June 9, 2006 - Ed Plays On The Freeway
As you all know, the dedicated staff of edhat.com has counted cell phones more times than we’ve had dropped calls on Cathedral Oaks Rd. We’ve counted cell phones while driving, walking, sitting, and spinning. But up until now, all of our counting has been done on local streets and in local stores. Yesterday, we decided to take our game to the freeway and count the phones there.
There’s a theory that people talk more while on the freeway because 1) it’s safer with less stopping and turning, 2) freeway travel is generally part of a longer trip when there is more time to fill (or not waste), and 3) cell reception is always good on the freeway. Our cell phone use surveys in the past, despite being measured at different times, in different places, and different situations, have always found around 6% cell use. But the question remained; will it be higher in the fast lane?
At first we thought that we could gather our data by standing on top of one of the bridges over 101. The Micheltorena Bridge was our bridge of choice because it’s nice, new, clean, and doesn’t get much traffic. Peering into the fast oncoming traffic through a chain-linked fence under the glare of the sun, we had a difficult time determining if phones were in use. On the contrary, it must not have been too difficult for drivers to see us. Many waved – we felt quite popular.
But our goal wasn’t to build self-esteem; it was to count cell phone usage. So, we reverted to plan B – drive slowly down the freeway and count our subjects as they passed. We had driven slowly (at the speed limit) before to see how many cars exceeded the speed limit. Yesterday’s trek from Garden to Glen Annie and back was pretty much the same user experience, except this time there seemed to more trucks heading north. Traffic at 1:00PM was light.
It is apparent that many phone users on the freeway don’t drive at full attention. A couple of times, cars with babblers on board came speeding up behind us and slowed to our speed. Then, either because they didn’t realize they were going slower, or because they felt uneasy talking and looking over their shoulders, they didn’t pass. We even toyed with them a little – slowly reducing our speed to 60, 55, and lower. But, deep in conversation, they would not pass.
We found that people eating while driving had no problem passing. In fact, one man who got trapped behind our slow moving vehicle in a telephone trance didn’t pass until he hung up his phone and picked up a cheeseburger.
In our travels, it seemed that we hit a pocket of freeway calling on the 101 South where the road from UCSB comes in. Although our sample size is small, it’s no mystery that cell phoning is more popular in younger demographics. Our overall percentage of cell phones/drivers was 10.7% - higher than other surveys.
Pill1143 was the closest guesser in yesterday’s contest. He called out 10.5%. Pill wins a free Edhat t-shirt.
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