TJ Williams December 2, 2019 7:03 AM

Already experimented in the Netherlands, France and the UK and manufactured in the US by Comsonics (at least).

Alejandro December 2, 2019 7:28 AM

Global Mass Surveillance marches on.

How will this new tech be abused and used against the people by the governments and corporations?

Phones have motion sensors. Why not adjust them so when they are moving @>10 mph+/- certain features are simply not available? Also, start an educational blitz on the danger of phones and driving?

Why must the first thought to change behavior always be make it a crime, feed the data beast and monetize it?

Peter Knoppers December 2, 2019 7:33 AM

The Police in the Netherlands is testing these too. Dutch article:
Summary: Images are analyzed by image processing software. Positives (hand-held device found) are re-checked by humans. The system catches about 11 violators per hour. In the Netherlands, the fine (for holding a phone, navigation system or similar device while driving a car) is EUR 240.

A1987dM December 2, 2019 8:03 AM

Phones have motion sensors. Why not adjust them so when they are moving @>10 mph+/- certain features are simply not available?

Because it is possible to be moving at > 10 mph without being driving a car, for example? Why shouldn’t I be allowed to use my phone while on a one-hour train ride?

David December 2, 2019 8:17 AM

Presumably a pedestrian using a phone near the camera antenna will also trigger the camera as a car passes

Thomas December 2, 2019 8:35 AM

When they deployed one of these cameras near my work, the city explained that it will catch people using their phones when stopped at the light. Which is annoying, but is also exactly the one time you’re not putting anyone else in danger. We all rolled our eyes about La French Tech, but I guess it’s an American camera maker?

Freek December 2, 2019 9:49 AM

Phones have motion sensors. Why not adjust them so when they are moving @>10 mph+/- certain features are simply not available?

Because motion sensors can only detect acceleration, not movement, thanks to general relativity (and that’s a law you can’t violate 😉 ). Location sensors can detect movement, but would disable genuine usage by car passengers, bus passengers or train passengers.

Billikin December 2, 2019 10:19 AM

Aren’t motion sensors actually acceleration sensors? So if you are moving at a constant rate of speed, no matter how fast, they can’t tell?

TimH December 2, 2019 11:55 AM

Colour me pedantic, but it’s not really so that the system “automatically detects when a driver is using a mobile phone”. It detects a phone against a driver’s head. The driver may not be on a call in that circumstance (unlikely, but provable either way by cell tower data etc), and the system doesn’t detect a driver on a hands free call.

Donkeys eat carrots. My brother eats carrots. My brother is a donkey!

Tony December 2, 2019 2:14 PM

@TimH would you be any happier if the time-stamped photo of the driver with a cell phone held to their ear was used as cause for a warrant to obtain cell phone records for that moment. If the carrier says “Yes, a call was active”, then proceed?

Zeb December 2, 2019 2:57 PM

NSW law forbids a driver to have their hand on a phone unless parked out of the traffic flow except to hand it to a passenger. So if you are holding it to your head you are breaking the law.

It is legal to use it hands free (although probably shouldn’t be) as long as you aren’t touching it. You can touch it if it is in a cradle fixed to the car but only for calls, music, and navigation. How they’d tell if you were doing something else I dunno… My guess is that if there was a crash they’d check the phone and data records but as you use data when navigating that won’t get them very far. On the other hand people do admit to the stupidist things so no doubt some quantity of people would admit to texting or using social media.

I figure the data on distracted driving is such that phone use by the driver should be banned entirely. Hands free or no. Of course using it for navigation makes that unworkable so in a cradle is about the best compromise.

Clive Robinson December 2, 2019 3:33 PM

@ Freek, Billikin,

Because motion sensors can only detect acceleration, not movement

Whilst that is true, the phone knows it’s position by other means.

Thus whilst the phone might not be accelerating, it is moving in space that effects it’s time refrence thus it’s inverse frequency refrence.

So the Doppler effect at the radio front end or the time delay on data from cell mast to mobile and back again or time delays on GPS signals would certainly indicate the phone was moving irrespective of it’s acceleration.

TimH December 2, 2019 3:51 PM


I’d want a call duration report with numbers for both phones to show that records were indeed checked.

In my personal experience, it’s the drivers looking down to type in texts that are the most dangerous. A driver with phone slapped on an ear has presumably done the dangerous part.

Clive Robinson December 2, 2019 4:08 PM

@ Zeb,

I figure the data on distracted driving is such that phone use by the driver should be banned entirely

I think you’ve missed the real point behind this.

No matter what the proponents say the real purpose behind this is not “safety” that is the “public face / surface excuse. When you dig a little deeper you will find the reality is “Raising revenue via technology”.

If phone use whilst being in a vehicle was entirely banned then a valuable income stream would be lost… Which with modern “Market bassed Government” is as inexcusable as a venture capital style business executive “leaving money on the table” by not mortgaging everything to the hilt.

Basically this little scheme is a “faux market” designed to take money from the citizens and provide it to the chosen few. Thus just a new variation on “tax take for the MIC”. The reason this is essential is the tax take is falling in one way or another and an incumbrant executive needs more and more income “to buy votes”.

Whilst this might sound extraordinarily cynical to you, I can assure you it’s very definitely happening.

Furthet you can be assured that both Alphabet (Google) and Amazon will be keeping a very close eye on this and looking at it as a potential revenue stream. In part to off set the losses that will happen when people wise up about the “faux marketing bubble” by improving their “Safeguarding of PII” and “faux secure cloud bubble” as people improve their “Safeguarding of IP”. Microsoft being a late entrent in the “Data theft” game via “OS Telemetry” will also no doubt be looking at how to make money from such a potential income stream if they can.

It’s the way of “The brave new world” very cheap technology has built that we are being forced to live in, irrespective of our wishes. The citizen is “the cash cow” and it’s the corporates and governments that are dividing the spoils between them…

If you think I’m wrong, feel free to disagree, but I think time will tell, as more and more such “Revenue by Fine” systems and the supporting legislation is brought in… Let’s just say I’d like to be wrong, but that’s not the way it’s currently playing out.

Alejandro December 2, 2019 7:25 PM

Good post Clive, I agree.

I am not an EE, but I am pretty sure a technological solution to this problem could be developed fairly easily. It would involve disabling certain features (touch pad and speaker?) when the driver has the car in gear. I am thinking some kind of Bluetooth instructions.

Regardless, clearly the corporations and governments see talking on the phone while driving as a new revenue source more than a safety issue. Safety is the excuse.

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasons December 3, 2019 12:37 AM


Would be fun to spoof!

Additionally, one could sue the city for malicious prosecution or using the color of law to discriminate against those with a phone on their person. Technologically-based abuse of citizens without attention to due care or diligence seems inexcusable–at a minimum. Even a badly formed basis for taking legal or criminal action requires at least a duty of care, let alone proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

PatG December 3, 2019 1:13 AM

I think this is a great thing. We will be getting them north in Queensland too, $1000 fine and 4 demerit points. Maybe some of you should ride a motorcycle in traffic where people are using their phones and you might change your opinion. There have been numerous crashes including fatalities due to people using their phones while driving. That autonomous Uber fatality could have been avoided if the supervising “driver” was paying attention instead of watching his phone.

@Alejandro – education on the danger of using phones while driving has been tried and failed. People know they shouldn’t be doing it and they do it anyway because, you know, they are better drivers than everyone else and can multitask.

This is actually one case where I believe the revenue raising was part of the business case but not the primary goal. However, a better way to change behavior would be to have the traffic police increased and have them do a blitz on it. Unfortunately the business case for that doesn’t stack up compared to using these cameras.

Ismar December 3, 2019 3:11 AM

Not sure why people are not using hands free tech like Bluetooth as it is available in vast majority of the cars here in Australia?

MarkH December 3, 2019 3:28 AM

I’m with PatG.

Some perspectives:

  1. In the U.S., mobile phone use is estimated to be a causative factor in about 25% of traffic collisions. The associated death toll is estimated at several thousand lives lost each year.

  2. Mobile phone texting while driving (incomprehensible to me, but very common) is estimated to be at least 5 times as hazardous as driving while intoxicated.

  3. I suggest that as a legal matter, in most places conduct of drivers on public roads, which is likely to substantially impair safety, is not protected by a presumption of privacy.

  4. Each state will decide how to handle this, but in the U.S. requirements for due process will probably enable challenges to penalties by persons fined under such a system.

  5. As PatG notes, public education and awareness campaigns have, to date, failed to show results adequate to the problem.

Ray Foulkes December 3, 2019 3:30 AM

If hands-free talking whilst driving is dangerous, then so must talking to passengers, especially because some people look at the passenger whilst speaking to them.

What cars REALLY need (including Police, public transport, ambulances etc) are cameras that detect lip movement by the driver and issue ferocious fines. There, solved that one.

Untitled December 3, 2019 5:34 AM

@Ray Foulkes:

If hands-free talking whilst driving is dangerous, then so must talking to passengers, especially because some people look at the passenger whilst speaking to them.

Not exactly. Your passenger in most cases is facing forwards, can see the conditions ahead and is likely to shut up when the driving gets difficult. The person you’re talking to on the phone can’t see what’s happening and will go on talking, distracting you while you’re trying to deal with the situation.

David December 3, 2019 9:16 AM

You should see the motorcycle food delivery riders using their phones while weaving through traffic in Malaysia.
We will have motorcycle taxis to add to the fun next year. Novice pillion rider plus driver looking at the map or negotiating a pick up. What could go wrong?

Faustus December 3, 2019 9:45 AM

It seems to me that most safety (or security) initiatives as well as most other government initiatives are pushed by the people selling the technology or consulting services more than any social need. Or, (I’m looking particularly at you, Australia), by people who are fans of authoritarian government control and excuses to expand surveillance and law enforcement.

There are a lot of risks in life. There is no clear connection between government policies to mitigate risk and the actual risks. Worse, any information we might use to make these assessments is always generated or promulgated by interested parties, making it useless.

People’s own actions largely demonstrate a complete disinterest in making personal choices to support safety and security and privacy. Interest arises mainly when media creates “crises” which are generally exaggerations of issues that are hardly new or critical. The media attention is mostly about attracting eyeballs in an ever increasing competition of media hyperbole.

Even on this blog, one of the homes of the concept of “security theater”, we hear less and less about “security theater” and more and more about “existential threats”. The concept of security theater may have sold some books, but instilling security fears in people and corporations is what pays off for the security community in the long run, even though our efforts are demonstrably not very effective.

TRX December 3, 2019 10:49 AM

Some years ago my state was considering a bill that would outlaw use of “communication devices” while driving. As written, it would also outlaw use of CB, ham, and police band radios as well as some of the newfangled police comms using laptops and wifi.

When people pointed out that this would ban police, fire, and ambulance personnel from using their comm equipment, the reply was, “well, it’s okay, they’re official.” When pressed, the bill’s promoters started claiming these people had “special training” so it was okay.

“Oh, really? Well, where can a private citizen get that training, that they might be able to use their own devices safely?”

“Oh, NO! That would be willy!”

The bill got more or less laughed out of existence after that…

MarkH December 3, 2019 10:59 AM


(I’m looking particularly at you, Australia) … people who are fans of authoritarian government control and excuses to expand surveillance and law enforcement

CATO, a libertarian “think tank” organization in the U.S., in 2018 ranked Australia the 4th best state in the world for human freedom. I’ve visited authoritarian countries … there’s a world of difference.

There is no clear connection between government policies to mitigate risk and the actual risks.

I can see more than one way to interpret this sentence. If it refers to the magnitude of risk, governments (like almost every human being or institution) respond to risks with poor correlation to their magnitudes. However, if it means that policies can’t be shown to effectively mitigate risks, that’s quite false. Some government risk-mitigation policies are demonstrably effective.

any information we might use to make these assessments is always generated or promulgated by interested parties, making it useless.


In my country (U.S.), both government and major non-government institutions gathering and disseminating information about public health and safety do that work much more neutrally than politically. It’s a mystery, and a blessing, that this remains largely the case amidst a tsunami of disinformation and pervasive politicization.

People’s own actions largely demonstrate a complete disinterest in making personal choices to support safety and security and privacy.

I would say rather that most people care about all three of those things, but most of the time act thoughtlessly/impulsively, and have very poor understanding of how their actions and decision affect these values.

But perhaps we can agree that individuals (on average) are even worse than governments at ranking risks and managing them effectively.

You have outlined precisely the kinds of situations in which government policies can make an important difference, because the overall effect of actions and decisions by individuals won’t (without some intervention) be adequate to address the problem(s).

That a dozen or more Americans die each day because of distracted driving — to which mobile phone use is a very serious contributor — is probably fairly accurate. Simply looking at traffic is sufficient to reveal widespread problems of driver attention.

Empirical evidence shows that enforcement campaigns can significantly affect driver behavior, and that such changes can in turn affect practical outcomes (levels of road safety).

That’s not any kind of theater.

Alejandro December 3, 2019 11:14 AM

I don’t want to wander off into politics too far, but I am with Faustus in that Australia is moving fast and hard towards becoming an authoritarian police state. A lot of Australians agree. The desirability of Australia and other westernized countries is their relative wealth and economic benefits, not civil rights or personal freedom.

Bob Paddock December 3, 2019 11:34 AM

In the Law of Unintended Consequences the site Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute, tells us in their September 28th, 2010 report that, Texting bans don’t reduce crashes; effects are slight crash increases because the Texter is trying harder to hide what they are doing, becoming even more distracted.

In December of 2011 the National Transportation Safety Board has purposed banning the use of Cell Phones in vehicles; “No call, no text, no update behind the wheel: NTSB calls for nationwide ban on PEDs while driving”.

All related links to any of those no longer function.

Never rely on politicians and bureaucrats to understand what they are doing…

Faustus December 3, 2019 12:00 PM


Well, I don’t claim to be able to cut through the PR/propaganda/marketing to the absolute truth of things, but Australia (and certainly many other countries) has been making quite a few disturbing initiatives. I believe CATO is pleased with them mostly for the freedom of their markets. And who is CATO? Do they have your interests in mind? There is a “CATO” for every opinion.

The 55mph speed limit in the US is one example of unreliable data. When it was first imposed there was a massive amount of reporting about how it was saving lives. Now I see a lot of claims that it made a marginal difference. What is the reality?

I studied experimental psychology and saw endless examples of very significant and contradictory results, each of which generally supported whatever school the investigator belonged to. I was an honor student and invited to departmental reviews. When I asked how I was to interpret the fact that professor A was teaching that theory X1 was clearly supported by the data while professor B’s absolutely contradictory theory X2 was promulgated with the same certainty in their class, it was like I farted. No more invitations for me!

Now that I have learned more I understand that my question could have been addressed as a meta-question more appropriate to the philosophy of science. But nobody there cared enough about the actual truth to have delved into the question so they could point me in this direction. I interpret it as straightforward evidence of careerism that lacked curiosity about the actual reality of the matter.

One study or a dozen studies does not resolve these questions. Even extensive meta-analysis fails to resolve contradictions because studies that don’t achieve the desired result never see the light of day and cannot be taken into account.

It is pretty clear that outside hard pure sciences, just like with surveys, a study can be designed to get whatever answer the experimenter wants, especially when any contradictory results can be hidden away. And reviews of journals at all levels also find that cheating is far from unheard of.

As a consultant I never participated in a study that didn’t conclude that my company’s services were needed. And we weren’t lying, exactly. It is easy to make an argument for almost anything.

I am sounding very nihilistic. There are differences. Intent and honesty do matter. Some companies provide much more value than others. Cybersecurity does need to be addressed. But we have to be willing to accept results that challenge us. We can’t leave it to the XYZ Group to think for us. We have to use our own experience and knowledge as something more than a marketing tool or society will simply be run by the best liars and manipulators.

Clive Robinson December 3, 2019 12:35 PM

@ Bob Paddock,

the Law of Unintended Consequences

Is but one aspect of the problem.

Way to many humans are inherently selfish in their daily actions. That is they make their current greed into a need, thus prioritize it above what they know are the side effects.

Food wrapping and disposable carrier bags especially those made of plastics being a case in point. Both are almost entirely unneeded and when I was young unknown[1]. However in half a century they have become a “need” that some consider essential simply because people either can not be bothered to take a bag and wrapping[2] with them or genuinely have no concept of being able to do so…

In the UK the concern about the environmental damage such wrapping and carrier bags are doing cause popular legislation to make people have to atleast buy carrier bags… It’s been a compleate failure, but environmental groups are saying that the price of the reusable bags should be trippled. I confidently predict that should that happen it will be no more effective than it currently is…

The point is we are so far beyond the tipping point, often by two or three generations that going back will not happen by “fines”.

The solution for plastic in shops is to ban it entirely as norhing else will actually work. With driving the punishment needs to be such that transgretion is totaly life changing. Whilst I’m not suggesting the death penalty, I think that around 1 in 10 of those who text whilst driving would only be stopped in such activities by dying whilst doing so, even having the blood of others on their hands would not stop them. They would “self justify” what ever horrors that arise from their actions, most often on others…

Thus if you want to stop such activities you need something more than an outright ban and when caught punishment so publically shaming that it acts as a discouragement. After all history has shown us that public flogging, hanging, drawing and quatering and putting the body up in a jibbet for all to see rotting was not sufficient to stop even petty crime…

What punishment would be sufficient I don’t know, even the likes of chopping off of hands, blinding, castration and other mutilations have all historically failed. So have the likes of deportation half way around the globe, excommunication, being social issolated etc.

[1] They started appearing when I was entering my teens, especially in “super markets” and gave rise to a thought one day when having bought some “ready to eat food” I could not get through the packaging to eat it… The thought was that if some how I could transport a man from earlier times into a locked supermarket the poor devil would die of starvation surrounded by a several years of food all due to not being able to get at it through the wrapping and packaging…

[2] What my mum taught me was a strong bag with decent handles and some old newspapers (which are probably the most sterile thing in most households). The important thing was to shop in a certain order such that “root vegtables” were first then “greens”, “fruits” and “salad stuff” and lastly the protein such as meat, fish, poultry, which would be wrapped by the “monger” in waxed paper and then news paper. A second bag would be for non food items, which to be honest were not that many compared to today, we had two types of “soap” one for our bodies and one for our cloths, but not shampoo, body lotion, shower gel, deoderant, etc, etc. Household cleaning items likewise were few and more than effective.

Jaime December 3, 2019 1:02 PM

A lot of people here are saying that it’s obvious that mobile phone use while driving is causing safety problems. If mobile phone use is really causing an alarming increase in traffic collisions, that should be obvious in the well-documented “deaths per million miles driven” statistic that’s readily available.

Can one of you “duh, of course it’s causing problems” people go and check… I have, and there is no indication that the rise in popularity of mobile phones has impacted this statistic in any way.

Hauke December 3, 2019 1:55 PM


If mobile phone use is really causing an alarming increase in traffic collisions,..

Define “alarming” as used.

A quick search of NHTSA provided this list of documents.

As of 20191203, the 2nd document in that list is relevant to your statement.

So yes, probably not “alarming” nor “obvious”, but the stats are still there that support cell phone related deaths.


Clive Robinson December 3, 2019 2:39 PM

@ Jamie,

A lot of people here are saying that it’s obvious that mobile phone use while driving is causing safety problems.

I would say that “any distraction whilst driving increases the likelihood of a collision” becsuse at best it slows down reaction times in which a collision might be avoided.

That I don’t think is a disputed argument and that there is evidence to show that delayed reaction times do cause an increase in otherwise avoidable collisions.

The fly in the ointment is the “distraction”, which is why I say “any distraction”.

It could be argued that there are two basic types of driver, the “attentive” and the “inattentive”. Further that the “inattentive” is distracted by choice and they care not a jot what the source of the distraction is as long as it distracts from the tedium of “being attentive”.

If that argument is true, and I suspect to a degree it is, then the use of the mobile phone is not realy an added distraction but another choice of distraction. Thus you would not expect the aggregate collision figures to change very much.

Which is why I’ve argued for some time that we need to accept the fact of collison figures and that they are in effect “cultural” and thus not likely to change very much. Thus we should look at ways to mitigate the average effects of a collision as changing a national culture is usually a slow process.

Physics tell us a number of things, on of which is that “damage” is proportional to “work” that is the energy over time figure or “power”.

The kinetic energy of an object in relation to another is,

Ek= 0.5 Mkg Vdifm/S^2

Further the time of a collision is proportional to 1/Vm/S thus the lower the velocity the longer the time the energy is released over thus the less power it has, thus on average the less damage.

The energy can be reduced linearly by decreasing the mass, but reduced by a power law by reducing the velocity.

Thus overall reducing the velocity will give the best results, it also improves environmental factors as well.

Figures from the UK’s ROSPA have confirmed this reduction in velocity year after year for as long as I can remember. Importantly the figures that appears to be of most importance are below ~10m/S the number of fatalities are small and injuries often no more than grazes and bruising, and above ~20m/S where the number of fatalities is very high and injuries servere enough to cause breaking of bones and internal detachment and rupturing of organs.

Thus if we were serious about reducing death and injury on the roads we would have “automatic hard enforced” speed limits. The technology for this has been around for most of this century and in Japan Nissan actually put a GPS speed restricter in it’s GT-R and some other vehicles. Australia and Canada have both had trials of GPS restricters and you can get add-ons for vehicles that display the speed limit on the dashboard.

Thus if a nation realy was serious about reducing vehicle collisions it could pass legislation that all new vehicles come fitted with GPS restricters, and vehicles not fitted be phased out over 6-10 years.

But as I pointed out above, at heart this regulation is not about safety but revenue raising.

annnonny December 3, 2019 5:03 PM

Be carefull with holding or touching anything that is even vaguely phone-sized, because the NSW legislation deems that object to be a mobile phone and the penalties kick in.
ie., you will have to prove that the chocolate slab is not a mobile phone.

Clay_T December 3, 2019 7:37 PM


“The 55mph speed limit in the US is one example of unreliable data. When it was first imposed there was a massive amount of reporting about how it was saving lives. Now I see a lot of claims that it made a marginal difference. What is the reality?”

The reality is the 55mph limit was imposed to save gas, not lives, because of the gas shortage/oil embargo in the 1970’s.

Oh, and there was no shortage of gas. It just got more expensive.

The State would not allow distributors to charge enough to cover the cost of replacing their inventory, so they stopped distributing it.

JonKnowsNothing December 3, 2019 9:39 PM

@Clay_T @Faustus @All

re: US Speed Limits “save” lives

While the speed limit may or may not save lives depending on what stats you are looking at and it was certainly re-imposed to “save gas” with the “think about the children!” reasons that were given at the time.

Several aspects of the 55-Alive issue that gets lost or forgotten.

  • It allowed more speed traps to be interspersed on the highways.
    It’s not uncommon to find yourself in a “slow down” area while traveling at a higher rate (or accused of traveling at a higher rate). This is an enormous sum of money used to funnel cash into local economies or that’s what’s claimed happens with the money.
  • Poor road design leads to more deaths.
    In CA there is a notorious section of road between a small farming town and silicon valley. It’s a 2 lane road – 1 lane each way. The distance is @15 miles. This road was always hazardous because of the high speed passing into the on-coming direction but with the expansion of SV and gentrification of the farm town (cheaper housing) the strain on the road increased a lot.
    Many attempts have been made over decades to fix this road which has no side shoulders (other than the farmer’s lettuce fields), to widen it and to reduce the speed limit.
    The state agency in charge of such roads refused.
    Many people would set out in the morning for work and get an eternal resting place along the road. Even when horrific whole-family accidents happened repeatedly nothing changed.
    The best that was done after years of complaints was a “rumble strip” being carved into the middle of the road that shakes the car when you cross the center line.

Bad road designs kill a lot of folks too, fixing them is more costly than putting up signs that says 55 MPH and giving a cop a radar gun.

Jaime December 4, 2019 7:27 AM

… yet the number of deaths per million miles has not been affected. So if cell phones increased deaths, what factor was reduced to magically make the graph look smooth in the twenty-first century?

Jaime December 4, 2019 9:15 AM,_VMT,_per_capita,_and_total_annual_deaths.png

Traffic fatalities per million miles:

2000: 2.7
2001: 2.8
2002: 2.9
2003: 2.9
2004: 3.0
2005: 3.0
2006: 3.0
2007: 3.0
2008: 3.0
2009: 3.0
2010: 3.0
2011: 3.0
2012: 3.0
2013: 3.0
2014: 3.0
2015: 3.1
2016: 3.2
2017: 3.2
2018: 3.2

The small increases that do exist are almost entirely pedestrian deaths that occurred at night.

I’m not claiming to have and information that anyone else doesn’t have. I’m simply pointing out that if it is true that cell phones are causing accidents at a rate that should cause us to change the law, then there should be an inflection around 2010. There is no inflection.

Clive Robinson December 4, 2019 11:14 AM

@ Jaime,

So if cell phones increased deaths, what factor was reduced to magically make the graph look smooth in the twenty-first century?

You’ld have to dig into the figures.

But it kind of makes my point that it’s not an “additional distraction” as that would take the numbers up, but a “new choice of distraction” for those that want to be distracted from the tedium of paying attention when driving.

As for what it might have replaced how about “day dreaming” or “ruminating on replacing the boss”, or “keeping the job you hate”.

But I guess for obvious reasons there won’t be boxes on the reporting forms for that.

A friend who was a police officer some years ago did “traffic policing” and came to the conclusion that nobody behind the wheel ever told the truth.

Bob Paddock December 4, 2019 11:15 AM

@Clive Robinson

“…the poor devil would die of starvation surrounded by a several years of food all due to not being able to get at it through the wrapping and packaging…”

The problem has become so prevalent that there is a term for it “Wrap Rage” or “Package Rage”:

Wrap rage, also called package rage, is the common name for heightened levels of anger and frustration resulting from the inability to open packaging, particularly some heat-sealed plastic blister packs and clamshells. People can potentially be injured from attempts at opening difficult packages: use of cutting tools can pose a risk of damage to the contents of the package. … .Wikipedia

Clive Robinson December 4, 2019 12:18 PM

@ Bob Paddock,

there is a term for it “Wrap Rage”

Yup that’s a good description for it. Also a feeling I’ve had a few times.

Not sure if there is a name for the rage you feel when trying to open a “tetrapack” of milk or fruit juice, when it just goes everywhere, usually the person trying to avoid it gets a good hosing down.

I actually have a cut on the back of my middle finger right now, from a key snapping when opening a tin of corned beef. As you can imagine there were a few words muttered that might have add detrimentaly to others vocabulary if they had been in ear shot :$

I guess it won’t scar unlike the bottle of a friends home made ginger beer that exoloded in my hand a few years back.

Jaime December 5, 2019 8:56 AM

@Clive Robinson

You seem to be agreeing with me. If texting is a substitute distraction, then policing texting will simply cause the drivers to revert to their old distractions and will save no lives.

Since the data show no obvious increase, the onus is on those claiming that texting while driving needs to be fixed to provide evidence. Anyone claiming that it’s obvious is reacting with their gut instead of their head. If the evidence they provide is that post accident investigation shows that texting was involved in x% of accidents, well then that simply gets us to your position.

This reminds me of vehicle theft statistics. Every year I see some media outlet reporting that the Honda Civic is the most stolen car in America. Well, duh, the Honda Civic is that car that is parked the most on the streets of the most theft-heavy neighborhoods due to it’s popularity, affordability, and durability. This provide no information to a consumer about how likely his choice of car influences his likelihood of experiencing a car theft.

MarkH December 5, 2019 10:02 AM


Whether or not one agrees that it’s good policy, driving with a mobile phone in hand seems to already be illegal in most jurisdictions.

As I understand it, the story is about a novel enforcement method, not a change in what is permitted vs. what is prohibited.

Determining the cause of road casualties is far from an exact science, in large part because of limited and imperfect data for each incident. This problem of inexactitude hasn’t prevented effective improvements in the past.

The introduction of such enforcement systems, and analysis of safety statistics over time, may offer some opportunity to gauge effectiveness.

That the U.S. has only about 35,000 road deaths per year — rather than some higher number — is good news. Reducing that by 10% would save about 10 lives each day. When non-fatal injuries are included, these numbers grow vastly larger.

No doubt many will refuse to accept that it’s a proper role of government to pursue practical measures likely to improve public safety.

Jaime December 5, 2019 12:20 PM

The data contradicts your story.

You assert that prohibiting cell phone use while driving is done for public safety reasons. Yet, the most direct way to measure it fails to confirm this hypothesis. You speak to me like I’m a child that doesn’t understand reality – but it’s you that doesn’t accept that your pre-conceived notions aren’t supported by evidence. Your best defense is “determining the cause of road casualties is far from an exact science” – in other words “I know the facts aren’t on my side, but the facts are probably wrong”.

Jonathan Marcus December 6, 2019 10:53 AM

Jamie, why would you expect to see an inflection point in 2010? Mobile phones became commonplace in the early 90s, almost 20 years before the point where you’re looking for an inflection. Texting has been commonplace almost as long. AFAIK, it didn’t inflect anywhere around 2010, so I’m not sure why you’re looking there.

Not to mention all the confounding influences (safety equipment, traffic patterns, speed limits, etc) that make your quick glance at raw national data…less than conclusive.

Jaime December 6, 2019 11:25 AM

The point is that the data shows nothing. It doesn’t show an inflection in 2010, and it doesn’t show an inflection in the 1990’s. My quick glance is less than conclusive – but it does show that there is no “obvious danger”. If it did, it would be obvious. Nothing shows in the data at all.

The is possibly due to the confounding influences you mention. However, it is the responsibility of the claim maker to show evidence for his claim.

All I have asserted is that the statement “Restricting cell phone use while driving will save lives” isn’t “obviously true”.

@How about never, is never good for you – has resorted to personal attacks
@MarkH – has told me that people die while driving and we don’t exactly know why
@Jonathan Marcus – has mentioned that maybe the missing obviousness is missing from a different date than where I was looking; but is still missing
@Hauke – referenced to a document that shows that people die during accidents, and younger people (who’s distraction of choice is the cell phone) report being distracted by their cell phone. Older people die at a similar rate, but have a different distraction. The report itself mentions that the source data – Police Accident Reports – are a source of uncertainty due to the difficulty of figuring out what went wrong after a crash. What the report doesn’t mention, is that young people have always died from crashes caused by distracted driving, even before the cell phone, and it doesn’t compare cell-phone era data to pre-cell-phone era data.

Read the “Andy Ellis on Risk Assessment” story posted recently. Many people in this thread are doing exactly what is mentioned there – making gut assumptions and then looking for confirmation.

How about never, is never good for you December 6, 2019 12:25 PM


Apologies, my remark was not meant as a personal attack, merely a spirited exhortation. I’ve been in a couple if near-misses involving phones and it woke me up to the needless risk one is taking and the deep pit of regret one would fall into if the worst were to happen.

RealFakeNews December 6, 2019 3:30 PM

Another metric to consider is number of vehicles on the road per capita, AND the increase in population that has occurred as well, over that time.

In the ’90s, people started moving from one-car households to two-car households.

By the early 2000s, it was common for each house to have two cars plus another one or two for kids who were now of driving age.

This has only increased.

The other point being neglected is mobile phone use didn’t become ubiquitous until the early 2000s. Prior to that, mobile phones were pretty expensive and required some kind of income to sustain (meaning only people of working age who could afford such a luxury had one).

I don’t think the stats support the idea that mobile phone usage significantly increases the risk. It might increase it slightly, but so too would doing anything not driving-related whilst driving.

Looking at how inattentive people are without a phone, to me suggests the larger problem is the idiot at the wheel, and not the phone.

Just as a pedestrian, how many drivers fail to look at you when crossing the street?

Too often as a driver, I’ll br coming down a road on the same side as a vehicle waiting to merge from a junction, and the other driver will not be looking at me.

It’s a popular topic, but an incorrect conclusion.

Speed is always mentioned as causing crashes. This is also false. Dangerous driving is the cause.

Motorways are the safest roads in the UK. They’re the fastest.

The extreme example is the Autobahn in Germany.

Speed isn’t the problem, and neither are mobile devices.

David December 7, 2019 1:40 AM

Firstly, respect to Bruce for being possibly the first US-North American in history to acknowledge a place name in another country, without its country, (New South Wales).
Usually USA-ians will refer to a town in the middle of some USA state no one has heard of and assume the whole world knows where they are talking about. I saw this in a Spielberg film recently. A film with international locations, would have captions spelling out ‘Berlin, Germany’ but the towns in the US of A would only have the name of the town, never ‘USA, border of Mexico’ after it.

From 1 December, there are about 45 of these cameras in active use rolled out across the state of NSW, of fixed and stationary varieties. About AUD1 billion or more to implement. It is claimed the revenue raised will go to some kind of community road support fund.
The political Opposition wanted roadside signs warning drivers, as did the NRMA (National Road and Motorists Association, a respected national body that offers insurance, road soad assistance and other services). Obviously the signs warn drivers, they get off their phone, and hazard is averted. The incumbent government screamed no, drivers deserve no warning, we want them hit hard with a fine (this is almost word for word the response).

If this was indeed about road safety, the deterrent of a fine arriving 4+ weeks in the mail may be too late for some. If it deters at all.

The cameras detect the speed of the vehicle also and have other capabilties, although they are only implemented for assessing cell use at this stage.

The media has warned the courts are likely to be overwhelmed, as the money to improve the courts capacity for processing has not been budgeted in the expenditure for the cameras.
I can’t recall the figures but there was a several hundred percentage increase in court applications expected owing to these fines.

The other issue which has had little to no coverage in the media is the privacy aspect. A photo is taken of every driver. It shows the driver and passenger, and whatever articles may be in the cabin.
The claim is, if the AI detects no phone like object the image is destroyed within an hour. If it does detect a phone like object the faces of passengers are obfuscated, and the image is sent to a human for assessment.
There is definite scope for privacy legislation to protect the road user but it remains to be seen how the courts will view it.

Name December 9, 2019 12:11 AM

The argument,”won’t somebody think of the children”, (or road deaths), keeps us in a state of constant anxiety, while we lose all privacy and/or control over our lives.

We seem to forget that the global population is OVER 7 Billion now.
According to the chart below, this explosion has happened only in the last 2000 years.

Along with the size of cities, congestive living, some accidents are bound to happen.

JonKnowsNothing December 17, 2019 6:49 AM

News report:

Mobile phone detection cameras pick up more than 3,000 NSW drivers in a week
Drivers caught by the cameras before March will receive a warning letter, but then fines of $344 will be levied
That represented less than 0.5% of the 773,532 vehicles checked by the new cameras in various locations across the state in the first week of December.

Well… I can see a new cash cow replacing robodebt theft from the poor…

3,000 * 344 = 1,032,000

Gee, they could fund their NHS with that much coming in weekly… would work better than a sign painted on the side of a bus.

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Caseface January 16, 2020 3:56 AM

Cell phones today have become a lot more than communication devices. From giving you the ability to listen to audio tracks, watch videos, store and share images, cell phones can basically act as a mini computer giving you the opportunity to search the internet and perform a host of other advanced applications.

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