Generating a Policy Proposal

Policy

Introduction

Despite the fact that some cities and states have passed laws banning the use of handheld phones and texts while driving, there is no current law banning the use of all cell phone while driving. However, as per the National Safety Council (2009), twenty-eight percent of all crashes result from texting and cell phone use by drivers. This has compelled FocusDriven to embark on a mission of striving to illegalize and consider the phone use while driving as socially unacceptable. This mission is supported by Ray LaHood, the US Transport Secretary who, according to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, said that this movement will turn to be “an army of people traveling the countryside” pushing for tough enforcement and bans on cell phone use (Schmit, 2010). After conducting some scientific research on the same, this paper makes a policy proposal that supports the illegalization of cell phone use.

Policy

One of the studies regarding the cognitive abilities affecting cell phone use while driving claim that experimental study on the effects of mobile phone conversations on driving shows that phone task affects or interferes with a number of driving-related functions, more so with older drivers. In reality, driving drivers learn to time-share different tasks. These drivers can pace their driving in such a way that they accommodate the requirements or demands of mobile phone conversation and at the same time, they can partially regulate or pace the mobile phone conversation to accommodate the demands of their driving. This study was therefore conducted in such a way that it better simulate real driving conditions through the provision of simulated driving environment out of repeated driving experiences while carrying two diverse hands-free mobile phone tasks with varying proximities to real conversations. In the course consisting of five driving sessions and use of the phone, the researchers observed a learning effect on most of the measures of driving. In addition, the phone task interference on most of the driving tasks reduced over time as expected. In the end, the interference effects were higher when the phone task was often-used artificial mathematics operations task that when it was about an emotionally involving conversation, when the drivers were older and when there were greater driving demands. Therefore, the deleterious impacts of conversing in the phone are very high at first, but with continued practice, they may not be very severe at the dual task particularly for younger drivers.

White, et al., (2010) did a study that explored psychological effects of hand-held and hands-free mobile phone devices while driving. The study used 796 Australian drivers as participants. These participants were aged between 17 and 76 years and they owned mobile phones. A cross-sectional survey was used for assessing frequency of text messaging and calling while driving with respect to hand-held, hands-free and overall as well as the control beliefs, behavioral and normative aspects of the driver relating to the use of mobile phone while driving. Irrespective of the type of handset, the number of drivers who reported answering calls as they drive were 43%. This was followed by those who were making calls while driving (36%), those who were reading text messages while driving (27%), then those who were sending text messages (18%). As anticipated, frequent users said to have more approval from colleagues for, more advantages of as well as fewer barriers that would stop them from using either hand-held or hands-free mobile phone while driving as compared with infrequent users. Efforts to bring down the use of mobile phone while driving should try to reduce the perceived gains of the behavior. The campaign should instead highlight the risks arising from unsafe driving practice.

In as much as the frequent use of mobile phone could bring more advantages to infrequent use, some studies contrast this. One of these studies was done with the objective of determining the relative impairment linked with talking on a cellular or mobile phone while driving (Strayer, Drews & Crouch, 2006). According to epidemiological evidence, the relative risk of getting involved in a traffic accident while using a mobile phone is the same as the hazard linked with driving when the blood alcohol level is at the legal limit. The aim of this study was to offer a direct comparison of the performance of a drunk driver and a cell phone driver in a controlled laboratory setting. The study was conducted by using a high-fidelity driving simulator in comparing the driving performance of cell or mobile phone drivers with those drivers intoxicated from ethanol, in other words, whose blood alcohol concentration was at 0.08% weight/volume. The results reveal that when drivers were talking on either hands-free or handheld cell phone, there was delay in their braking reactions. Consequently, such drivers were involved in more traffic accidents compared with when they were not talking on a cell phone.  On the contrary, it was observed that when drivers were intoxicated from ethanol, they showed a driving style that was more aggressive by following closer to the car immediately ahead of them and applying a lot of force while braking. In conclusion, the researchers observed that when driving time and conditions on task were regulated, the impairments linked with the use of cell phone while driving can be as adverse as those linked with drunk driving.

Another study by Stutts, et al., (2005) involved the installation of unobtrusive video camera units in the vehicles of 70 drivers who volunteered for a period of over 1 week so that the study of exposure of drivers to distractions could be done. There was coding of video data based on an exhaustive taxonomy of the driver distractions along with key contextual variables as well as driving performance measures. Outcomes reveal that distractions are a common part of everyday driving. In terms of durations of overall event, the most common distractions were found to be drinking and eating (including preparations to drink or eat), distractions witnessed inside the vehicle for instance manipulating vehicle controls, looking or reaching for an object as well as distractions outside the vehicle, which were often unidentified. There was a high degree of association between distractions and decreased driving performance. This was shown by higher frequency of no hands on the steering wheel, lane encroachments or wanderings and eyes directed inside and not outside the vehicle. Naturalistic driving researches can offer an important supplement to field and more controlled laboratory studies to expand our understanding of the impacts of all kinds of distractions on the driving safety.

Policy Recommendations

From these studies, it is evident that the use of mobile phone while driving is inevitable. It is true that drivers are required to concentrate on the wheel while driving. However, they also have families and other important matters to attend to beyond the wheel. They have to receive urgent calls. They have to make urgent calls. Some drivers have to receive instructions on the direction of the road to use while driving. This means that the use of mobile phone while driving is inevitable. At the same time, the above research reveals that frequent users said to have more approval from colleagues for, more advantages of as well as fewer barriers that would stop them from using either hand-held or hands-free mobile phone while driving as compared with infrequent users. Therefore, it is recommended that policy makers should pass laws that regulate the use of hand-held phones.

Future Research

Based on the gaps existing in the current research, future research should use naturalistic driving researches to offer an important supplement to field and more controlled laboratory studies to expand our understanding of the impacts of all kinds of distractions on the driving safety. Once the impacts of all kinds of distractions have been noted, the best way of regulating them can be devised.

Conclusion

In conclusion, policy makers should pass laws that regulate the use of hand-held phones since the above research reveals that frequent users said to have more approval from colleagues for, more advantages of as well as fewer barriers that would stop them from using either hand-held or hands-free mobile phone while driving as compared with infrequent users.

References:

Schmitz, J. (2010, January 13). Cell phone ban for drivers is focus of new group. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved from http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10013/1027757-147.stm

Shinar, D., Tractinsky, N., & Compton, R. (2005). Effects of practice, age, and task demands, on interference from a phone task while driving. Accident Analysis & Prevention37(2), 315-326.

Strayer, D. L., Drews, F. A., & Crouch, D. J. (2006). A comparison of the cell phone driver and the drunk driver. Human factors: The journal of the human factors and ergonomics society48(2), 381-391.

Stutts, J., Feaganes, J., Reinfurt, D., Rodgman, E., Hamlett, C., Gish, K., & Staplin, L. (2005). Driver’s exposure to distractions in their natural driving environment. Accident Analysis & Prevention37(6), 1093-1101.

White, K. M., Hyde, M. K., Walsh, S. P., & Watson, B. (2010). Mobile phone use while driving: An investigation of the beliefs influencing drivers’ hands-free and hand-held mobile phone use. Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour13(1), 9-20.