The Driving Question

Hancock, P.A., & Scallen, S.F. (1999). The driving question. Transportation Human Factors, 1(1), 47-55.

Goodman, Tijerina, Bents, and Wierwille (1999) present an excellent analysis regarding the safety of cellular telephones while driving and raise many important issues for current operation and future acceptance. However, we remain skeptical of their fundamental conclusion, specifically that the available evidence is adequate to support the conclusion that cellular telephone use while driving increases crash risk. This is not to say that such a relationship does not exist but that sufficient evidence has not yet been provided to meet the burden of proof. We suspect that Goodman et al. are sensitive to this need because they carefully present their conclusions with qualifications such as “at least in isolated cases” and “reasonably plausible,” while clearly distinguishing between crashes caused by cellular phone use (which they repeatedly admit are a small number) and the risk of crashes among cellular phone users. There are two important facts upon which our objection is founded. First, the crash data simply do not exist to a reasonable and representative extent, at this time, to support definitive conclusions. Second, the type of statistical extrapolation at the heart of their presented predictive analysis requires that future technical implementations are simple

and direct extrapolations of current technology. We consider the latter an unlikely development. In what follows we offer specific comments on the article by Goodman et al. with some general comments on “the driving question.”

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