Hypocrisy at the wheel

Many years and dozens of studies ago, the National Safety Council called for a ban on all phoning-and-driving, including hands-free devices, because research showed their use to be as dangerous as driving and talking with cell phones — which has been determined to be about the same as driving while drunk, distraction-wise.

How did some states, including ours, respond? By passing laws making it legal to drive and talk with “hands-free” devices.

How did some automakers respond? By building and heavily advertising vehicles that come with “dashboard infotainment systems” that respond to one’s voice commands. (If spoken quite clearly and slowly.)

(Coming soon: The NSA dashboard-info-gatherer, with its secrets-per-mile algorithm.)

So it comes as no surprise that a study released last week by AAA shows that talking on a hands-free phone isn’t safer than holding a phone, and using hands-free devices that translate speech into text is the most distracting of all, researchers reported. (Emphasis ours.)

“People aren’t seeing what they need to see to drive. That’s the scariest part to me,” Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, told Newsday.

That’s because the greater the concentration required to perform a task, the more likely a driver is to develop what researchers call “tunnel vision” or “inattention blindness.” Drivers will continue to look straight ahead (while ignoring side and rearview mirrors) but fail to see what’s in front of them, like red lights and pedestrians, researchers say.

Predictably, the auto industry disagrees.

“We are extremely concerned that it could send a misleading message, since it suggests that hand-held and hands-free devices are equally risky,” the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said.

Focusing on which is riskier — hand-held or hands-free — ignores the larger issue, and mountains of scientific evidence, that both are dangerous.

Is it because we can’t measure someone’s blood for cell-phone use after an accident that refuse to take this seriously? Or is it because those who ignore the law and/or scientific evidence cross all income and education levels? As many studies have shown, over and over again, people who drive and talk on the phone believe the habit poses a danger when practiced by others, but are completely confident that they, themselves, are perfectly safe drivers.

The aforementioned “attention blindness” means that car-phone talkers are often unaware of any danger they may pose, the speed they are going, or close scrapes avoided by the defensive driving of others. They aren’t in a position to evaluate the quality of their driving.

Let this be your command: “No calls, no texts, no Tweets.”

More in Opinion

Editorial cartoons for Sunday, Nov. 20

A sketchy look at the day in politics.… Continue reading

Editorial: School funding half-full, half-empty, but not ample

The Supreme Court says the state’s school funding plan won’t meet its deadline. So there’s work to do.

Simoneaux: In service of science, a month among icebergs

A NOAA ship takes scientists into an Antarctic ice field, when the path out starts to close in.

Saunders: Trump not repeating mistakes he made on ACA repeal

The president is taking care not to alienate Senate Republicans before the vote on tax reform.

Milbank: Not hearing what they want to, GOP simply ignores

Nonpartisan arbiters of fact are being disregarded on tax law, health care and judicial worthiness.

Snohomish PUD hydro project will harm salmon

A Nov. 9 article in The Herald focused on declining salmon and… Continue reading

Frontier should keep lifeline payphones in service

The public telephone at the Verlot service ranger station is a service… Continue reading

Vote makes it clear: No pot shops in Snohomish

The advisory vote on Proposition 1 in Snohomish on retail marijuana sales… Continue reading

Why gut Medicaid to pay for bombs?

Donald Trump, in a fit of pique over not being able to… Continue reading

Most Read