July 12, 2005


Cellphone Headset Use Isn't Safer for Drivers: Motorists are just as distracted and likely to end up in a crash, a study by insurers shows. (James S. Granelli, July 12, 2005, LA Times)

A study of cellphone use by motorists suggests that they aren't any better off using a headset in the car than holding the phone to their ear: They're still four times more likely to end up in a crash and injured than if they weren't using the phone.

The survey, released Monday by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said that using mobile phones while driving was just as dangerous whether they're chatting through a headset or holding on to the handset.

The statistical analysis, which compared phone records with the times of accidents, indicated that the risk was just as great across all age groups and in both sexes.

It's not just keying in phone numbers or calling up messages but the conversation itself that can be the most distracting, said Anne T. McCartt, the insurance institute's research executive overseeing the study.

"There's the possibility that some technology in the future would eliminate distractions from using the phone in the car, but it's hard to think of any way to eliminate the distraction from the conversation," she said. "Your brain can only perform so many tasks at once."

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 12, 2005 7:59 AM

great for the nannies, including OJ of the livingroom helmet: NO TALKING IN THOSE CARS; any measures to prevent talking in cars are now acceptable; I suggest shutting off the gas for five minutes when verbal utterances are detected plus a report directly to police HQ to keep track of the most dangerous cartalkers among us

Posted by: Palmcroft at July 12, 2005 8:15 AM

I've been trying to stop She Who Is Perfect In All Ways from attempting conversation with deep, meaningful eye contact in the car for years. Now, finally, the data is mine!

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at July 12, 2005 8:56 AM

"Still, about a third of the crash victims interviewed, she said, had been holding phones to their ears."

Doesn't surprise me. Seen that just about every time I see a car slowing down unexpectedley, make a turn without indicating or do something quite stupid.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at July 12, 2005 9:11 AM

Weren't these the same folks who brought you the car seat?

Posted by: joe shropshire at July 12, 2005 9:19 AM


Easier than that. Just require mass transit and regulate the drivers.

Posted by: oj at July 12, 2005 9:55 AM

More crap studies coming from people with a theory to prove (OJ: just like Darwinists.)

The death rate for car accidents has remained stagnant for years. I couldn't find a year by year number of total accidents but nor did I find anything that shows a spike. So, if cell phone use has gone up and up and is so dangerous, where is the sharp increase in accidents?

Posted by: Bob at July 12, 2005 10:08 AM

Compensated by the crack down on drunk driving, which it approximates.

Posted by: oj at July 12, 2005 10:49 AM

They'll take my cell phone when they pry it from my cold dead fingers.

Kidding aside, I don't care what the research says. I'm using the phone in the car, and I'll risk the ticket.

Posted by: BB at July 12, 2005 10:53 AM


Because people have a certain tolerance for danger. Cars are now much safer; instead of actually reducing deaths, they just make people feel free to drive more dangerously.

Personally, I thing cars should detect driver use of a cellphone and automatically turn on their hazard lights...

Posted by: Mike Earl at July 12, 2005 11:06 AM

...and turn off the engine.

Posted by: oj at July 12, 2005 11:11 AM

I'll admit it: I don't have the ability to drive and talk on a cellphone at the same time. I gave it a shot on a deserted stretch of I-89 the other day. I could barely dial without swerving all over the place. It's so easy in Grand Theft Auto!

OJ's hatred of people drving while chatting reminds me a lot of liberals who hate cluster bombs.
Bear with me: Liberals, for whatever reason, hate cluster bombs and think they should be banned. But what does that mean? Liberals hate everything that has anything to do with anything connected to the military so their hatred of cluster bombs doesn't really carry much weight. They're also against everything from the rifle to the hydrogen bomb.
Now look at Orrin and cell phones. Orrin hates all cellphone and thinks they're immoral and should be banned and blah blah blah. So Orrin wanting to ban cell phone use in cars doesn't carry much weight either, since OJ wants all remote communication devices (including the telegraph and semaphore) banned.
Time and again, we go back to Mr. Cohen's theory that Orrin is only kept from being a wild-eyed big-government Liberal by his religious beliefs and that proves one of this site's guiding principles (that we're all kept from wild-eyed Liberalism by our religious beliefs).
I would further add that Orrin's unswerving belief in the perfection of his beliefs is rather elegant proof of the Imperfectability of Man, another one of this site's guiding principles.

Posted by: Governor Breck at July 12, 2005 12:23 PM

OJ: mass transit is fine as long as each seat faces an air bag, the passengers wear helmets and are strapped-in, and everyone has taken a mass transit safety course in the last 90 days

Posted by: Palmcroft at July 12, 2005 12:30 PM

Actually, gov, the last three months or so here have been like that portion of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom where the effects of the tranquilizer dart begin to wear off. You will have noted that Marlin Perkins always managed to position himself so that his large hairy-chested sidekick was there to absorb the charge. You are a big sturdy fellow yourself, yes?

Posted by: joe shropshire at July 12, 2005 12:40 PM


You can achieve even greater safety gains by simply reversing the seats.

Posted by: oj at July 12, 2005 12:47 PM


Cell phones? In the entire time we worked together how many times did I answer the real phone?

Posted by: oj at July 12, 2005 12:49 PM

Let the market take care of it. If you have a chargeable accident, your insurance rate goes up and you have a deductable to pay. You might even get hurt or killed. This is like any other traffic safety issue.

Looking at the politics of it, the fact that it's hard in my neck of the woods to see a driver who isn't using a cell phone makes me think that the "cold, dead hands," point of view may win out.

BTW, let's all get rid of our cars and start riding public transportation: bunch up so the Rags can get more of us with one round.

Posted by: Lou Gots at July 12, 2005 2:44 PM

Like Lou, where I live I'm half surprised to see a driver (particularly a woman) who doesn't have a device glued to her ear. Some days I'd swear it's 3/4 of them.

Americans and technology. Nevermind if it serves scarcely any practical purpose, they'll use it because it's fun and it's there. All a cult need do is fob off a brainwashing instrument as a cool techie doodad.

Posted by: Al Cornpone at July 12, 2005 4:44 PM

There was a time when cell phones were so expensive, only arrogant big-shots carried them. We would see some doctor or attorney zip past us in his Mercedes, proudly holding up his gigantic phone, grinning like the jerk he was, and we would hate, hate, hate him.

Now, cell phones are so cheap everybody has them. But the hate is still there. "Why does she think she's so important?" we ask, even though she's not calling anyone, someone called her, and she answered. We still think of people with cell phones as the rich jackasses they used to be, even though everybody has one.

I stick hard to my belief that the cell-phone danger is a myth, an outgrowth of old-fashioned class envy from 15 years ago.

Oh, by the way, I am still allowed to talk to the person next to me in the car, right?

Posted by: Ben Lange at July 12, 2005 5:01 PM

Well, conversation is as dangerous as talking on a cellphone and talking on a cellphone is as dangerous as drunk driving, so shut up in your car or we'll report you to PATTTK.

Posted by: David Cohen at July 12, 2005 5:16 PM

Yes, the car is the problem.

Posted by: oj at July 12, 2005 5:43 PM

Actually, the hand is the problem. The car is the solution. Believe me when I say you do want me to have my own private conveyance.

Posted by: joe shropshire at July 13, 2005 1:35 AM