New California Cell Phone & Driving Law: Are We Stupid Yet?

As of today, it is illegal in California to drive while talking on your cell phone — unless you are talking on your phone via a hands-free device. This, when every study in the universe shows that people who are simultaneously driving and talking on their cell phones — hands-free or not — are exactly as dangerous as people who are driving drunk.

People can drive just fine with one hand. What they can’t do just fine is drive and talk on the phone at the same time. Everyone thinks they’re great at simultaneously driving and talking on the phone, but they’re wrong. Everyone’s terrible  at it. Our brains aren’t (yet?) wired to be any good at all at simultaneously driving, talking, listening, and responding.

Hence the difficult conclusion to avoid, which is that the only  thing this new California law does is dramatically boost the sales of Bluetooth-enabled hands-free cellphone devices.

This is just a wild guess, but I’m scoring it like this: Cell Phone Lobbyists: 1.  Sanity: 0.

Related post: I’m Green Like Kermit.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter. If you shop at Amazon, help support John by entering the site through this link right here--Amazon will then send John 3-4% of the cost of anything you buy before exiting the site again.

 

  • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike (FVThinker) Bur

    It is my understanding that the most dangerous piece of a dangerous practice (driving+cell phones) is dialing. Some teens even TEXT while they are driving…which to me is like leaving the car!

    Some years ago, I remember hearing that, with bluetooth technology, we would be seeing cars set up that the phone would not ring while the car was moving…or something like that. I would WAY sign up for that for my teen who gets his license in a few short weeks. Unfortunately, I have heard of nobody doing that.

  • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike (FVThinker) Bur

    It is my understanding that the most dangerous piece of a dangerous practice (driving+cell phones) is dialing. Some teens even TEXT while they are driving…which to me is like leaving the car!

    Some years ago, I remember hearing that, with bluetooth technology, we would be seeing cars set up that the phone would not ring while the car was moving…or something like that. I would WAY sign up for that for my teen who gets his license in a few short weeks. Unfortunately, I have heard of nobody doing that.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Yeah, I think the idea is that while actually DIALING you're as dangerous as someone who's driving while trying to inject heroin, and that once you're talking to whomever you called because now you simply find JUSTdriving too boring, you're as dangerous as someone who's so drunk they can't walk a straight line.

    Try to steer your teen away from the cars Crysler has decided to make in the wake of the knowledge that no one wants any of their cars: their upcoming models with a computer installed in its dashboard. Soon, people will be driving and, yes, checking their email.

    Be afraid. Literally.

  • http://samwrites2.wordpress.com samwrites2

    John,

    All right – thanks for the heads up on Chrysler's plans!

    Now I can read your blog on the way to work while talking on the cell phone, playing on the Nintendo DS, drinking coffee and turning around to reprimand the children fighting in the back seat before I drop them off at their summer camp.

    Cool.

    -Sam

  • http://samwrites2.wordpress.com samwrites2

    John,

    All right – thanks for the heads up on Chrysler's plans!

    Now I can read your blog on the way to work while talking on the cell phone, playing on the Nintendo DS, drinking coffee and turning around to reprimand the children fighting in the back seat before I drop them off at their summer camp.

    Cool.

    -Sam

  • http://skerrib.blogspot.com Skerrib

    A friend of mine did a bunch of research on this stuff in college. He said the danger is rooted in the distraction of the conversation, so even though you're theoretically watching traffic you're not really watching as well as you could.

    He also said we'd be a lot better off if we didn't have radios, but then I'd be falling asleep all the time without some background music.

    I'm getting my bluetooth. Oh yes, I'm getting my bluetooth. I will be assimilated. I'm joining the collective. Resistance is futile.

  • http://skerrib.blogspot.com Skerrib

    A friend of mine did a bunch of research on this stuff in college. He said the danger is rooted in the distraction of the conversation, so even though you're theoretically watching traffic you're not really watching as well as you could.

    He also said we'd be a lot better off if we didn't have radios, but then I'd be falling asleep all the time without some background music.

    I'm getting my bluetooth. Oh yes, I'm getting my bluetooth. I will be assimilated. I'm joining the collective. Resistance is futile.

  • Candace

    I get your point, and I don't entirely disagree. But must every blessed thing under the sun be regulated by LAW? I think that's half the reason we're losing our abilities to think and reason. Too much reliance on law vs plain old common sense.

    Plus … if it's the conversation that's the problem, what's next? A law that no one can talk in the car at all? Cop passes you and sees your mouth open and you get stopped and ticketed?

    The world gets stupider and stupider. But, now that I think of it, I believe that's all part of the grand plan …

  • Candace

    I get your point, and I don't entirely disagree. But must every blessed thing under the sun be regulated by LAW? I think that's half the reason we're losing our abilities to think and reason. Too much reliance on law vs plain old common sense.

    Plus … if it's the conversation that's the problem, what's next? A law that no one can talk in the car at all? Cop passes you and sees your mouth open and you get stopped and ticketed?

    The world gets stupider and stupider. But, now that I think of it, I believe that's all part of the grand plan …

  • http://sisterfriends-together.org anita

    Okay, it's not a safety issue that concerns me (okay it does but I've got nothing to add on that regard) but what really pulls my chain are the knuckleheads who get in their car in a crowded parking lot, turn their engine on, initiating their back tail lights so I, the innocent party, stop to wait for their spot…and wait and wait and wait and wait until I see that stupid cell phone glued to their cauliflower ear and then their head starts nodding like a wacked out wobblehead doll while they toss their head back in laughter over the hysterically funn comment made by the poopoo pants on the other end of the phone no doubt sitting in some other car in some other parking space or maybe it's not that, maybe they're laughing at me, the sucker who sits there waiting like a silly sap while the driver chats away like they're sitting at home on their couch rather than being the WHEEL OF A CAR WITH IT'S ENGINE ON AND IT'S TAIL LIGHTS RED and ohmygosh, it's way past time for my medication…

  • Candace

    OMG, Anita, THIS is when I truly PINE for a James Bond car with ICBMs or something …

    I sooooo hear you on that.

    I have been both those people, come to think of it. The one talking and the one waiting and fuming. Maybe I need to start some sort of medication …

  • Candace

    OMG, Anita, THIS is when I truly PINE for a James Bond car with ICBMs or something …

    I sooooo hear you on that.

    I have been both those people, come to think of it. The one talking and the one waiting and fuming. Maybe I need to start some sort of medication …

  • http://1truebeliever.wordpress.com Wickle

    Bluetooth technology is mind control. Everyone knows that. If you saw the "Stargate SG-1" episode "Revisions" and didn't realize that "the link" is just a bluetooth without the glowing blue giveaway, then you're missing something.

    Anyway … John, you don't expect a law to make actual sense, do you?

    I look forward to having a wise Illusti- … Illustru-… uhh … Potentate who will have taken over the world and knows enough to make sensible dictates, not this silliness.

    You know, I remember a time when we didn't absolutely have to maintain constant phone contact with everyone else. I guess I'm just not as important as everyone else.

  • http://1truebeliever.wordpress.com Wickle

    Bluetooth technology is mind control. Everyone knows that. If you saw the "Stargate SG-1" episode "Revisions" and didn't realize that "the link" is just a bluetooth without the glowing blue giveaway, then you're missing something.

    Anyway … John, you don't expect a law to make actual sense, do you?

    I look forward to having a wise Illusti- … Illustru-… uhh … Potentate who will have taken over the world and knows enough to make sensible dictates, not this silliness.

    You know, I remember a time when we didn't absolutely have to maintain constant phone contact with everyone else. I guess I'm just not as important as everyone else.

  • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike (FVThinker) Bur

    Remember, pre-cell phone, when our parents told us to be home by dinner and our only option….was to be home by dinner?

  • http://anziulewicz.livejournal.com Chuck Anziulewicz

    I couldn't agree with you MORE, John.

    Of course, you do NOT want to get me started on cell phones in general. I don't think there has been any device in recent history that has contributed more to the deterioration in common human courtesy. But we can save that debate for another time.

    Far too often have I seen drivers laughing and smiling and yakking away on their cell phones, completely oblivious to the fact that their SUVs are careening back and forth through rush hour traffic on the interstate. Turn signals have become worthless; with a steering wheel in one hand and a cell phone in the other, who has time for turn signals?

    And it kills me when people say that driving while carrying on a cell phone conversation is as innocuous as changing a radio station or taking a bite of a sandwich. The latter require little conscious thought. Even when a driver is chatting with someone in the passenger seat, the conversation is qualified by the fact that both persons are seated, looking forward, aware of the traffic around them, and so on. But when you are on the phone with someone, you are in a separate reality with that person, and your attention to the road is significantly impeded.

    At the very LEAST, law enforcement officers who arrive at the scene of traffic accidents ought to make note of which drivers, if any, were using their cell phones at the time of the mishap. I suspect we would find an incontrovertible connection between cell phone use by drivers and the likelihood of an accident.

  • http://anziulewicz.livejournal.com Chuck Anziulewicz

    I couldn't agree with you MORE, John.

    Of course, you do NOT want to get me started on cell phones in general. I don't think there has been any device in recent history that has contributed more to the deterioration in common human courtesy. But we can save that debate for another time.

    Far too often have I seen drivers laughing and smiling and yakking away on their cell phones, completely oblivious to the fact that their SUVs are careening back and forth through rush hour traffic on the interstate. Turn signals have become worthless; with a steering wheel in one hand and a cell phone in the other, who has time for turn signals?

    And it kills me when people say that driving while carrying on a cell phone conversation is as innocuous as changing a radio station or taking a bite of a sandwich. The latter require little conscious thought. Even when a driver is chatting with someone in the passenger seat, the conversation is qualified by the fact that both persons are seated, looking forward, aware of the traffic around them, and so on. But when you are on the phone with someone, you are in a separate reality with that person, and your attention to the road is significantly impeded.

    At the very LEAST, law enforcement officers who arrive at the scene of traffic accidents ought to make note of which drivers, if any, were using their cell phones at the time of the mishap. I suspect we would find an incontrovertible connection between cell phone use by drivers and the likelihood of an accident.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Wow! What excellent/hilarious/thoughtful comments! Awesome. Some of you guys were seriously cracking me up. Great stuff. I love it. Thanks so much!

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Wow! What excellent/hilarious/thoughtful comments! Awesome. Some of you guys were seriously cracking me up. Great stuff. I love it. Thanks so much!

  • http://anziulewicz.livejournal.com Chuck Anziulewicz

    Two words:

    BLUETOOTH BORG

    Resistance is futile.

  • http://anziulewicz.livejournal.com Chuck Anziulewicz

    Two words:

    BLUETOOTH BORG

    Resistance is futile.

  • http://jon-gilbert.blogspot.com Jon Gilbert

    I never use my cell while driving. I'd get Big Mac Special Sauce and shaving cream all over it, if I did.

    When I was a teen, I had learned to drive a stick (of course, I didn't know back then that there was any other KIND of car), and I was too afraid to take my hands of the wheel to SHIFT, never mind text or surf the net on my Crackberry.

  • http://jon-gilbert.blogspot.com Jon Gilbert

    I never use my cell while driving. I'd get Big Mac Special Sauce and shaving cream all over it, if I did.

    When I was a teen, I had learned to drive a stick (of course, I didn't know back then that there was any other KIND of car), and I was too afraid to take my hands of the wheel to SHIFT, never mind text or surf the net on my Crackberry.

  • http://skerrib.blogspot.com Skerrib

    Oooh, Candace I'm totally with you on the over-legislation of stuff. Drives me up the wall.

    Anita I think you forgot the ending on your comment–just as you decide the person is engrossed in his/her conversation for the long haul, and you inch forward to proceed, then they decide to start backing up, and brake sharply, and look at you like you've wronged them and all of society by not seeing their reverse lights, when you'd actually been watching them & waiting for 10 friggin minutes, which seemed like 45.

  • http://skerrib.blogspot.com Skerrib

    Oooh, Candace I'm totally with you on the over-legislation of stuff. Drives me up the wall.

    Anita I think you forgot the ending on your comment–just as you decide the person is engrossed in his/her conversation for the long haul, and you inch forward to proceed, then they decide to start backing up, and brake sharply, and look at you like you've wronged them and all of society by not seeing their reverse lights, when you'd actually been watching them & waiting for 10 friggin minutes, which seemed like 45.

  • http://anziulewicz.livejournal.com Chuck Anziulewicz

    I'm reminded of the old joke:

    Q: Do you ever listen to the radio while driving?

    A: Only if I don't have anything to read.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Man, you guys are cracking me up. Crackberry. That is so funny!!

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Man, you guys are cracking me up. Crackberry. That is so funny!!

  • http://jon-gilbert.blogspot.com Jon Gilbert

    Anita,

    I find that most days it's not even worth chewing out of the restraints!

    Sorry, gotta go. My wife is texting me and this fool is trying to pass me on the wrong side.

    "Oh no you DON'T, officer!!!!!"

    Jon

  • http://jon-gilbert.blogspot.com Jon Gilbert

    Anita,

    I find that most days it's not even worth chewing out of the restraints!

    Sorry, gotta go. My wife is texting me and this fool is trying to pass me on the wrong side.

    "Oh no you DON'T, officer!!!!!"

    Jon

  • http://www.sisterfriends-together.org anita

    Jon,

    Ah….a man with a profound appreciation for the great thoughts of our time.

    Some mornings, it's just not worth chewing through the leather straps. The legendary Emo Phillips

    And on a related note, Emo adds

    Be honest. Before cellphones were invented didn't you completely underestimate the percentage of jerks in the world?

    It's amazing I can type all this on my iPhone in freeway traffic, isn't it?

  • http://www.sisterfriends-together.org anita

    Jon,

    Ah….a man with a profound appreciation for the great thoughts of our time.

    Some mornings, it's just not worth chewing through the leather straps. The legendary Emo Phillips

    And on a related note, Emo adds

    Be honest. Before cellphones were invented didn't you completely underestimate the percentage of jerks in the world?

    It's amazing I can type all this on my iPhone in freeway traffic, isn't it?

  • http://www.sisterfriends-together.org anita

    Anita I think you forgot the ending on your comment–just as you decide the person is engrossed in his/her conversation for the long haul, and you inch forward to proceed, then they decide to start backing up, and brake sharply, and look at you like you’ve wronged them and all of society by not seeing their reverse lights, when you’d actually been watching them & waiting for 10 friggin minutes, which seemed like 45.

    I didn’t forget. It was simply that I’d become too agitated by the whole topic and it was impossible to continue typing while the hospital staff was medicating me. The arm restraints serve as a bit of a challenge as well.

  • http://www.sisterfriends-together.org anita

    Anita I think you forgot the ending on your comment–just as you decide the person is engrossed in his/her conversation for the long haul, and you inch forward to proceed, then they decide to start backing up, and brake sharply, and look at you like you’ve wronged them and all of society by not seeing their reverse lights, when you’d actually been watching them & waiting for 10 friggin minutes, which seemed like 45.

    I didn’t forget. It was simply that I’d become too agitated by the whole topic and it was impossible to continue typing while the hospital staff was medicating me. The arm restraints serve as a bit of a challenge as well.

  • http://www.grace-gracetoday.blogspot.com Grace

    You should locate that silly photo that went ’round the e-mail circuit a few years ago with the guy on his cell phone strapped to his head with a rubber band…

    Another thought — how more challenging is it to stick in an earpiece, plug it in to your cell phone and get that silly little microphone somewhere near your voice while answering your phone AND driving? (For those of us not yet in the blue tooth age.)

  • http://www.grace-gracetoday.blogspot.com Grace

    You should locate that silly photo that went ’round the e-mail circuit a few years ago with the guy on his cell phone strapped to his head with a rubber band…

    Another thought — how more challenging is it to stick in an earpiece, plug it in to your cell phone and get that silly little microphone somewhere near your voice while answering your phone AND driving? (For those of us not yet in the blue tooth age.)

  • Linda Chimienti

    It's almost two years later and I am so sorry that I missed the absolute party that this post initiated. What FUN!

  • Linda Chimienti

    It's almost two years later and I am so sorry that I missed the absolute party that this post initiated. What FUN!


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