fact as I travel a lot. I find it perfectly safe as I can pay as much or as little attention to the call as I like (depending on conditions). If anything "cognitively demanding" comes up I simply tell the other person or people that I'll have to get back to them later as I'm driving and cannot focus on it. I believe texting while driving is illegal here anyhow, for good reason.

        On the occasion that I've had one too many to drink however, I can very safely say that if I'd be stupid enough to get behind a wheel, it would in no way be in any way, shape or form a safe thing to do.

        Observing others' behavior in similar circumstances presents me with no evidence that anybody else is any different. Hence calling bullshit on any statement that seeks to equate taking a hands-free call with being drunk, however moderately.

  26. JDX Gold badge

    Driving with an ... almost-illegal level of blood alcohol ... no more dangerous than taking a call

    Let me see... "almost illegal" that means the same as legal doesn't it?

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For a given definition of drunk driving

    This research makes a case for the legal limit to be raised a little. It is where it is because it errs on the side of not killing schoolgirls. It could maybe err a little less on that side but there's not much of a case for actually doing so. Does anybody actually care about being legally allowed to drive with an extra sixth of a pint in them?

  28. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Big Brother

    "limit of 0.5 g/l"

    Still pretty high for Yurop: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drunk_driving_law_by_country#Europe

    Yurop has gone into retardation level territory due to rampant voter whoring and pressure to bring in the dough, with limits that now just trigger false positives on alcometers. Lose your license, no problem.

    The funny thing is when ministers are then caught half-stoned out of their mind behind the wheel (or even in one case having totalled his taxpayer-provided luxury car against a tree). Then strenuous damage limitation and strongly worded wrist-slapping has to be applied.

    1. This Side Up
      Stop

      Re: "limit of 0.5 g/l"

      "Yurop has gone into retardation level territory due to rampant voter whoring and pressure to bring in the dough, with limits that now just trigger false positives on alcometers. Lose your license, no problem."

      Faulty logic. Driving ban = not driving = not buying fuel = not paying fuel duty = loss of dough to guvmint.

      1. Terry Barnes

        Re: "limit of 0.5 g/l"

        Its also the logic that shows why speed cameras can't be a revenue source. Catch someone four times and they lose their licence. Compare and contrast the revenue of a few hundred quid from fines versus the loss of income tax and NI revenue from someone losing their job.

        If people who have been caught three times suddenly gain the ability to drive more carefully then the camera has done its job - someone who previously drove poorly is now driving more carefully.

  29. nigel 15
    Stop

    This is such BS

    If you're drunk driving you're drunk for the whole journey and can't sober up in an emergency.

    if you're on the phone it is for moments and if it starts to snow, rain, whatever, you can, you know, not be on the phone any more.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "not be on the phone any more"

      Except that pretty much nobody actually exercises this option in real life because they think they are the best driver in the world.

      1. Stacy
        Joke

        Re: "not be on the phone any more"

        What do you mean "think"?

        ;p

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is such BS

      The actual source material actually agrees with you and makes it clear that hands free only gets dangerous with "cognitively challenging" conversations, which as you say, aren't the brightest idea to have in the first place while driving.

  30. This Side Up
    Happy

    Nice to see sensible units being used

    0.5g/l is so much simpler than 500mg/100ml, but then we can't expect our law makers to do anything sensible. I would however point out that 0.7 with no units is the same as 70% and not .7g/l.

    1. graeme leggett

      Re: Nice to see sensible units being used

      0.5 g/l is 500mg/litre - you mean easier than 50mg/100ml.

      The choice of units may follow from the test used - eg so many mg per 100ml of urine and then multiply by a factor.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Of these reponses you can gain that 1/2 of the commentards are 20s and under. Their inexperience stands out.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Of course, driving with such blood-alcohol levels will lead to severe legal penalties: whereas taking a call using a handsfree device will not."

    Just another demo of how confused my "peers" are! Well done England, FAILED AGAIN!

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If 10% of all accidents involve alcohol, then 90% are caused by sober people. I'm staying in until closing time down my local...

    But seriously, the absolute most dangerous time to be on the road is during the school run. I've seen some horrendous driving by distracted drivers with a car full of screaming brats. Having lived close to a couple of schools, I learned very quickly to avoid the area at all costs during those times.

    Never mind banning drink or mobile phones, ban parents from the school run and insist they either walk or use a school bus.

    1. Terry Barnes

      Not true. It's absolutely provable that the highest risk time to be on the road is after 11PM. That's why some insurance companies will give you a discount if you agree not to drive at certain times.

      You may be more likely to have a minor incident during rush hour - but your chances of a serious, KSI (killed or seriously injured) accident are much, much higher late at night.

      Your comment is an example of someone extrapolating from limited personal experience instead of looking at what the evidence tells us. I once walked down a live railway line believing it to be disused. My map said it was, the preserved railway line who owned it had extended since the map was printed. I wasn't run over or killed. That doesn't mean that walking on live railway lines is safe.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: KSI / night-time

        Not really true - whilst statistically speaking more serious accidents happen at night, this is because people are more likely to drive recklessly, not because the risks are inherently higher.

        This is a confusion between cause and effect.

        On the whole though I agree with all of the other points you make and present well.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: KSI / night-time

          "this is because people are more likely to drive recklessly, not because the risks are inherently higher."

          Umm .... is it possible that the thing to take away here would be that it's riskier to drive at night because because people are more likely to drive recklessly?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Terry Barnes

        No, just proves you're an idiot for believing what you read without considering the truth of your own eyes.

  34. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Terry Barnes

      Re: Drunk piloting (of any device )

      And the relevance of any of your rant to the story in question is....?

      1. Katie Saucey
        Pint

        Re: Drunk piloting (of any device )

        fuck all I'm still hammed

  35. techmind

    Cyclist threat from inattentive drivers

    A couple of months ago I saw a cyclist (in a cycle lane) almost rammed from behind by a car doing 35-40mph. The car swerved out into the road only just in time. I was driving in opposite direction at time... just as I was thinking "what happened there" I saw that the approaching driver had a phone in their hands in the middle of the steering wheel - and despite nearly killing the cyclist just moments ago they were STILL fiddling with it.

  36. Katie Saucey
    Pint

    Re: Drunk piloting (of any device )

    No point, just pissed at the local government, and it's been awhile since I had a good rant, not that I qualify those couple of run ons as one.

  37. envmod
    Trollface

    i drive better when i'm drunk

    i find it helps to relax my shoulders and improve my approach somewhat. never fails to knock a few strokes off my game.

  38. Tom 7 Silver badge

    My boss used to call people when he knew they were on the road

    as they were much easier to be inducted into whatever crazy plan he had at the time than if they could think about it.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Missing the point.

    by contrast, pressing a single button on dashboard or wheel and then holding a conversation would seem quite safe and reasonable.

    It's not pressing the button that is the dangerous distraction, it's having the conversation that takes a significant portion of your cognitive capacity. Even talking to a passenger in the front seat next to you is dangerously distracting, as other studies (IIRC) have shown. (I'm a right pain to talk to when I'm driving because I keep on going silent and stopping listening any time a junction comes up or anything the least bit more complicated than just cruising in a straight line without any other vehicles immediately nearby. Have to keep on asking people what they just said after getting past the roundabout etc.)

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The problem is calculating or measuring how over the limit you are. You may feel perfectly fine at the start of your trip but if it is a long one you may feel worse at the end. Tiredness can compound the issue and most people drink at night.

    Some people can't drive very well stone cold sober. People with eyesight problems don't get them checked out or don't wear their glasses.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    History will look back on this as being the horribly dangerous period between mobile phones becoming mainstream and driverless cars being mainstream. Hopefully you're one of the survivors.

  42. Ramazan

    often

    "is often no more dangerous" - how often is their Australian often then?

  43. Velv
    Boffin

    There's been plenty of research into this before.

    The voice quality on phones is low and therefore the brain needs to divert a lot more attention to decoding the sound waves than it does for an in-car conversation or a radio station. This is true for landlines too, but tend not to be able to drive too far when using one of them.

  44. Tomas K.

    This is precisely why...

    ...all who drive DUI or use cellphones/text, etc. while driving should lose their license for a year, be fined 5000 Euro and sent to jail for six months or more.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is precisely why...

      Those penalties improve their driving how? People with a drink habit will (if not jailled) continue drinking. Probably more as they only have the option of public transport. Lossing thier job looses their employer & the nation revenue.

      AC 'cause I've done just exactly that.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Test Order Fail

    First you get them liquored up, test, then retest with mobile while they are still drunk?

  46. evs
    Holmes

    Touchcreens are a problem

    It is almost impossible to operate a touchscreen device without staring at it. Not just glancing at it but actually watching to make sure you touch that sheet of glass in the exact, visually indicated spot and nowhere else. By comparison, one could easily unlock and redial a button-gen phone without ever actually looking at the device at all.

    For similar reasons, it is also impossible to drive a motor vehicle safely without actually watching the road. In most cases, haptic cues from other cars, pedestrians or even signage only indicate that things have already gone horribly wrong.

    The upshot then is that it is impossible to drive a car and operate a touchscreen at the same. When someone is actively dialing a call or texting from behind the wheel, they aren't actually driving, theyre just sitting in the driver's seat of a moving car while they do something else. They stay on the road only by context switching back to driving frequently enough that the unattended car doesn't have time to wander off the road entirely.

    There's a psychological challenge here. Driving does not require a great deal of mental effort, just constant attention so we, as humans, get bored and start looking for ways to use that time more "productively". In the absence of a passenger to talk to, the mobile is the natural outlet for that restlessness. As anyone who has made a reservation while driving can attest, this can work very well indeed.

    Legislation seems essential but is fundamentally flawed to the point that it increases risk in some circumstances. While it discourages some users, others will just try to hide their activity. This, in turn, greatly increases context switching overhead and negatively impacts both tasks.

    This problem will get much worse as most new drivers were texting for several years before they ever got behind the wheel. For those people, telling them not to text is kind of like telling those of us of an previous generation not to talk or not to listen to the radio. Good advice when driving but preceived as unreasonable in practice.

    IMO, the real solution comes back to self-driving cars and better transit. The real value of handsfree legislation is not so much to punish texting and driving as to reinforce the point that it is not reasonable to text and drive and to help us progress towards reasonable solutions where someone can communicate while en route without endangering lives.

    (note: I refer to texting throughout but, aside from the observation about young drivers, this applies to any manipulation of a touchsreen device).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Touchcreens are a problem

      I find any in-car entertainment system that involves more than going up or down the radio band or back and forth through a CD a distraction from driving. replaced my 8yr old car's built in radio/cd with one that could read from meory sticks or work an iphone. Trying to shift between tracks in different folders with tiny buttons - it wasn't compatible with the controls on the steering wheel - was bad enough let alone find a particular item. Fortunately a lot of stuff I wanted to listen to was more or less the same duration as the drive to work so I could set it going before leaving the drive.

      Won't be installing the system in the new(er) car as I really prefer the ease of the wheel controls and can put up with using an Aux socket feed in.

      Modern cars with the multiplicity of extra functions built in must be a temptation for some to do more while driving and lessen concentration on the road around you. Once tried sorting out why my phone wasn't properly connecting to work's van via bluetooth while driving; until i realised it was affecting my driving and gave up. The van was quite capable of locking the doors for my own safety once it started moving, why it didnt lock off the settings menu as well I dont know.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Coincidence?

    Local news story - unmarked police (in a lorry) caught a load of HGV drivers ("most of" "over 200" offenders) doing distracted things - using mobile phones, reading books etc, watching videos.

    These are supposedly the professionals of the road, in theory paid to handle a very large and potentially very dangerous vehicle safely

    While finding out if a hands-free is as safe as people assume, there is still work to be done on the reallt unthinking drivers.

  48. Infernoz Bronze badge
    Facepalm

    We have the technology now, so add protection to vehicles for reduced insurance premiums!

    Yes, people should not be distracted, especially with complex activities like extraneous listening, talking, seeing, and associated thinking (something us introverts are well aware of); the extra body disruption from higher intensity Microwaves from a mobile struggling to stay in contact with a possibly distant or attenuated cell tower, inside the Faraday cage like steel vehicle body probably doesn't help either!

    So accept that people will fail sometimes, and add sensors outside the car and actuators inside to smoothly auto-brake/steer if something is getting too close; how hard is that?

    Don't expect any sense from the state; it often only looks at symptoms and blindly punishing the offender, less so addressing the actual causes and proper remedy for the hurt parties! The market is the best place to address this, by making it too expensive to not have counter measures or prevention for being distracted or stupid.

  49. Martin Budden Bronze badge
    Go

    Hurry up Google!

    I want my autonomous car, and I want it now! Then I can drink/text/fuck as much as I want while the car does the driving.

  50. BlackKnight(markb)
    Facepalm

    I use to have a hands free set for the bike, riding around doing server admin jobs. more often then not i would get a call from work asking me to go somewhere else while i was riding. which was fine, occaisionally they would start asking for advise on an issue or update or similar demanding question, at that point I end the conversation and call them back when i stop.

    I can usually see Texting drivers 500m ahead, there the ones that cant stay between the lines or maintain speed.

    any effort in thinking about my response to the other party was time i wasn't assessing the situation around me although i could maintain speed and lane position i wasn't picking up on the little clues that have oh so often saved my life on the road.

  51. Tim Bates
    FAIL

    Testing with incompetents?

    Just wondering what incompetents they ran this with.... I've never really noticed any difference in my driving when I've used the Bluetooth kit in various cars. Press the button to accept the call and start talking. I'm still able to check mirrors, change gears, steer, check speed, stop when necessary, etc.

    Maybe the big problem isn't drunks or phone abusers, but simply we've let too many shitty drivers use our roads.

    Fail because that's what so many people seem to do when driving these days.

  52. cortland
    Paris Hilton

    Do not overload the brain box

    Texting is much less difficult if done by Morse Code.

    It appears that the handicap due to vocal communication is poor multitasking.

    As a precaution, then, substantive and immersing intellectual content, or content arousing of emotion, must be forbidden from being aired during commute hours, and at night when truck (lorries to you) drivers are racing down deserted roads to meet deadlines.

    Lunchtime (as we say) should similarly be restricted to light and nonabsorbing content as well, protecting those who must drive from the workplace to an eating-place and back.

    Or just ban the airing duringcritical times of intellectually and emotionally interesting content by such stations as still have any. "Talk Radio" is included in this category, so that's some good to come of this.

    It is, however, not necessary to actually test drivers, as establishments of low type abound wherein test subjects might be set tasks on tablets or laptop computers while being assailed by the sensory blandishments such places are reputed to offer.

    More research is obviously needed.

    Paris. I don't know why.

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