About the author

Paul Feldman is a FairWarning staff writer.

6 comments to “What Happens When a Driver Kills Someone While Fiddling With A Cellphone? Often, Not Much”


    Thanks so much for your insightful article. I’ve stood on the side of the road amazed at how many drivers have their gaze fixed on their cell phones as they hurtle down our roads.

    Please be careful! Your car is a lethal weapon when unattended to. Dr. Steven Visentin,D.C. Denver CO

  2. steve cummings

    Offenders should lose their driver’s license for life.

  3. Myron Levin

    Hi Keith, all interesting points. But if you’ll allow me to toot our horn, at FairWarning we don’t focus only on driver behavior:



  4. Keith Simmons

    We continue to focus purely on driver behaviour, which is only part of the problem. If more highways had dividing steel wire rope barriers that can stop head on crashes; if more vehicles were fitted with crash notification, or better, autonomous emergency braking; if more vehicles had lane departure warning, or better, lane keeping assist systems; if roads had sealed shoulders and tactile rumble strips along the lane markings; many of these crashes would never have occurred. I do not lift responsibility from distracted drivers, but we must share the responsibility for road safety. The Safe System Approach is proven to work in reducing road trauma and tragedy.

  5. michael R. Lemov

    Better car design limiting apps on dashboard and disabling most when car is in motion.

  6. Matthew Mabey

    Distracted driving is a big issue, but it is one that needs to be approached very rationally if we are to succeed in making progress as quickly as possible. So far, many efforts around the country have taken an “eliminate all distractions because any distraction is unacceptable” approach. The narrative for these efforts equates adjusting the volume on the radio with reading a text message and responding manually.

    The problem with such an approach is that human beings have a really hard time sustaining true single-minded focus for very long. Some people, in some occupations (NASCAR drivers, Secret Service protection officers) get better at it, but in general humans struggle with it. Think back to when you first learned to drive. The average person finds it exhausting because the process requires so much attention and conscious thought for a sustained period of time. As we learn to handle more and more of the driving tasks subconsciously and through muscle memory, it becomes less exhausting. We also become better drivers. In part, that is because it frees up our mind to be “distracted.” That is to say, to switch focus and cycle through a variety of thoughts. It also allows us to be more open to perceiving novelties; some of which are the hazards that a good driver can avoid because they have been perceived. It is analogous to how we can avoid repetitive stress injuries to body parts by not just doing the same motion continually.

    For many people, having the radio on will generally enhance sustained attentiveness to driving precisely because it is a distraction of sorts. We need to come up with better ways to train people to be better drivers, and more attentive drivers. There are some activities that are unsafe distractions because of the time they take, and the cognitive demands they place on us. But adjusting the volume of the radio isn’t one of those. We probably need more, and better, information to know about some other activities. For example, is lifting a cup from the cup holder and sipping on the straw a dangerous distraction? Some have argued it is. I would argue that it is not; at least for most people that I’ve observed.

    My point is that achieving better, more attentive drivers will require a very different strategy than it appears is being adopted around the country. “Buckle Up” was a good and effective slogan. “Don’t Drink and Drive” was good. “Don’t text while driving” is certainly good advice, even if it isn’t much of a slogan. “Don’t be distracted” isn’t going to accomplish anything.

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