Cellphone Use While Driving

Call this a rant if you like, but it is a personal recollection of an recent event that illustrates why cellphone use (aka: distracted driving) while driving has become a serious problem.

I was on the way home on my motorcycle and passed under the freeway overpass (below) headed to the freeway on-ramp. There is a left turn lane under the overpass, and I had the left turn arrow. My path is shown by the green line in the photo.

A woman (represented by the red line in the photo) came down the hill, in the turn lane, catches the green light (#1), makes a right turn, and proceeds to head under the overpass. MAJOR PROBLEM: she does not see the red light (#2) that controls the intersection between light #1, and the over pass. You can just see the white limit line in front of the white car in the photo (not her).

I’m leaned over and committed to the turn, tailing behind a the car in front of me (also entering the freeway) and my maneuvering space is restricted. I glance up in time to see her throw up both hands as if to protect her head (the classic oh-my-God-I’m-going-to-die! response) and proceed, now out of control (unless she’s steering with her knees) through the intersection … and what is that that she has in her right hand? Why, it’s a cell phone. I’m sure she must have been talking on it, why else would she have it in her hand?

I caught an opening and managed to avoid her right front fender. This driver was thoroughly distracted by kids in the back, her girlfriend yakking away in the right front seat, while talking on her cellphone. Her actions endanger the public, her children, and are a negative influence on them; they will grow up thinking they too can drive while not thinking about it.

To bring an element of “design” into the discussion;

1) Can a driver be “un-distracted” if doing anything other than driving? e.g., adjusting the radio, drinking a soda, a video playing in the back of the car, etc.?

2) If users will not voluntarily adhere to legal (and common sense) restraints is it the ethical “duty” of manufacturers (auto makers and/or electronics manufacturers) to protect us from ourselves? e.g., we have seat belt laws but there is no driver interlock to prevent a vehicle from moving without them being employed; drunk drivers encounter no difficulty driving a car.

3) Should they?

And I’m curious as to how the distracted driving issue is being perceived and dealt with around the world. I can not imagine, for example, what the consequences are in Germany for driving on the Autobahns while distracted.

Yeah, they can be un-distracted, I did a bunch of research about this, full lit review, ethnography related to a mobile apps, even wrote a couple conference papers.

Radio is fine, even people talking in the back, friends usually know when to stop talking to stop distracting you. However, kids are proven to distract, also I knew that, having 2 :slight_smile:

Basically the parts that are bad about cell phones are the verbal production task, the fact that you are talking, so there is a saying about not talking to the bus driver, that would be improved by saying don’t make the bus driver talk to you. The other bad thing about cell phones is the manipulation of the object, but that isn’t to say having your hand by your ear is going to prevent you from driving other than you probably won’t drop your cell phone when something happens.

So, that also means that all the talk to text, and hands free crap isn’t actually all that helpful. That’s all the result of us thinking we know a thing or two about human factors. It’s not actually as simple as thinking, “if they are holding a phone, and they are driving badly, we’ll just make them talk instead.”

Government intervention is a problem for several reasons, first, it’s driven by fear and rumors, rather than actual data, otherwise hands free devices would be illegal too. Another reason is that people fear getting caught and probably hold their device in a place that is less noticeable to law enforcement, and as a result farther from what might be an optimal place to do an un-optimal task.

As you may know, we have seat belt laws to keep you in your seat so you can control your vehicle and steer it away from other drivers, not actually to keep you alive during a crash.

What I’ve looked into is taking what’s referred to as a systems approach, fix the device, and discourage the use. So attack from both ends. The successful campaigns are the ones that basically appeal to your motivation, peer acceptance, and your perception of your ability to control the outcome of your actions. You could Google “Theory of Planned Behavior” and “Text messaging” and find a bunch of papers about it. The other thing is to have one person in your company actually learn about human factors and perception and cognition, or hire someone who knows, and that doesn’t mean a designer who had a couple ergonomics classes in school, read Don Norman’s book and calls themselves a HF expert… and then try to design better interfaces.

You could also try to convince me to take this project into production, I did it last year as a sort of critical design thing:



Lew: Seems like a poorly designed intersection is the #1 culprit. Why allow a right turn on green that immediately lands you on a red light. They should be synchronized to eliminate potential conflicts like this.

Here is an article on the subject from our cognitive psychologist - NTSB Cell Phone Ban - daed.com