Hang Up and Drive!

Hi Gerard,

In The Netherlands it's officially forbidden to drive while talking on the cellphone. There's a 130 euro penalty if you get caught.

Posted by Gerco Wolfswinkel at April 28, 2006 12:00 AM

Gerard-- One of the National Transportation Safety Board's full-dress investigations concerned a highway accident in Maryland that killed five adults because a teenage female couldn't stay off her cell phone while driving an SUV. (Don't get ME started about SUVs!) Quote from the NTSB's abstract: "The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the February 1, 2002, collision of the Ford Explorer Sport with the Ford Windstar minivan and Jeep Grand Cherokee was the Explorer driver’s failure to maintain directional control of her high-profile, short-wheelbase vehicle in the windy conditions due to a combination of inexperience, unfamiliarity with the vehicle, speed, and distraction caused by use of a handheld wireless telephone."

If you really want to get the full flavor of what happened to the driver after she was thrown out of her car (as well as the injuries suffered by the other four people who died), you can download the full report in PDF format at http://www.ntsb.gov/publictn/2003/HAR0302.htm.

There are also computer animations of the accident on the NTSB website. I think the full report should be required reading for any brainless twit who insists on driving under the influence of a cell phone.

On page 5, under "Medical and Pathological Information": "The Explorer driver was not wearing her three-point lap/shoulder belt restraint,was ejected, and was fatally injured. According to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore, Maryland, she sustained multiple injuries that included extensive lacerations of the left side of the forehead, multiple fractures of the skull, massive trauma to the torso, ribs, spinal column, and vital organs, and fractures of both arms. All of the occupants in the Windstar sustained fatal injuries. The restrained driver sustained multiple frontal skull fractures, lacerations of the neck, multiple rib fractures in the upper torso, and fractures of the upper arms. The unbelted front-seat passenger was ejected through the windshield. The restrained right rear seat passenger sustained multiple traumatic head injuries, multiple rib fractures, and other significant injuries. The restrained left rear seat passenger sustained multiple injuries, including a laceration to the front scalp and spinal and left rib fractures."

Keep ranting!

Posted by Connecticut Yankee at April 28, 2006 12:42 AM

It's not just cellphones.

One day I'm heading back home from my shrink. I get the bus, and a few blocks later we're about to make a lefthand turn. Before we got to the turn lane the light turned green for us. So we expected the car ahead of us to go. It didn't. Turns out the lady driving was busy with her make-up. The bus driver slams on the brakes and hits the horn. I swear the car jumped.

It is my hope that as our roads and highways get more crowded and more dangerous that the unobservant and complacent suffer yet higher fatality rates, and thus, in their own small way, improve the human race.

Posted by Alan Kellogg at April 28, 2006 1:53 AM

I've found a method to get cell phone distracted drivers back on the job of driving. I put a set of 150 p.s.i. train horns in my Saab.

No cell phone can compete with the un-Godly loud blast of air coming from under the hood. It gets people to focus on the road. It's like pneumatic Ritalin.
I have personally seen 19 year old girls fling their phone against the passenger door in sheer terror upon hearing Gabriel's Horn.

The cathartic effects of the horns cannot be underestimated, either. The last time a horses ass in a Prius cut me off on I-5, I hit him with the old Traffic Trombone and I laughed with delight as he drove off the road in a panic. Sure, the fact that he went off the overpass and burst into flames was a real buzzkill, but hey, one less car on the road. We all have to do our part.

Posted by Mumblix Grumph at April 28, 2006 3:14 AM

I like that last bit with the horns.

Posted by Eric Blair at April 28, 2006 6:16 AM

Oh, its also supposedly forbidden to talk on cell phones and drive in New Jersey, but from what I see its not enforced.

They need to up the fine to like $10,000 per violation. That'd get the cops enforcing it.

Posted by Eric Blair at April 28, 2006 6:18 AM

Thanks for nothing, Gerard. After reading "I would gladly spend all my days gazing in rapt adoration at a full-frontal life-sized group portait of Hilary Clinton, Helen Thomas and Madeline Albright in Speedos." , I now have to go find something to poke out my mind's eye, to remove the horror of that image.


Posted by Joel at April 28, 2006 7:33 AM

The pleasure is to serve.

Posted by Gerard Van der Leun at April 28, 2006 9:58 AM

Mr. Van der Leun:

I have previously made the modest free-market proposal to limit the use of cell phones while driving; with your permission, I'll repeat it here.

Simply make a minor alteration in the laws regarding responsibility for damages and personal injuries resulting from automobile accidents, as follows: Any person who is found to have been on a cell phone during an accident (easily determined from the cell companies billing records) is 100% responsible for the accident and sequelae.

I don't care if you rammed your bicycle into the side door of a cell-phony twit at a stoplight...if they were on their phone, they cough up.

It used to be that our default assumption, when seeing another vehicle veering from side-to-side down the road, or slowing down and speeding up at random intervals, that the driver was drunk or stoned. Now we simply look for the cell phone as they careen past.

Posted by Blackwing1 at April 28, 2006 10:20 AM

The Discovery TV show "Mythbusters" ran an experiment which compared driving while at the blood alcohol limit for legal intoxication (I assume in CA) to driving while talking on a cell phone. The results were quite interesting - the drivers' reaction times were slower and their overall performance was actually the same or worse while on the phone than while DUI. Fortunately this was all done on a closed course, unfortunately in real life.......

Posted by CompassionateCrank at April 28, 2006 11:17 AM

The image of Hillary Clinton et al. in Speedos has caused uncontrolled group regurgitation, as well as tourrettes syndrome in our internet club. You may expect th hear from our legal representatives forthwith.

Posted by flannelputz at April 28, 2006 12:07 PM


Clorox works well as an eyewash for such things.


Yeah, it was in California. They made sure to be a tad *under* the legal limit, even on the test track.

Best line in the show: "Officer, hand me another beer!"

Posted by leelu at April 28, 2006 12:43 PM

Well I for one have a flawless driving record and have NO problem whatsoever holding a conversation while driving, be it on the phone or with a passenger in the car.

That being said there does seem to be an increasing number of dangerously incompetent and/or rude drivers on the roadways. The ones on phones bother me a whole lot less than the a**holes that can't seem to grasp the number one unwritten rule of the road, SLOW TRAFFIC KEEP RIGHT.

If I could make these yobos disappear I'd even add Cynthia McKinney to the aforementioned troika of hellhags.

Posted by Paul at April 28, 2006 2:46 PM

Not being a trusting person, I used to tell myself "Sure they don't care if they kill you, but they don't want to wreck their cars." So I drove around counting on "enlightened self interest" in my favor. No longer. A day does not pass that I have to take evasive action to protect myself from some fool cellphone yakker.

I agree that insurance companies should make the presumption that fault goes to the person on the phone. That would stop yakkers quicker than laws, tickets, or fines.

Posted by Ninya at April 28, 2006 3:04 PM

"Hang up and Drive" - would make a good bumper sticker.

Posted by Kim at May 3, 2006 9:46 PM

I use my phone when I drive, and I'm not going to stop. And there ain't a damn thing any of you civvies can do about it.

Posted by Snake at May 6, 2006 11:48 PM

As do I. You people hit ME. I haven't hit YOU.

Posted by Joey at May 6, 2006 11:49 PM

Although slightly hard to come by, i like the idea of a train horn on the road. That'd be great fun in rush hour!

Posted by Jimi at May 9, 2006 8:33 AM

It's bad enough on the roads as it is, even without cell phone yakkers. It seems that well over 95% of drivers speed; that, combined with the me-first attitude so prevalent in our modern society, makes our roads a very dangerous place indeed. Add oblivious morons yammering into their cell phones while they tool down the highway to the mix, not to mention a shameful lack of traffic chode enforcement, and you have a situation nearing anarchy.

In the last year or so, I found it necessary, for my own safety and that of others sharing the road nearby, to acknowledge all my bad driving habits, and learn to drive appropriately, defensively, and always within the law. Fortunately, I have never owned (and do not ever intend to own) a cell phone. I now obey all speed limit and other regulatory signs, am courteous to all other drivers (yes, even the ones who really don't deserve it), and make sure that I follow all the guidelines for intelligent and safe driving at all times. I realize that, even so, I am not assured of avoiding a crash. (I don't use the word "accident" to refer to traffic collisions.) But, by driving defensively, I'm definitely improving my chances of not getting killed or injured amid the mayhem that is our roads and highways. I only wish I could convince others to do the same.

Posted by Dino at June 16, 2006 1:29 AM

Given the situation in the Boston Tunnels, it would appear talking on a phone while driving is safer than driving thru the tunnels at all

Posted by Bostonian at July 15, 2006 8:19 AM