Advertise Here

Spin Control

Would you notice a clown on a unicycle if you were texting? Maybe not

OLYMPIA — Texting or talking on a cell phone is so distracting that someone doing either likely won’t notice a unicycling clown passing in front of them, a university professor said.

Ira Hyman, a professor of psychology at Western Washington University, was one of a series of people urging the Legislature to make sending a text message or talking on a cell phone while driving a primary offense which can get a driver a ticket all by itself. Right now in Washington, it’s a secondary offense, meaning driver only gets a ticket if he or she has broken some other traffic law.

Hyman said a study at WWU tested how distracted a person texting or talking on a cell phone can be. A significant number of students failed to notice a clown on a unicycle passing in front of them on campus while texting or talking.

“If you can miss a clown on a unicycle, what else can you miss?” Hyman asked the Senate Transportation Committee.

To read the rest of this story, Click Here.

Fred Wright, operator of a driver training school, called accidents from texting and cell phone talking a national epidemic: “I’m convinced cell-phone driving is the new drunk driving.”

But the bill, which only bans phone conversations on hand-held devices, doesn’t go far enough, Hyman and others said. It should ban all talking by drivers, even if they have hands-free devices.

“It’s not what your hands are doing,” Hyman said. “It’s what your head is doing.”

Cliff Webster, a lobbyist for Verizon, said the cell phone company supports changing the current law to make texting or talking on a hand-held device a primary offense. But he didn’t know if the industry would support a ban on all cell phone use by drivers.

“People use them for emergencies and for reporting accidents,” he said in an interview after the hearing. Cell phones are a distraction for drivers, he added, but so is listening to the radio, talking to a passenger or having children in the back seat.

Research suggests, however, that cell phone use is substantially worse than listening to the radio or talking to a person next to them, Hyman told the committee.

A lobbyist for the Spokane Transit Authority asked for one amendment to the bill, which would allow bus drivers to use the hand-held radios in buses. Drivers are already forbidden to use their cell phones to talk or text while driving, but use the two-way radios to talk with dispatchers about changes on the routes, which would be illegal under the current bill, Kathleen Collins said.

Please keep it civil. Don't post comments that are obscene, defamatory, threatening, off-topic, an infringement of copyright or an invasion of privacy. Read our forum standards and community guidelines.

You must be logged in to post comments. Please log in here or click the comment box below for options.

comments powered by Disqus
« Back to Spin Control

Get blog updates by email

About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

Latest comments »

Read all the posts from recent conversations on Spin Control.

Search this blog
Subscribe to this blog
Advertise Here