January 5, 2007 - Celling Out
This isn't the first time that Edhat has covered the topic of drivers talking on their cell phones. We have done it many times, and each time the numbers have come up lower than everyone expects. Or to put in terms that are familiar to us, we think we're going to get five bars, but we only get two. There may seem to be a lot of people talking on the phone and not performing simple tasks like signaling, braking, and yielding the right-of-way, but as it turns out, there are many more who aren't on the phone. These people often have other excuses for the lame things they do (like eating, driving with a pet on their lap, applying makeup), but sometimes there are no excuses at all.
Yesterday the dedicated staff of edhat.com was counting drivers on cell phones during the evening rush hour on the Carrillo Corridor.
Ed thought that maybe at this time of day, when people are trying to hook-up with friends, get kids to soccer practice, and figure out what's for dinner, they might be more inclined to forgo the stigma of driving under the influence of communication in order to make some headway in resolving issues in their complicated lives.
With our front row curbside seat on a wall in front of Spudnuts, we watched drivers head home after a busy day at work. Our vantage point was ideal for catching drivers in the act of putting their phones up to their ears or holding it out in front them to dial. We could spot blue-toothed members of The Borg communicating to their spaceship with their head-implanted earpieces.
We started counting at 4:40pm and stood our ground until 5:10, enduring the bite of the cold wind and the smell of exhaust. To keep warm, we buried our hands and our tally counters deep inside the pockets of our long woolen coats. To make thing easier, we only counted the cars heading toward the freeway from downtown.
We counted a few more phones yesterday than we counted on other counts, but nothing to call home about.
We were able to witness the benefit of an earpiece for one driver who could now use both hands to gesture as he conversed over the phone. We also saw one of Santa Barbara's finest exit the parking lot onto Carrillo in the opposite direction of two large arrows on the pavement that clearly marked the driveway for entrances only. Hey, but he wasn't talking on the phone.
The final count showed 67 drivers on the phone, and 527 drivers not. Our In House Statistician (IHS) tells us that 11.3% of drivers in our sample were on the phone. He continued on to tell us that the 95% confidence interval for actual numbers is between 8.9% and 14.2%. He also told us that the New England Patriots were going to win the Super Bowl.
Speaking of the Super Bowl, today's Friday Edhat Survey (FES) is to tell us your predictions for 2007. The winner of the Super Bowl is one of the subjects we're asking about (along with whether Bush will remain president and whether McCaw will sell the paper). Also, speaking of crazy driving, the dedicated staff noticed yesterday that the new roundabout at UCSB is open for business. We celebrated the occasion by driving around it with our video camera running.
Once again, Edhat subscribers guessed too high for cell phone usage. The median guess was 29%. The winning guess was 11.4% by Juan Coffee. Juan wins a cool Edhat t-shirt!
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