Poll: Would You Give Up Using Your iPhone in the Car for Increased Safety?


Our sibling site, TreoCentral.com, reminds us about the NY Times report that even hands-free cell phone (including iPhone) use while driving radically increases the risk of accidents:

Studies say that drivers using phones are four times as likely to cause a crash as other drivers, and the likelihood that they will crash is equal to that of someone with a .08 percent blood alcohol level, the point at which drivers are generally considered intoxicated. Research also shows that hands-free devices do not eliminate the risks, and may worsen them by suggesting that the behavior is safe.

Some states have passed laws requiring hands-free phone use (it's required where I live), some are no passing no-texting-and-driving laws, and some are trying to see if they can ban mobile use entirely.

Driving while talking on the phone is singled out, of course, though we'd suspect driving while following a map, eating, tuning the radio, checking out the scenery, even talking to another passenger (though arguably they have additional eyes on the road to mitigate) are all distracting to one degree or another.

TiPb's curious what you think about talking on the phone while driving, and what, if anything, you think should be done about it?

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Poll: Would You Give Up Using Your iPhone in the Car for Increased Safety?


I couldn't care less if you want to risk your own life. My problem is when idiots put my life at risk. THAT is why it is government's job to get involved... When people endanger other people.

I use my iPhone while driving. I wouldn't want it to be made illegal but I might feel differently if a car accident had taken someone in my family or a friend.

Talking hands free is like talking to the person in your passenger seat. Holding the phone to talk is definitely a distraction, especially with women!

As a motorcycle rider, I'm very scared of drivers that text/talk on their cellphone or iPhone while driving. Seriously, government controlling your car? Driving while talking on the phone was demonstrated to be equally if not more dangerous than DUI by researchers in Germany recently. This has been demonstrated time and time again.
To put it shortly, if I see you texting or talking on the phone on the ride, I'll give you a piece of my mind. Even if I'm not on a bike/in car. Don't be idiots.

I plug my iPhone into my Lexus iPhone integration fir music functions and connect via bt for voice functions. So I can control my iPhone for music and phone functions thru the car controls so I don't have to touch the device when driving.

On the rare occasions when I need to answer a call when I'm driving, I use my hands free, tell the caller I'm on the road and will call them back. And I never text and drive. That, to me, is just stupid. If I feel the need to shoot off a text while I'm in the car I do it at a red light. It's illegal here, in California, to use your phone without hands free but that doesn't seem to deter the countless idiots who have almost hit me while they yak away on their phones.

@swill: maybe, it depends. Generally, if you're talking on the phone to someone, it's more likely that your discussion is about something urgent. Which equals something that is likely going to mess with your emotions and distract you. Talking to a passenger is sometimes like that, too, but not as much. Besides, with a passenger you can always stop talking and focus on the road for that split-second. On the phone, it's harder to stop talking without the other person thinking you lost reception or something.
Point being don't let misconceptions about hands-free cellphone use make you feel safer with Bluetooth drivers on the road.

People should assume their responsibility like adults, not look for someone else to do their thinking and run their life. If you assume your risk to destroy someone's life, you should be ready to pay for it dearly. This new study might not even be true since the state governments are broke and looking to make money. A law prohibiting cellphone use in the car will not stop people from doing it, you will just have to pay to do it. The government should stay out of our lives, their only job is to protect us against foreign invaders. Who wants government in their life can go to Cuba.

What's next? Banning people from talking to you or you talking to them in the car. It's the same concept as talking on the phone. Actually it's even more bothersome. Where does this end?

"even talking to another passenger (though arguably they have additional eyes on the road to mitigate)"
Who the hell are you riding in your car? Do you think kids are going to pay attention to the road when you're not? Hell, my friends don't even do it! They're too busy looking out of the side windows or looking at their own phones!

What I've never gotten is that the biggest issue with phones is driving with one hand. Even if you only drive with one hand on the wheel and one resting on the arm rest, you have two hands to drive. That's the biggest danger and I agree with that. I've seen more annoying drivers with phones in their hand in their ear and seen no such annoying or dangerous drivers with bluetooth headsets.
I personally think driving with one hand on something else is essentially a subset of reckless driving. That's anything, a phone, coffee, makeup, sandwich, and all the other things you've heard in stories.
With a handsfree, it's like talking to someone next to you. And if someone is next to you talking to you for an hour, why isn't that regulated? It's should not be.
Talking with handsfree should be compared to talking with someone next to you, and they should study if one is more dangerous than another. Also realize that having someone with you can keep you awake and focused on long drives, just as someone on a handsfree. That's not to say you hook up your handsfree and talk to someone for an entire 12 hour drive, but they can help as well as hurt.
In truth, the real way to solve problems like this is to invest in public transportation, and not continue to band aid the fact that driving is the most dangerous form of travel there is.

@dexter, need rules for the person riding shotgun. They are supposed to be the navigator. ;) My old car was manual (as were all my friend's cars) and the passenger was expected to take over shifting if the driver got a call. I know it's terrible.
I would support a ban on using the phone without a hands free kit. I've done it and I'm not proud. I've sent texts when I felt I could, also still very bad. But I'd like it so that I don't see every other person texting while I drive around the DC beltway at 70mph.

When you are driving a 2500-6000 pound hunk of steel, your priority is paying attention to the road, period. If you want to chatter, read the paper, fiddle with the radio, take the bus.
As already mentioned, if you want to kill yourself, that's one thing. But you are endangering everyone else around you, particularly the pedestrians.

How ironic and spooky. I was reading this on my iPhone while driving home tonight when my phone rang and startled me so much that I dropped the Big Mac in my other hand onto my beer which splashed and shorted out the DVD I was watching. My wife was no help as she was jibber-jabbering from the passenger seat at the kids in the back seats while putting on makeup using the rearview mirror. Then I slow down to 70mph in order to pick up my 6 year old's cellphone which slid under my seat and the guy driving behind me rear-ends my SUV. He was talking hands-free on his blackberry and wasn't paying attention. Idiot!

As a qualified professional driving instructor and iPhone developer, I was interested to find my personal empirical experience did not match my personal preference.
I use an iPhone for all my work, and a hands-free kit in my car. Yet I have found that when I talk - whether on the phone, or to the voice recording application, my control of the car and awareness suffers. This is not nearly so true when operating the radio, or air-conditioner, for example, or when talking to passengers. There would seem to be something about talking to the object that is distracting. Research would be interesting.
I think I would vote "No use of mobile phones while vehicle is moving at all; harsh financial penalties at low speeds; fines, license points and disqualification at higher speeds " just on the basis of my own experience and reflection.

As a practical matter, I live in the middle of no where, so either way it wouldn't impact me much, but I'm not really into listening to the arguments unless and until they get serious about drinking and driving. 5,6,10 DUI's? Uh, excuse me, but the laws don't seem to help much if they're not enforced, so I really don't care about hands-free cell phone usage. Any law developed to curb it won't be enforced anyway, except maybe by some silly fine, so why bother?

Research has demonstrated for years that the concept of multi-tasking is a farce. Anything taking your attention above and beyond a single activity is effectively PARTIAL-tasking. While this article is not from a scientific publication it does report on the results of several studies that represent a larger body of literature which has demonstrated this conclusively:
As people continue to get killed and maimed in car accidents that result from distracted drivers exercising their "right" to provide only partial attention to the task of operating a motor vehicle, more research will be done that continues pressing these scientific realities of attention and concentration into the public eye. The voices of the ignorant and naive among us that believe they can do two things at once and give complete attention to both will fall by the way side in a manner similar to those who once argued the earth is flat.
You have 100% of your mental concentration and attention which can be used at any given moment. Any task beyond 1 will divide your attention with each task getting a portion of that 100%... in no case can you give 100% attention to something and any attention whatsoever to another task simultaneously. In this situation, it's essentially a simple case of mathematics.

You do realise, there are countries outside the us (gasp) where it is illegal, you cannot use your phone while driving in Ireland for example.

@deviladv, a valid point about autos being the most dangerous form of transportation and the potential safety benefits of increasing public transportation. Then the only safety issue will be when you are stuck on the metro bus/rail sitting next to someone yacking away and you are forced to beat them senseless with their own iPhone ;-)
However, see my post above which debunks the idea that hands-free offers any safety advantage over holding the phone to your ear. The idea that having only one hand on the wheel is the problem has been firmly discredited with research findings.

I have an idea, install cameras in everybody's car so you can make sure they are not talking or texting while driving, otherwise they might do it below a level where the police can see with sunglasses on

Talking to a passenger and talking hands free have been shown to be very different in terms of accident risk. Lots of theories for why that is, but it's a fact.
It may have something to do with a passenger changing how they talk when the driving is more challenging, or with how we tend to zone out when talking to a disembodied voice.
Either way, it should be illegal. If you get in an accident, they should subpoena your phone records to see if you were talking on the phone or texting prior to the accident.
@winterboarder: your understanding of government is great. If you don't want the government to regulate use of vehicles on public roads, I assume you're only using roads paid for by private parties..which would pretty much limit you to your driveway.

I buy a Pioneed DVD Player iPhone ready BT connceted and it allow me to get my calls without touch my phone is the best!!!

based on what I see every day. People talking on their phones put everyone around them at risk. it has been proven time and time again. Given this knowledge some of you persist and refuse to use common sense. since these "self centered" people will not listen to reason then YES! Pass a law to make it ILLEGAL!! I will wholeheartedly support such a law. Hopefully, hitting "those" people in the pocket book will shake them out of their little world and realize that yes there are other cars on the road.

I love my iPhone so much, I gave up driving rather than stop using it.
Kidding. I actually did give up driving, but it was for health and environmental reasons.

Unfortunately, even if phone usage while driving is outlawed, the punishment (tickets and fines) will make no difference to selfish people since there won't be Mothers Against Cell Phone Drivers sitting in court rooms intimidating judges.
Law, or no law, it will be many, many years before people stop this behavior... unless technological steps are taken to make it impossible.

Who me couldn't be that was hilarious.
Winterboarder, you're just an idiot. "The government should stay out of our lives, their only job is to protect us against foreign invaders." What happens when the threat is domestic? Like idiots who put others lives at risk by talking on the phone while driving? Or there's a a problem with food like spinach had last year?
Anyway I would love a ban on all cellphone use while driving. First, picking up to say I'll call you back is moronic, how about you just don't pick up? Voicemail management is dead easy on iPhones. Plus I'm tired of people cutting me off because they didn't know they were in the wrong lane because they were too busy talking.
Driving is a CONSCIOUS effort. Be smart before you f*cking kill somebody.

The bigger problem is that people don't take driving seriously enough. I text when I drive. But if I'm in traffic, near an intersection, busy driveways, I put the d*mn thing down. No text is worth risking lives, no matter how pissed off your girl gets that it's taking you too long to answer back. Finish it at the next stop light. Watching the road is priority one, everything else is a distant second.
Here in Tennessee, driver's training is OPTIONAL. All you have to do is pass a simple road test to get your license. How f*cked up is that? How about we educate our drivers before we punish everyone?

How about the policeman that gives the tickets. They are usually alone in the car and for damn shure they are using the CV radio with the dispatcher. Nobody is above the law. Why would we swalow a law that applies only to private citizens? There are other ways besides legislating everything we do.