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back to article Coroner suggests cars should block mobile phones

The Coroner in the Australian State of Victoria has suggested that cars should include kit that makes it impossible to use a mobile phone. The recommendation comes in findings about the death of Melbourne woman Melissa Ann Ryan in December 2011. Ryan's car was hit from behind by a truck, the driver of which said he did not see …

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Seems to be no problem in the US

The corporations have assured us that no accidents are caused by being distracted while using a mobile.

We can of course, trust them.

(do I really need to add the sarcasm tag?)

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Anonymous Coward

Talking with passengers

Talking with passengers, arguing, lighting a cigarette, eating, drinking, picking your nose, seeing a speed camera, sneezing........

There are so many distractions. Single seat cars, driver pods, robotics, the only real way to stop accidents us to take the driver out of the equation, hey why not ban cars altogether?

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Roo
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Re: Seems to be no problem in the US

I'm not going to argue with the Coroner on the merits of this case (that's his job anyway) - but VW did recall a number of vehicles with their 6 speed DGS transmission because occasionally they would lose drive as the car accelerated. There are a few reports of people losing drive while joining major roads - in a number of cases narrowly avoiding getting T-boned...

That truck must have struck that vehicle pretty hard to kill the occupant, so I do wonder what the fuck the truck driver was doing to cause him to fail to notice the car in front slowing down/stopping.

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Re: Talking with passengers

I agree, talking inside cars should be immediately banned.

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Re: Seems to be no problem in the US

What was the truck driver doing? Judging by the ones I see on the Autobahn around here, either writing an SMS, watching TV or reading a newspaper... :-S

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Online Satnav

There are some really useful satnav apps (e.g. Waze) that can dynamically route you around traffic problems - but for this to work they need a data (and therefore mobile) connection.

No more dangerous than using a regular satnav, indeed probably less so as you're less stressed from suddenly finding yourself in 6 miles of stationary traffic because some @rse has decided to drive their lorry into a motorbike and cause the M20 to be closed for a couple of hours.

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Re: Talking with passengers

It is well known that chat with a passenger is different from taking a phone call. The passenger can see the road and what the driver is doing, and adjust their conversation accordingly. They provide another pair of eyes and can see hazards ahead. A caller, on the other hand, will discuss some in-depth subject, push the driver for decisions and generally take 92% of his CPU cycles, while he is trying to lane-merge at 60mph, in driving rain, in the dark, in the rush hour. Agree with coroner, stop this total b0110cks immediately.

My car has full bluetooth whatsit but I would never use it even when standing still. Men hate using the phone anyway FPS.

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Re: Talking with passengers

Indeed. Here is a link to a study showing extremely strong evidence that our field of vision narrows substantially with increased cognitive work load. The experiment used a driving simulator and device to measure point of focus. Their data shows definitively that talking on a mobile causes people to see only what is directly ahead of them in a narrow field. We literally stop seeing things like cars in the next lane over. And it isn't just conversation. Multitasking of any sort affects our vision. Apparently we reduce the amount of visual data being processed by the brain to free up some processing power for the other tasks.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24218908

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Re: Talking with passengers

"Talking with passengers, arguing, lighting a cigarette, eating, drinking, picking your nose, seeing a speed camera, sneezing........"

All of which (excepting particularly bad sneezing bouts) are typically an order of magnitude less distracting than a mobile telephone conversation.

I am not in favour of bans. You can't legislate common sense, however, people who can't understand there is a substantial difference between talking to a passenger and someone on a mobile phone show common sense is in short supply.

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Re: Talking with passengers

A rigourous study was publised in the journal Acident Analisys and Provention, by Samuel G. Charlton "Driving while conversing: Cell phones that distract and passengers who react".

Pretty much proves the extent of impairment caused by mobile phone conversations. There has been similar research carried out by the insurance industry, which had similar findings.

Bottom line, driving solo, best chance of surving the unexpected, and not taking others with you, driving on the phone, is an accident looking for somewhere to happen.

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Re: Talking with passengers

"There are so many distractions. Single seat cars, driver pods, robotics, the only real way to stop accidents us to take the driver out of the equation, hey why not ban cars altogether?"

What is it about libertarians that they come out with obtuse and ill-thought-out either-or responses to any idea of state intervention to protect human beings from themselves or others?

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Re: Talking with passengers

> What is it about libertarians that they come out with obtuse and ill-thought-out either-or responses to any idea of state intervention to protect human beings from themselves or others?

We've just got used to the idea that governments, or at least vocal idiots within them, are hell bent on removing all of our freedoms that we naturally resist all such attempts.

The big problem with the modern approach to this kind of problem is failing to tackle the problem itself and trying to fudge it with over-reaching legislation that doesn't really tackle the problem.

The problem is not concentration, it is accidents because people are not concentrating. If there were no accidents, there would be no problem. It's like alcohol prohibition because some people can't hold their drink. With proper training, it *is* possible to use a communications device while driving. The police do it all the time, and they're usually in a hurry.

In Norway, they had the right idea. When holidaying there a few years ago, we were walking through a village and paused to try to decide where to go when we noticed that the traffic was stopping. There was a pedestrian crossing nearby, but we were not particularly close to it or looking like we wanted to cross. They stopped nevertheless. Later on I mentioned this to the tour guide and they told us that the consequences of knocking over a pedestrian on a crossing were extremely severe. No-one dare take the risk so they play it safe.

I'm one of those libertarians of which you speak. We're not against strong punishments for transgressors. But don't punish everyone for the failings of others. If you cause an accident and it's your fault and you were found to be doing x, y or z, you lose your license for a year, automatically, no questions. No excuses that you need it to earn a crust. If you were that dependent on it, you should be more careful. To get it back, you pass a more stringent driving test.

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Re: Talking with passengers

Some day I can see some foolish state will try this… maybe they mandate that all cars have microphones fitted to the exterior of the vehicle, providing an audio feed to noise-cancelling headphones (perhaps inside a helmet) that the driver is required to wear, preventing them from hearing anything inside the vehicle.

Don't see that taking off myself.

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Cell phone yakking != good driving

I've seen this before. A driver, in the fast lane, went from 65mph to 50mph because he got a call on his cell phone. No brake lights, he simply took his foot off the gas and kept driving at 50mph with his cell phone in his hand.

Some people have very limited attention spans. Either they drive, or they talk. But they don't do both.

The IT angle? The computer should drive the car. Right off to the side of the road, and then shut off the engine.

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Terminator

Re: Cell phone yakking != good driving

How about they just let self drive cars in and take the control away from the easily distracted humans......

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "the fast lane"

There is no such thing as a "fast lane". The speed limit in all lanes is the same.

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Re: "the fast lane"

Depends where you are - the lanes on the G15 in Guangdong, China, have different speed limits, and one is even labelled as "FAST LANE".

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Re: Cell phone yakking != good driving

A driver, in the fast lane, went from 65mph to 50mph because he got a call on his cell phone. No brake lights, he simply took his foot off the gas and kept driving at 50mph with his cell phone in his hand.

Which was blatantly illegal (in the UK). Use of a hand-held mobile while driving a car should be made illegal in any jurisdiction where it isn't already.

I'd assumed this article was about hands-free mobiles? In which case I can't see the difference between talking on a mobile and talking with a passenger. Also if cars blocked mobiles, they would not be able to automatically call for help after a serious accident (which may have left the driver and passengers unable to make such a call manually).

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Re: "the fast lane"

"There is no such thing as a "fast lane". The speed limit in all lanes is the same."

This is true in the technical sense, but in practice on a 3+ lane road you'll find the speed restricted vehicles (HGVs doing 58-59mph, commercial vans with limiters fitted, highways maintenance etc) are nearly always in lanes 1 & 2; additionally where the law says you may only overtake cars by passing them on the driver's side, you'll naturally be going faster in lanes nearer the central reservation than traffic in the other lanes in order to overtake.

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Re: "the fast lane"

There are official "crawler lanes" on hills, so that means that the other lanes at that location must be at least faster lanes if not fast lanes.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "HGVs [etc] nearly always"

Actually all vehicles over 7.5 tonnes or towing a trailer may not drive in the rightmost lane of a motorway with three or more lanes.

Official Police guidance is to refer to them as "Lane 1", "Lane 2", "Lane 3" and so on.

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Re: Cell phone yakking != good driving

>I can't see the difference between talking on a mobile and talking with a passenger.

However, the studies into these issues found differently. Our attention to a conversation with a passenger is conditional - we'll break off if necessary, knowing that the passenger will know why. Not the same on the phone.

And, to some degree, a phone conversation takes place in a separate space (ie, not the car). Our attention isn't where it should be.

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Re: Cell phone yakking != good driving

So - the fact that her brake lights didn't go on makes it ok to KILL her???

Whatever happened to paying attention to the road and what other drivers are doing? You don't need brake lights to tell you that a car is quickly decelerating.

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Re: Cell phone yakking != good driving...distracted humans

"How about they just let self drive cars in and take the control away from the easily distracted humans......"

Unfortunately whilst a seemingly good idea, the practical exprience from airline operations, is that when things get complicated (baring in mind air travel is a less "cluttered" environment), the computer goes "i cant cope", and dunps the autopilot back to the humans, the human then panics, over what is a straight forward flying problem, readily resolved if your go "back to basics", and makes a series of bad decisions, resulting in them crashing a perfectly servicable airbus into the south atlantic.

This is fairly similar to a lot of CFIT (Controlled Flight Into Terrain) factors.

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Re: Cell phone yakking != good driving

"I can't see the difference between talking on a mobile and talking with a passenger"

Which makes you an unobservant idiot.

Read http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19114151

But it isn't just conversation modulation, shitty quality compressed and fluttering mobile phone speech in the presence of background noise typically requires much more concentration just to understand the words never mind understanding the conversation and formulating responses.

There is much more pressure to concentrate on a mobile phone conversation because it is costing money, and the time of the other person and there is risk sounding like a moron if you keep pausing or asking for repeats.

Talking to passengers is free, they don't have anything better to do, and the conversation is less likely to be important.

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Re: Cell phone yakking != good driving...distracted humans

Any self drive system that ever dumps control back to the human would clearly be unfit for purpose and would never pass legal muster. (On the road when we're dealing in response times measured in, not seconds, but milliseconds there's simply no time to hand over control.) Clearly automated driving is a much harder problem than automated flying but the evidence is that has been solved or will be solved in the near future. (By 'solved' I mean 'demonstrably as safe as a good human driver'.)

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Terminator

Yes well...

The coroner can recommend all he wants, anyone of sense isn't listening. Unless he has a way to make it so that only devices for the driver of the car don't work, and not any of the passengers, and it doesn't actually interfere with a phone being used for satnav, doesn't interfere with emergency calls, oh and isn't afoul of any laws making it a crime to jam communications, this tosser can sod off.

Seems to me like all those speed cameras need to be repurposed into "twit on phone while driving" cameras .

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Re: Yes well...

The only way is to either make the car a giant faraday cage or use mobile jammers (which are illegal)

If they want to make it safer, here's a list where they can start

1: The over use of road signs. The more signs you look at, the less you're looking at the road

2: The over zealous policing of speed. The more you look at the speedo, the less you look at the road.

3: Simplify the speed zones. You should be able to work out what speed you should do without seeing a sign.

4: Fix the roads. 80% of deaths on country roads occur on bends because 80% of country roads is made up of bends.

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Re: Yes well...

On fixing the roads I seem to find that every patch or manhole (can we say that?) cover is in a position such that it's exactly where my tyres on the passenger side are if I am driving in a correct position on the road. Can we fix that too, as so many of them are ill fitting (I assume because world+dog drives over them) or raised it's dangerous in its own right. So to avoid them you have to pull out into oncoming traffic, or clip the pavement, which is even more dangerous and stupid.

Grrr.

The country roads bit is interesting, but I have no idea on bend related statistics. By us an alarming number of fatal incidents occur on a straight section of road where people seem to love driving into a "Bikers Beware" sign at high speed.

Utterly agree on roadsigns. Far too many, and there is no need for most of the brown ones which seem to proliferate alarmingly.

Speed is difficult, the issue is around "appropriate" speed, which varies by road, weather, other users, time of day etc etc. I mean on the same stretch of road you could do 60mph one day, but realise the next that even exceeding 20mph could be a bit dumb. Instead we use a blunt instrument because it's too difficult to deal with otherwise.

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Re: Yes well... Country roads

Removing all the bends in country roads would probably cause more disruption than is justified. And it's not just the bendy roads that are a problem...

I drive to work across the fens near Peterborough. One of the roads I use is dead straight for about 8 miles, but that doesn't mean it's safe. Fenland roads float on some kind of brushwood mattress, and are continually subsiding. The surfaces are so bad that a common accident is bouncing off the road into the adjacent ditch (if you're lucky - river if you aren't).

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Boffin

Re; Yes well... + Statistics 101

"4: Fix the roads. 80% of deaths on country roads occur on bends because 80% of country roads is made up of bends."

If 80% of deaths occur on 80% of the roads, that strongly suggests the remaining 20% has 20% of the deaths, and therefore are no safer that the 80% referred to previously.

Bends are likely to be more dangerous, but the "statistics" cited don't show it

Just my tuppence

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yes well...

"1: The over use of road signs. The more signs you look at, the less you're looking at the road"

- "the road" includes roadsigns, vehicles, hazards off the road. Road signs are designed to give you information in your peripheral, drawing your attention to them and helping you read the road.

2: The over zealous policing of speed. The more you look at the speedo, the less you look at the road.

- If you can't tell what speed your doing (roughly) without staring at your speedo, you shouldn't be driving, although you say you can do it without a sign? Cursory glances are no more distracting than the cursory glances you should be making in your mirrors.

"3: Simplify the speed zones. You should be able to work out what speed you should do without seeing a sign."

Speed zones are incredibly simple. Can you see a bunch of streetlights (3 or more)? Then it's 30. Can't see a bunch of streetlights? Then national speed limit applies. Unless told otherwise. You're told otherwise by gated entry (two signs each side of the road), and reminded, roughly, every 15 seconds of driving by a repeater sign.

"4: Fix the roads. 80% of deaths on country roads occur on bends because 80% of country roads is made up of bends."

I'll assume this is a correct stat. However, most car accidents happen in urban areas (volume of traffic), but are largely sedate, mainly due to all the points above. Most fatal car accidents happen on country roads, specifically due to them being narrow, harder to reach for emergency services (distance if nothing else), poor mobile signal to call for help etc.

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Re: Yes well...

#2 and #4 are closely related. You have to either educate those who can't drive at a speed they can manage or have physics sort them out.

IMHO getting rid of ESP and such would help in the process ...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Roads with bends in them

Have you considered that roads are usually built that way for a reason, such as to take account of the contours of the landscape? Do you really believe that road builders made them wiggly just for a laugh?

Road signs are also put there for a reason. For example, how would you know that the speed limit changes if there isn't a sign? In the case of warning signs, they are only ever erected in response to a KSI (killed or seriously injured) incident, as they cost over £7k to install even if they don't need electric lighting.

It really is true that any topic relating to driving automatically stimulates a complete failure of common sense in many people!

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Re: Yes well...

"80% of deaths on country roads occur on bends because 80% of country roads is made up of bends"

Yeh well, outside my house, where there has been 3 serious accidents and one death, every one of them were caused by going around the bends TOO SUCKING FAST. Its a 40mph zone,, but the local copper reckoned they were all doing at least 60mph. The accident investigator estimated that the guy who died was doing between 70-80mph. I have had people screaming at me for daring to slow them down when turning into my driveway. The road is quite safe if you are doing 40mph, but some people seem to think it is their right to go as fast as they like regardless of condition, speed limit or other road users

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Thumb Down

Re: Yes well...

Wrote :- "4: Fix the roads. 80% of deaths on country roads occur on bends because 80% of country roads is made up of bends."

And thus completely ruin the pleasant ambience of English country roads. I live by such a road and the simple fact is that a minority people go much too fast on them and they are the ones who crash. Apart from the matter of spending £billions, flattening properties, and turning rural Britain into a vast construction site for the next 25-50 years, just so that some arseholes don't need to lift off their right foot a bit. The motorways were originally buit to take pressure off rural roads, but what has happened instead is that people like you expect every road to be like a motorway.

My road (and others similar) has signs aimed at motor-cyclists (there is a picture of one) saying how many accidents have occurred on it. A lot of motorcyclist use this road, because, you know what, they (and cars and cyclists for that matter) are attracted it BECAUSE it is a scenic rolling country road. So although I may be thumbed down by some Phillistines here who never come out of a basement and don't give a shit for aesthetics, I am clearly not the only person in the world who does.

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Facepalm

Re: Re; Yes well... + Statistics 101

There's a difference between

80% of deaths on country roads

and

80% of deaths on roads

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Re: Yes well...

People die on rural roads because drivers assume there won't be anyone coming the other way. Until there is.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re; Yes well... + Statistics 101

Bends are more dangerous on country roads, due to the number of twits that "drive further than they can see".

i.e. national speed limit road, tall hedge on embankement, sharp left turn, you can see less than 8m of road, twits take it at 40-50 mph (60mph for motor cyclists), their stopping distance given instant reaction to seeing the back of the tractor 20m+

Proving that often the most dangerous component of any motor vehicle, is the nut behind the wheel.

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Re: Re; Yes well... + Statistics 101

"If 80% of deaths occur on 80% of the roads, that strongly suggests the remaining 20% has 20% of the deaths, and therefore are no safer that the 80% referred to previously."

The other 20% die because they hit a straight piece of road and they've forgotten what straight looks like.....

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Re: Yes well...

"- "the road" includes roadsigns, vehicles, hazards off the road. Road signs are designed to give you information in your peripheral, drawing your attention to them and helping you read the road."

The more signs you see, the less you notice. Using less signs gives greater impact to remaining signs. Putting more signs up doesn't make it safer.

"- If you can't tell what speed your doing (roughly) without staring at your speedo, you shouldn't be driving, although you say you can do it without a sign? Cursory glances are no more distracting than the cursory glances you should be making in your mirrors."

Victorian police are nor allowed to hide in the bushes at the bottom of a hill and book you for doing 61 in a 60 zone.

"Speed zones are incredibly simple. Can you see a bunch of streetlights (3 or more)? Then it's 30. Can't see a bunch of streetlights? Then national speed limit applies. Unless told otherwise. You're told otherwise by gated entry (two signs each side of the road), and reminded, roughly, every 15 seconds of driving by a repeater sign."

Not in Australia. We have 40,50,60,70,80,90,100 and 110 zones. The speed zone can change depending on time, weather and other vehicles. You can be in the middle of nowhere in a 100 zone and suddenly hit a 60 zone for no obvious reason. The police like to hide in these areas and all it takes is missing one sign.

"I'll assume this is a correct stat. However, most car accidents happen in urban areas (volume of traffic), but are largely sedate, mainly due to all the points above. Most fatal car accidents happen on country roads, specifically due to them being narrow, harder to reach for emergency services (distance if nothing else), poor mobile signal to call for help etc."

It's the fact that the roads around here are poorly maintained, windy and overgrown with trees. Trees are not very forgiving if you come off the road.

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Phone Cutoff

While we are at it, lets make sure the cars make it impossible for taxi drivers to become distracted while fondling away on their touchscreen booking system.

And truck drivers can no longer use their CB radios to contact base, or other truckies.

And cops cant use their phones, speed cameras, radios, or computers whilst the car is moving.

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Re: Phone Cutoff

I've been in cars often enough where the driver is yacking away on the phone and not paying attention to what is going on around them. I just want to scream at them "drive the f'ing car and get of the phone or let me drive!"

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Stop

How about...

Instead of blocking the phone, just have a system that records the fact that a dumbass is using the phone. So when he/she gets in an accident everyone can put liability on him/her and let the legal actions ensue. Bet that would work as a deterrent!

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Re: How about...

Not when it's the passenger who's using the phone and not when the driver claims it was the passenger who was using it......

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Re: How about...

Go one step further, a big red flashing light on the car warning other road users!

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Re: How about...

They already have that. Apply to the NSA for the records.

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Re: How about...

In UK if police have suspicions they can check the mobile phone company billing records which show when and where a phone was being used. And the phone itself can provide info hence guilty drivers have been known to try to wipe the "last call" info from the phone.

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FAIL

Great f**king idea

There is no way this will work.

Option 1: Make jammers a standard "feature" of automobiles. Queue the DIY instructions for disabling it. Or, better yet, watch in horror as enterprising individuals yank said jammers out of their cars to deploy them in less noble applications.

Option 2: Make it a "feature" of cell phones, implemented with the accelerometer/gyro/GPS/whatever. Circumvented in short time.

Option 3: Maybe the car has a built-in RF module which, when the phone picks up the signal, disables itself. That too shall be disabled and/or re-purposed to disable cell phones elsewhere.

Never mind that these ideas are ridiculous to begin with.

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Re: Great f**king idea

Option 1: No need to rip em out. they are readily available on the internet for 50 quid upwards.

Also, they could be incorparated into the ECU as they only need to have milliwatts of RF output. Makes removing them very very difficult indeed.

Option 2: Again, how do you propose that? Phones are getting more and more locked down. See how many jail break hacks there are for, ohh, lets say *windows phone. None.

* spare the tired jokes about only 4 people owning one.

Option 3. Refer to option 1.

The technology to do this is there and easy to implement. FM transmitters were banned up until a few years ago, now they are acceptable for "beaming" music to car stereos with no input/bluetooth.

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