back to article Can you talk and drive?

The UK's Department of Transport has launched a free game that demonstrates how hard it is to listen while driving, addressing the fact that 30 per cent of young drivers admit sending text messages from behind the wheel. The game, and statistics, come as part of the DoT's THINK! campaign, which is particularly aimed at young …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

DT

If the public were treated like adults they'd wish for a nanny state.

@Mat Child

I don't hear you arguing against the mobile phone ruling itself? Is that too going too far? You didn't say, but you did give a classic absurdist "slippery slide" argument, which can be applied to everything with equally silly implications. By the same "logic", a "Quiet please" sign in a library is a precursor to a totalitarian state.

All the examples you gave are already covered under the law "driving without due care and attention" which is applied, in the most part, with discretion. There's a safe way to have a conversation in a car (a passenger usually provides a 2nd pair of eyes). There's no safe way to use a mobile.

Yes, people acting immaturely require a nanny. Only children are forgiven for not understanding, or being answerable for, the consequences of their actions.

Advocating full personal responsibility, necessitates treating people as adults; with sentences to match to seriousness of the consequences. Death by dangerous driving entailing the same punishment as manslaughter by any other deadly implement.

As for cops doing it too; that's just the "two wrongs" reasonings. They shouldn't be doing it either.

0
0

Talking on a phone and driving is bad...

... but talking on a phone whilst in a queue of traffic, or stopped at the side of the road with your engine running and your handbrake on not so much. Unfortunately, due to the fact our legislators and our police are morons there is not difference between the two.

@jake: Text messages are far less rude than phone calls and don't expect the recipient to drop everything, including ongoing conversations, just to find out something that can be said in a few words.

0
0
Stop

Turning the Problem Upside-Down

Isn't trying to keep track of the colours of the shirts of people passing by during a ride more distracting than talking to someone (and just as unrelated to traffic safety)?

It's quite obvious that the test was designed so that people would fail it. There was no phone or even a hands-free device involved in the process and the participants were only required to notice a question had been made, so it was actually even less distracting than having a passenger on board. And we've all somehow managed to survive such situations, haven't we? ;-)

So what does all that say about the test and it's relevance?

0
0
Alert

Aren't passengers just as distracting?

The answer is 'they can be' but generally they aren't. Why? Because a responsible adult having a conversation with you while you drive is hopefully also at least peripherally aware of what is going on on the road. So if you're in a situation that requires your concentration, the other person in the car can shut up for a minute. Or, if they are oblivious, they can at least look around and discover that they should shut up for a minute when you don't answer immediately.

Children, in general, should be ignored when in the car, as should your drunk mates.

Ontario recently passed a bill banning cell phone use while driving. It comes in to effect some time in the fall. Hands-free kits are still allowed because enforcing a band on those would be near impossible, particularly the ones that wire in to your car stereo.

0
0
Bronze badge
Dead Vulture

@jake: Text messags

See this happening all the time in London - probably because you can keep the phone in your lap so "it's less obvious". However the big prize goes to the guy I saw a few weeks ago texting while on his scooter, doing about 20mph on the A3 near Clapham Junction...

Gravestone as I'm sure that's where he's heading.

0
0
Flame

What a waste of our money

I just goes to show that the Civil Servants in the DfT are a waste of space!

And it doesnt work on firefox!

But the rabbit was funny!

0
0
Bronze badge
Stop

Point-missers

Why does that old chestnut of "surely talking to a passenger is just as dangerous as talking on the phone?" come up every time this is mentioned? Are people still too thick to have clicked that a passenger knows they are talking to a driver who has other things to concentrate on so will understand there will be breaks in the conversation, can see the road conditions a driver is experiencing so knows when to shut up, and has a vested interest in not crashing? Clear enough for you lot yet?

It's frightening enough to venture onto the road as a vulnerable user in the first place without knowing that people are so unaware of how their concentration is affected by different distractions.

And as for the guy who doesn't understand the popularity of text messages: just what rock have you been living under for the last decade?

0
0
Bronze badge
Anonymous Coward

@Talk and Drive

The police are trained to understand the issues and so have a basic clue, unlike people exemplified by those on here who can't work out why a phone conversation is more distracting than a passenger.

They will also be talking to people who know they are driving and will understand if they have to pause the conversation.

And they ought to be making short, to-the-point calls, not to be gossiping about completely irrelevant subjects which lead them into forgetting they are supposed to be driving.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

re: Talk and drive

ahhh, JMB, you miss the point. Police, by dint of their 26 weeks of night school, have recieved extensive training in how to drive and use radios, cell phones, and computers safely.

yes, I actually had a cop give me this as an excuse... until i pointed out that i've got over 10 years experience talking on the phone, troubleshooting hardware, and listening to the radio simultaneously... and that my experience came from the work environment where a mis-step had the potential to result in a fried nerd.

got out of THAT one... :)

of course these days, as a motorcyclist, i rant over everyone who cuts me off and almost creams me, regardless of cell phone usage.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

talking to phone vs passenger

Surely the key difference is that a passenger sitting next to you knows when to shut up?

0
0
Stop

Dishonesty

Presumably a driving game, where you simply avoid knocking people over whilst vocalising "yeah, uh-huh" undermined their case.

Counting people, assigning a different value to them on the basis of colour and keeping a running total in your mind is not driving. It is not automated in the same way driving is (or walking or picking up that coffee cup beside your monitor) you have to think in a very focussed way.

The way you do when you're first LEARNING to drive, in fact.

Keeping a running total of arbitrary colour-based numbers (for the first time) - is a very different process from avoiding knocking people down on the road ahead of you. Add to that a misleading and distracting environment (the video) where you might wrongly anticipate needing your driving skills (to not run people over or steer into a wall) and ...

Well, it's almost as if they wanted to design a game where they could guarantee a large percentage of failure.

And then draw a spurious conclusion from that so they can go "See! See!"

This is neither an equivalnt or fair test. It sets you up for failure. In the same way they use nearly all statistical data, surveys, etc. their intent here is to say that the test is equivalent to driving whilst on the phone, but this is untrue.

Business as usual for government departments with social engineering on their mind, then.

That's not to say that talking on the phone whilst in a built up area with lots of pedestrians and junctions is a good idea; it clearly isn't (my father who was a driving instructor always turned the radio down or off when entering a built up area so he could fully concentrate) but bullshit propaganda like this is not what we need.

I guess they just can't help themselves.

0
0
Bronze badge
Stop

@Ben

The difference is that a passenger can see what the driving conditions are like and will STFU if it gets nasty. They can also act as an independent set of eyes on the road able to alert you to the car that just pulled out in front of you even if you didn't see it.

0
0
Thumb Down

What does it prove?

I tried the game, and I am struggling to figure out what it tried to prove to me. It reminded me of my driving teacher asking me stupid question like, "How many animals have we passed in the last 30 min?" where I was supposed to have counted the cows on a field we passed 10 min ago. I usually wasn't able to recollect the cows altogether. Another point he made was about a statue of a deer in a garden, nearly none of his students noticed it he said. I didn't say it to him of course, but what I was thinking that it was a bloody relief. I mean, driving is about focus. It is about scanning the traffic, the surroundings and spotting potential hazards and make adjustments accordingly. Once you have either dismissed something due to it posing no threat whatsoever, like a bunch of lazy cows half a kilometer away on a field, or you have spotted a potential hazard and made the appropriate adjustments and passed it, you are to forget them and free up your brain to focus on what you are doing, i.e driving. If somebody spend their time counting coloured t-shirts and cows, and admiring statues in the garden while driving, I rather not drive with them.

Then I want to take a hit or two at the task in itself, I bet most people wouldn't be able to keep an accurate t-shirt score alone without the part of trying to pay attention to the woman. I didn't.

Then they ask me if I spotted something odd. Yeah, I did, I actually found several other things a lot more strange than the rabbit. For instance the large amount of people with coloured t-shirts, the large amount of pedestrians arriving from two different direction at the same time in some quiet street were more than one pedestrian at the same time would make you raise your eyebrow, and last, but not least, the fact that we drove through several rips in the fabric of space and time and still were able to maintain a static free mobile conversation which I might add seemed to me to happen in chronological order.

Ben, you would think that hands-free would be the same as talking with a passenger in the car, but it isn't. I have tried and it doesn't matter, hands-free or not, talking on the phone drags my focus away from traffic. I notice this because I manage to drive just fine, but I remember very little from it and usually miss my exit. I have also tried to figure out the reason for it. I think it is because when you are talking on the phone you are forced to keep the conversation running. When you have somebody in the car with you they see what you see and lets the conversation die down for a moment when you become busy with something slightly tricky in the traffic for a few seconds.

0
0
Gold badge

Distracted driving

"Using a phone from the car seems to be falling out of favour: more than 80 per cent of the public believe that talking on the phone increases the risk of an accident, even if a hands-free kit was being used."

Well, not necessarily out of favor then... people here in the US also say how dangerous talking on the phone while driving is, and then those very same people do it anyway, seemingly in increasing numbers.

@jake, you're missing the point -- some people don't want to have a full-on beginning-to-end conversation, so they text instead. In some situations, picking up the cell and talking is rude, while (if the text message "beep" isn't too loud) texting is just fine. The people texting while driving are missing the point too though -- one feature of texting is supposed to be that it tolerates delays in the conversation; that is, if someone send me a text while I'm driving, I won't even look at that phone until I'm at my destination, or at least at a looong stop light.

A big problem people apparently have when they are driving while talking (even with a hands-free unit), is apparently people are ingrained to look at who they are talking to. If they are talking to a person they'll glance over.. (and still probably see the road out their peripheral vision at least). If they are on the phone, they'll look at the phone every so often, taking eyes off the road; if they are on hands-free, they'll keep looking at the hands-free unit's speaker. Why? I don't know, I think it's social or a human reflex.

That said, I think this should all be covered under wreckless driving, distracted driving, etc. A special law doesn't need to be made for each CAUSE of distracted driving, if police want to stop this dangerous texting while driving they should just resolve to enforce the existing laws.

0
0
Thumb Down

Always fail in IE6

I hope they aren't basing the 19% pass mark on the test being taken online since it *doesn't bloody work* in IE6 (pressing the space bar has no effect so it always says you missed 8 questions). Since the number of people still using IE6 is not completely insignificant how much is that skewing their results? (There is a reason I have IE6 installed here still, no I'm not going into it).

Next up I was having trouble counting the number of pedestrians when paying no attention to the phone call what-so ever. The main problem being the small field of view of the camera with people I had already counted going out of view as you got closer then coming back into view again.

And finally that rabbit was just pointless. They ask us to concentrate on red and yellow shirts and ignore grey ones. Therefore although we know there is a grey object there it isn't something we need to concentrate on so missing it is expected. All it proves is either you're a normal human or exceptionally good at multitasking, both of which are fine.

Utterly rubbish test which proves absolutely nothing.

0
0
JB

People

listen to women while driving?

madness.

0
0
Thumb Down

counting tshirts?

Don't remember driving down a road and having to count tshirts....

The only reason that 19% of people got it right is because of the education system!

0
0
Silver badge

@AC 12:25 & Police

"And as for the guy who doesn't understand the popularity of text messages: just what rock have you been living under for the last decade?"

That guy would be me. One of the rocks I've been living under is the ceiling of the rooms containing the hardware that allows phone-to-phone text messaging to occur. I still don't see it as a useful tool. There are better non-urgent ways to communicate. Maybe my thoughts on the subject are colored by "talk" on old PDP-11 gear in the '70s ...

As for the police using phones while driving, yes, they are trained to do so. Doesn't make it a good idea, though ... and maybe I misled some people with mine. Despite having had a mobile telephone as long as they have been around (well, nearly ... my first was a Motorola Dynatac in the early 80s), and despite talking while driving the entire time with no accidents or close calls, I choose NOT to talk on the phone and drive, as of about 3 years ago. Why? Glad you asked ... read on.

Out of curiosity, I did five laps of Infinion^WSears Point in my old Datsun 510 just concentrating on the track, and then another five while talking on the phone (hands free). I averaged 4 tenths slower while talking. Bear in mind that I know the car very well (I've been racing it in one configuration or another for about 25 years), the track is my home track, and I was the only person on it at the time. Losing a full two seconds in five laps at race speeds equates to a serious concentration lapse ... After that little eye opener, me & mine stopped talking on the phone while driving. It just makes sense.

0
0
Thumb Down

With your speakers muted no one can hear you phone.

I didn't see the bunny, or see him turn and wave. According to the flash show this is because I was distracted by the woman on the phone. How does that work then? I had my speakers muted because I couldn't be bothered to listen to it. So how does this explain me not seeing the rabbit turn and wave? Am I supposed to hear voices?

Maybe it's because I was too busy trying to remember the value of the red and yellow shirts, do arithmetic and keep a tally, instead of concentrating on the road.

Pointless invalidated test. A game indeed and you shouldn't play games when driving. Idiots.

0
0
Bronze badge

Re: The Problem

"once you learn to drive, there is little conscious thought involved. "

As an Australian I certainly hope you aren't. Because I don't want to be on the same continent. let alone the same road as you.

And before you all start, yes I'd rather take my chances with the the auto-eroticists.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/07/31/oz_speeding_driver/

0
0

A townie obviously

"Driving is a privilege, not a right. It was time drivers in the UK were made to realise that."

I have to disagree, where public transport is available or cheap taxi's then I might agree but in the country it is an essential for life.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Some people can and some cannot

The ability to drive while talking on the phone varies hugely between drivers, so we punish all drivers, just because of a few dumb ones*.

I guess you need a test and certificate to filter the dumb ones out.

*Dumb ones: balance the phone on shoulder, unable to plug in hands-free, unable to negotiate a roundabout...

0
0

Idle question.

Just thinking, er, typing out loud...

To what extent does the brain having to work to understand GSM mangled audio as opposed to unmangled audio from a passenger, make a difference? If any?

0
0
Boffin

Reaction time a factor? I'm too quick...

Did the test and apparently missed EIGHT questions! Given that I'd hit the space bar an estimated eight times during the test, I found it hard to believe there'd been sixteen questions in such a short space and I'd missed fully half of them. So, having got the number spot on and spotted the rabbit, I did the test again with my eyes shut.

Once again, I missed ALL EIGHT questions, with no distractions at all, apparently.

So I did the test again, blind again, and this time I didn't react to the questions as quickly - I deliberately slowed my reaction time down. And suddenly I discovered they've programmed some replies in!

This test is clearly optimised for numpties who have slow reaction times. Call me again when you've some programmers not in their seventies or suffering some sort of brain disorder (you can call me when I'm driving, apparently, as I react too fast even for the test to pick it up...)

0
0
CTG

Invisible bunny

The fact that the bunny is invisible to most people is because they took advantage of the search image phenomenon.

The instructions say that you should assign the values 2, 1 and 0 to red, yellow and gray t-shirts, and then sum the points value at the end. If you take that literally, then you would count the number of gray t-shirts, multiply that by zero, and add that to the total. But that would be pointless, so the vast majority of people will translate that into "ignore the gray t-shirts". They only form a search image for red and yellow t-shirts, so that is all they see. Anything gray is ignored because you don't have a search image for it.

So what they seem to be saying is "you are a prick because you didn't see something we specifically asked you to ignore". It's like asking someone to do a "Where's Wally?", and then saying they failed because they didn't count how many non-Wally people were in the picture. FAIL

0
0

HandyAndy

Distracted driving

By Henry Wertz

"That said, I think this should all be covered under wreckless driving"

Umm, that should be RECKLESS driving, tho' 'Wreckless' is good!

0
0

Errr

"So how does this explain me not seeing the rabbit turn and wave?"

Because you have expcetiontally bad observational skills.

Talking on the phone, even handsfree, while driving is distracting, but it depends on the type of conversation. A conversation like the one in the game is not as serious as a work related conversation. Something general isn't much different to talking to someone in the car, but asking difficult questions that require thinking about does distract you, maybe not totally, but given the amount of near misses we all have while driving, even the slightest level of distraction makes a difference between missing that kid that just stepped out, and leaving a red smear on the road.

If they had wanted to make the test more relevant, they should have had the woman asking a question that actually made you think, even if its only 12 + 6, and have someone step out into the road in front of you, rather than a silly counting game.

0
0

It's so real!

Counting pedestrians? Personally I'm too busy trying to second guess where all the BMW driving twunts are randomly going to drive (indicators are, at the last check, not an optional extra).

0
0

CBs are different to phones...

I've always been of the opinion that the G729 codec used to compress voice down to 9.6kbps whilst doing a great job at keeping it comprehensible, increases the level of concentration required to understand compared to a standard CB radio. Therefore speaking on a mobile phone, hands free or otherwise, will always be more dangerous than speaking to a passenger, or even someone on a CB radio.

0
0
Stop

You think the police can drive?

http://uk.news.yahoo.com/4/20090504/tuk-police-cause-nine-crashes-a-day-dba1618.html

ahahaha, they suck just as much as the rest of us!

0
0
Stop

Empathy with caller

Thanks to the commentors who pointed out that you get involved with the caller during a phone conversation and 'put yourself over there' rather than in the here and now. I switch my mobile off when driving (I hardly use it at all at other times) but I hadn't considered just how much that would distract me from concentrating on my immediate surroundings. I'm sure a campaign which highlighted this aspect would make a certain percentage of people think twice.

0
0
Go

Is £60 and 3 points a deterrent ?

I was fined for speeding last year (39 in a 30 zone, clocked on a hand-held device - it's a fair cop, guv). The money was a bit annoying (plus the fact I had to get a reprint of the paper part of my licence - another £25). But what REALLY hurt was getting 3 points on my until-then clean licence.

The net result is that I am now ultra-cautious about knowing the speed limit for the road I'm on and sticking to it. So, in this one case of anecdotal evidence, 'safety cameras' have had their intended consequence. I think if someone was sitting on 9 points, they'd be even MORE paranoid than I am.

Go, but go safely !

0
0
Anonymous Coward

It's a matter of intelligence

Intelligent people prioritise driving over talking whether it's on the 'phone, CB or to a passenger. If we ban any one of the three we should ban all three, anything else is hypocritical.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Hmm... tried the game and...

I don't see what its trying to prove.

I keep an eye on pedestrians but thats about it. I couldn't recall the number of t-shirts worn (as keeping count of each colour equally distracts). As long as you're aware of the surroundings (in terms of people/animals/cars/motorcycles) your driving should be OK. Whats more dangerous is the looking at your speedo/passing a camera as your not looking at the road but at the speed you are doing.

Out of interest, the woman on the phone would have got a stern No I'm driving - when she asked if it was OK to talk.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Once I was texting and going 35 in a 30...

And some kid ran into the side of my car from behind a white van.

Thank god I wasn't paying attention to the speed limits or she would have been all over my bumper.

This isn't even a joke.

0
0
Bronze badge

@AC

"F1 drivers talk and race"

And if you were ever to hear the full radio traffic, you would regularly hear expletives from the drivers after receiving a message while negotiating trickly corners, or as was the case a couple of years ago, when FAILING to negotiate said corner.

It is the people like you that think there is no problem at all that worry me - I am well aware that conversations within my car get a little one-sided when the traffic gets heavy, or the road gets tight. My other half is also well aware of this, and does not get upset when I ask her to repeat stuff.

Yes this test is crap, but it is more sensible than blanket fines that statistically speaking are never applied. Same thing with seat-belts - the fine never had a great effect, whereas the educational efforts did.

0
0
Stop

@ David Ramsay

The necessity of driving still doesn't make it a right. You can hold a *licence* to drive a motor vehicle, but you can have your licence revoked.

Contrast that with a bicycle, upon which you do have a right to traverse Her Majesty's Highways. Even if you were arrested repeatedly for cycling offences the police have no way of stopping you riding under the road laws. Of course, they'd probably try and bodge an ASBO in instead...

0
0
Unhappy

Stilll a privilege, even in the country!

Quote

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

"Driving is a privilege, not a right. It was time drivers in the UK were made to realise that."

I have to disagree, where public transport is available or cheap taxi's then I might agree but in the country it is an essential for life.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

No - it's STILL a privilege. Go drink and drive and get caught, and you'll discover soon enough that it's a privilege. Given that it's so important to people in the country, that's all the more reason why they should be careful to keep that privilege.

0
0
Thumb Down

Load of rubbish

I tried with the volume up answering questions, failed by -2

Tried with the volume down, just tapping space, failed by -1.

Missed the 'obvious thing' both times, even though in the second I knew it was coming up.

This test proved nothing about texting.

0
0
Thumb Down

Its more dangerous than drinking and driving

The title says it all.

0
0
Flame

This is totally pointless

The first thing I do when I speak to someone on the phone is tell them 'I'm driving', no matter who they are. If they want to continue the conversation after that, fine. If they don't we can speak later. They are then told "hold on a minute" whenever the driving situation gets complicated.

Nobody I converse with seems seems to have a problem with that.

This test is total rubbish - it assumes the goal is to pay attention to the woman on the end of the phone. It's not. The goal is to drive, and conduct your phone call with whatever spare capacity you have left.

Additionally, in dull situations like motorway journeys, having a conversation is a very good way to keep you from dozing off.

0
0

@AC Posted Monday 4th May 2009 10:16 GMT

"Hands-free is more dangerous than drink driving. 100% proven *FACT*."

Oh really? Proven by whom? Perhaps from the same source that told you Spain has safer roads. According to the EU....

(http://ec.europa.eu/transport/road_safety/observatory/statistics/reports_graphics_en.htm)

.... the UK still has the safest roads in the EU with 50 fatalities per year per head of popualtion. Spain has 86. If you look some more, you'll find that per person, per kilometres of road, per kilometres driven, the UK has the least fatalities and the least injuries of any country in the EU.

The government needs to stop hounding motorists and make some attempt to fix the economy.

0
0
Boffin

Richard Feynman

did an informal experiment years ago and found two different types of exclusionary intellectual activities. Unfortunately, I don't have his book at hand, and don't remember what they were.

I don't recommend driving whilst mentally doing one's tax forms; that way lies madness.

0
0
Flame

@JohnG

"Oh really?"

Yes - really. Your figures are three years out of date, sir, being as they are from 2005.

General de Trafico reported a drop of about a fifth in their 2008 figures, 2182 fatalities in 2008.

In the UK the total was 2946 for the same period. (Source: "The Road" [Magazine ot the Motorcycle Action Group], May/June, Page 19)

Britain has, in fact, one of the worst safety records in the EU.

Why is this so in my opinion?

1) Obsession with speeding to the exclusion of all else (tailgating, lane hogging, failing to signal, driving an unfit vehicle, driving whilst unfit cannot be caught by a camera, only by traffic police; and we have precious few of those left)

2) Lack of investment in road infrastructure (potholes abound and even when new infrastructure is put in, it is often inappropriate (e.g. "cheese wire" barriers))

3) Lack of investment in the railway system (if the trains, ran on time, went faster, were not overcrowded and did not charge obscene prices; people would use them)

4) Lack of investment in driver training (look at the new test centre shambles)

5) Morons like you lot who think it is safe to use a mobile phone and drive at the same time.

0
0
Thumb Up

So many idiots

Why do people think that it's acceptable to not give the road their full attention.

It's not rocket science that the human brain has limited ability to concentrate on more than one thing at a time. When the consequences can mean people being killed, then we should try and reduce distractions.

The issue with using a mobile is that the sound quality is poor. Your brain has to do extra work to fill in the gaps, thus removing your attention from the road. (I think this appeared in an Australian study, but was quoted in New Scientist.)

Also, when talking to a passenger in the car, there's a shared understanding of when the driver needs to concentrate. Someone on the other end of the phone wouldn't have that.

Although it's not ideal for the emergency services (or taxi firms) to use radio:

1 - They don't have long conversations.

2 - They do it because they have to be able to communicate with HQ.

3 - The device is loud and easy-to-use (ie one button) which is less distracting than using a mobile, and much less distracting than texting.

None of those points really to normal mobile use.

0
0
Black Helicopters

Automatic taxis are coming.

This is all leading, slowly but inexorably, to the day when driving is taken out of our hands because we can't be trusted to do it properly.

There will be no user operated controls , in the current sense, in the car of the future. Instead you will enter your destination into the navigation system and the car will take you there. An automatic taxi.

No problem if you're too pished to stand so long as the nav sys knows where you want to go. And if it's your own car only you are going to be upset when you puke.

0
0

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.

Forums