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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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.

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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.

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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".

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!

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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.

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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...

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Re: how do you define drink driving?

Blood alcohol content - simples.

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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.

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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...

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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]

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Re: Tested a drivers skill...

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

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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.

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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.

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Facepalm

Re: Tabloid hyperbole FAIL

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

Carry on

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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

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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.

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Vic
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Big Brother

Re: Texting whilst driving leads to arrest

It's an Animal Farm reference.

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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...

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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."

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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.

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Happy

Read article. Thought April 1st. Dissatisfied.

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