Hang up And Drive!

Here’s a recent entry in Rosalind Gardner’s Net Profits Today blog that at first glance doesn’t seem to be GPS-related but it’s just so important that I have to take the time to address the issue.  Now, listen up … Rosalind is a guru of what we web weenies call "Affiliate Marketing, but the link I furnished is no affiliate link and I’m not selling anything here … except the idea of trying to keep a few of you, or your teenagers alive.

New California Cell Phone Law Misses the Mark

How would you feel if the air traffic controller responsible for your flight was having a heated argument with his wife on the phone at the same time he was supposed to be safely separating your flight from others? You might start looking for that parachute, right?…

Like Ros, I’m very grateful that the "Gubernator" is paying some attention to the driving while phoning issue.  Also, like Ros, I’m very concerned that this isn’t enough.  There are many studies out there using driving simulators that prove that driving and cell phoning don’t mix.  using a hands-free phone is a step in the right direction, but it isn’t really the answer.  No matter how good a driver you are (or think you are) your driving performance deteriorates measurably when yakking while driving.

Don’t bother, in my opinion, to buy a Bluetooth headset or any of the other hands-free solutions, just turn the dang thing off while you are on the road and I am depending upon your superior driving skills to keep us apart when I make a driving error.  In Japan all cell phones are required to have a one-key ‘drive’ button that puts the phone into a voice mail mode with the outbound message, "I’m driving, please leave a message".  Driving is too complex and demanding a task, and the call you will have to delay receiving or making until you stop driving is just not that Earth shaking.

Ros uses the example of air traffic control as her illustration of the importance of paying attention to the task at hand.  Very understandable since she used to be an active air traffic controller.  Let me furnish a couple other examples as to why I feel this strongly on the subject.

Ever hear the term "sterile cockpit"?  No, it doesn’t mean disinfecting airliner cockpits with Pine Sol after each crew leaves.  It refers to a generally accepted regulation that requires airline crews to stop talking about their latest union meeting, how many days off they were getting next month or the new flight attendant’s legs when they are below 10,000 feet … in other words, getting close to the ground, or on the ground.  The reasoning behind this rule is unarguable.  A surprising number of fatal crashes have happened while the flight crew was yakking away on some non-flight related item.  It isn’t hard to conduct a conversation and it isn’t hard to actually control an aircraft in normal flight.  But the human mind will switch focus as it will … and if it switches focus to the wrong one of two relatively simple tasks at the wrong point in time … Wham!

I found this accident report interesting as well.  cell phones aren’t only deadly in high speed vehicles.  Many of today’s freight railroads today operate in a mode similar to air traffic control.  A freight train is "cleared" by the dispatcher for exclusive use of  a section of single track from point A to point B.  At point B the train has to stop unless it has been granted further clearance.  Many times the train is operating at a speed far less than you would be driving your car, and a train engineer has nothing to do except adjust speed … the rails steer the train … you could do it with your eyes closed almost.  Certainly a cell phone wouldn’t be dangerous in a railroad locomotive cab, would it?  Well read the whole report here or if you don’t think accident reports are a fascinating source of information as I do, here’s what matters:

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the May 28, 2002, collision at Clarendon, Texas, was (1) the coal train engineer’s use of a cell phone during the time he should have been attending to (business)

To wrap things up and prove I haven’t just ignored GPS … those handy dashboard GPS navigators are no less intrusive than cell phones.  I love GPS, I’ve been around the technology since it was new, I even make a living with it, but please, don’t play with your GPS and don’t yak on your cell when you are driving.  Driving is more demanding than you think, and the stakes are much higher than many seem to realize.  (besides you look like a total a-hole to other drivers when you are yakking)