News: Robert Rosenberger Speaks At City of Atlanta Distracted Driving Event

Robert Rosenberger Speaks At City of Atlanta Distracted Driving Event

Posted January 21, 2019

Robert Rosenberger, the resident expert on distracted driving at the School of Public Policy at the Georgia Institute of Technology, recently spoke at a safety event sponsored by the Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Workplace Safety.

The January 11, 2019, event gave Rosenberger, an associate professor, the opportunity to spread his message that Georgia’s new hands-free cell phone bill is not enough to stem the increase in fatal accidents on Georgia highways due to distracted driving. It also gave him an opportunity to be of service to the community where Georgia Tech is proudly located.

“This is something that, the deeper I’ve gotten into it, the more I care about it,” he said. “The idea that I can step up and have the opportunity to help Atlanta in this way is something I really value.”

Rosenberger delivered a message that while Georgia’s new law prohibiting handheld use of cell phones while driving is a crucial first step in reducing accidents and deaths from distracted driving, his research shows that even hands-free use of a cell phone in the car can have deadly consequences.

“People are really resistant to hearing this message,” he said. “We are not good at recognizing how impaired we are when we engage in behaviors like this.”

His appearance on behalf of the city continues an evolution in Rosenberger’s approach to the topic. A philosopher by training, he began looking into studies on distracted driving and developing theories arising from that research 10 years ago, work he initially thought would be most useful to the scientists studying how cell phone use impact drivers.

As it turns out, Rosenberger said he has discovered that his most important role may be speaking directly to the public. He already has done that, in pieces he has written for Slate and the Saporta Report and in media appearances such as a July 2018 front-page story on the new cell phone law in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Rosenberger — whose inquiries into our interaction with electronic devices went viral when he looked into phantom cell phone vibrations in 2015 — said he hopes to continue working with the city on driving safety initiatives. Someday, he hopes to look into how he could work to incorporate more of his life-saving research into driver education programs in the state.

“As we get more and more data on just how dangerous it can be to use the phone while driving, we need to develop new ways to communicate these dangers,” he said. “We’re finding that simply showing the research findings is not enough. We need to figure out how to get through to people, convince them, and train them to drive safer.”

In addition to his recent media and public appearances, Rosenberger also has a new distracted driving paper soon to be published in the journal Philosophy & Technology. The paper, titled “The Experiential Niche: or, on the Difference Between Smartphone and Passenger Driver Distraction,” and argues that the latter is a significant roadway hazard.

The School of Public Policy, where Rosenberger teaches, is a unit of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts.

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