CONTACTTRAFFICABOUT TOM VANDERBILTOTHER WRITING CONTACT ABOUT THE BOOK

I Guess This Means the Baby Wasn’t In a Rear-Facing Car Seat?

As if drivers on cell-phones weren’t a big enough problem already, this one takes it to a new level. Via Jezebel:

Genine Compton of Dayton, Ohio, was pulled over on Thursday morning after police spotted her breastfeeding her baby (and talking on her cell phone!) while driving her other children to school. “If my child’s hungry, I’m going to feed it,” Compton, who is facing 180 days for child endangerment, says.

Jezebel notes: “Genine! If your baby needs to eat, that’s fine. But it’s probably best for both of you if you stop the car and get off the phone first, no?”

Yeah, and it’s, uh, also better for everyone else outside of her car.

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This entry was posted on Monday, March 2nd, 2009 at 10:48 am and is filed under Drivers, Traffic Psychology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

10 Responses to “I Guess This Means the Baby Wasn’t In a Rear-Facing Car Seat?”

  1. John Says:

    I hope she gets every second of a 180-day sentence. But I’m sure she’ll find a sympathetic jury, sob she’s a harried mother, and will get off without charges.

  2. Jack Says:

    I saw the interview with her and wasn’t amazed as most drivers think using cell phones while driving is fine. The amazing part of this story was she believed balancing the baby on the steering wheel was also an acceptable risk for her, the children and others on the road. How crazy have we become in designing our lives around cars? Too many can rationalize anything and everything that supports these dependencies.

  3. Joel Says:

    I’ve got another question for Tom V.:

    Are there any studies about the “lifestyle habits” that people undertake in their cars? For instance, studies that compare people who tend to only drive their car and maybe adjust the radio to people who eat in their car/shave/apply makeup/open the mail/etc.?

    I tend to only use my car to get me from point a to point b, but I’ll sometimes go to lunch with a co-worker and look around and notice all kinds of accoutrement in their car… books, magazines, nail clippers, junk mail, food, etc. that suggests they treat their car as a kind of mobile office/living room.

  4. aaron Says:

    Is that good enough? Even if she’s not driving, someone could strike her car and set the airbag off.

  5. mdf Says:

    aaron: Even if she’s not driving, someone could strike her car and set the airbag off.

    The number of people since 1990 directly killed by airbags in the USA is only a few hundred. (These are low-speed collisions, where airbag deployment ends up snapping necks, or whatever. There are other arguments that suggest that on balance airbags are killing more people than they save, but I digress.)

    That’s about 300 deaths (say) in a field of about half a million other car-accident fatalities.

    Note that in one year, this lady, babe in arms, has a ~1:40000 chance of being killed by a car … should she develop the habit of simply walking down the street.

    Jack: I saw the interview with her and wasn’t amazed as most drivers think using cell phones while driving is fine.

    I run the risk of the wrath of the blogger here, but honestly, we need to consider the plain facts.

    Hundreds of millions of drivers are occasionally using their phones while behind the wheel. In the vast majority of use, nothing horrible happens. Is it that much of a stretch for these people to conclude there is “no problem”? In one year, the probability of being killed while in a car is ~1:10000. Let’s say that while blabbing on the phone, the risk of death jumps by a factor of 10. If people drive for one hour a day, and they answer or make a call that lasts one minute, then the relative risk is going to be about 69/60 = 1.15(*). This takes your ~1:10000 down to about 1:8500.

    Now, knowing that incredible numbers of people die in cars simply because of all the drunks out there, and that issues like driver fatigue are a close second, is getting all excited about the elevated risk of answering a phone something to be truly concerned about?

    (*) Note that a 15% increase would be easily observed in fatality statistics. That such observations are lacking suggests this estimate is far too high.

    John: I hope she gets every second of a 180-day sentence.

    You would throw a mother in jail for six months — in effect, converting her failure to have an accident, injure or kill someone into certain misery for her children and family?

    I can’t sugar-coat it: this is just plain nuts.

  6. Aaron Says:

    http://kwc.org/mythbusters/2005/06/mythbusters_killer_brace_posit.html
    Confirmed by several sources. Talking on the cell phone while driving is AS DANGEROUS as driving with 0.08 blood alcohol level.
    I’ve also seen studies showing that talking on a hands-free cellphone is dangerous as well (though no comparison to driving drunk).
    People PLEASE PAY ATTENTION.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3oK74VXdWo&feature=related

  7. Pete Says:

    mdf: Are you saying she shouldn’t be put in jail for violating the law? That the police officer, who is a trained professional in safety and legal enforcement, and the judge who sentenced her are both in the wrong? Clearly, there is a reason she was given a 6-month sentence. Along those same lines, there may also be logic behind more and more states passing laws prohibiting texting and hand-held cell phone use while driving. Statistics aside, the fact remains that operating a vehicle with tremendous physical force requires responsibility and full attention, and engaging in distracting activity takes away from that attention. The risk of death to the driver may jump by a mere factor of 10, but it only takes a few seconds to turn or swerve into a pedestrian, bicyclist, or motorcyclist. When that happens your statistics become irrelevant to the families that have to endure the agonizing years of recovery from head trauma, for instance.

  8. Lee Watkins Says:

    Why is she driving them to school anyway? My mother made me walk or ride my bike. Dayton’s pretty walkable/bikeable. Don’t they have school buses in Dayton? But, sending her to jail for child endangerment doesn’t make any sense. She’s not abusing them. Doesn’t putting the mother in jail endanger the children as well? Breasfeeding while driving can’t be that unusual because my mother used to breastfeed my brother while walking around & shopping at the grocery store, etc. no big deal. Breastfeeding is an on-demand kind of thing. I tell you what a screaming crying baby is a lot more distracting than a happy one. She can’t have been going all that fast. All the streets in Dayton are brick. Nobody ever goes over 20-25 on brick streets.

  9. Jack Says:

    Irresponsible behavior is exactly that. Statistics used to rank risks are too often misleading. When I have to jump out of the way of a driver on a cell phone when in a crosswalk, no data on this risk is generated. When my wife gets brushed by a driver on a cell phone and doesn’t report it as she didn’t get the license number, no data is generated. When cycling with my sons and a driver on a cell phone runs us off the road (didn’t see us?), no data is generated.

    Without accurate data your analysis is worth exactly that. Use common sense not misleading information to get the truth. I’ve been with “responsible” drivers on cell phone/text messaging, and I’ve witnessed the errors grow exponentially, even without an accident. Black Swans are growing quickly around us even though many can’t see them.

  10. Pete Says:

    Lee: 20-25 MPH in a vehicle weighing a ton or more is enough to make it a deadly weapon. I agree that a mother in jail isn’t able to take care of her children properly, but I’m sure the judge takes this into account; i.e. commutable sentences, community service, fines, etc. The point is there’s a strong lesson to be learned about responsibility and this attitude of “oh, it’s no big deal” is far too prevalent, resulting in injuries and deaths of vulnerable users going far beyond mdf’s “but the driver didn’t die” statistics. (Of course the driver didn’t die – the insurance industry has spent decades and billions working to solve that problem through lobbied safety and risk-reduction legislation!).

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

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