Transportation Secretary Wants To Ban All Driver Talking (Except To Other Passengers)

from the yeah,-that'll-work dept

Just after new evidence has come out showing that various driving-while-texting bans have had the opposite effect, by causing people to just keep on texting, but do so by holding their phone lower so cops can’t see it (but also so they are paying even less attention to the road), Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood now wants to make our roads even more dangerous by trying to ban pretty much all driver talking in a car, with the exception (so far) of talking to other passengers. He wants to ban all mobile phone talking by drivers, even if it’s handsfree, and he wants to extend that to vehicle information systems like OnStar or GPS systems.

Again, we’ve discussed repeatedly that we agree such things can be quite dangerous, though you can argue if talking to OnStar or to someone on the phone is really that much more dangerous than talking to a passenger. However, it’s becoming increasingly clear that these sorts of laws don’t actually help. They don’t stop people from doing these actions, and seem to only get more people doing them in even more dangerous ways. Continuing down this path, that already doesn’t work, is a huge mistake, and you would think that someone in a position like LaHood would actually pay attention to the evidence that this isn’t working, and wouldn’t suggest making the problem worse.

Of course, if this ban does go into effect, and the reports of accidents continue to rise, how long will it be until LaHood also bans talking to passengers in your car?

Filed Under: , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Transportation Secretary Wants To Ban All Driver Talking (Except To Other Passengers)”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
70 Comments
TasMot says:

And how do we watch the watchers?

Maryland’s “No texting while driving law” has gone into affect and who do we catch texting while driving? A Baltimore County cop in a patrol car, looking down at his phone held down near the passenger seat while he is driving his patrol car past White Marsh Mall (a very busy area of course)!

Where’s my camera when I need one?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: And how do we watch the watchers?

I assume this post is referring to Maryland’s backwards law? Maryland has it as a secondary offense. Neighboring Washington, DC (as well as California, Connecticut, Deleware, New Jersey, New York and Oregon) has talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device as a primary offense which CAN get you pulled over and ticketed.

http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/cellphone_laws.html

Joseph Durnal (user link) says:

Exemptions, etc

Have you seen some of the exemptions written into some of the state laws that exempt just about any government official from the law? What makes a government official any less likely to be in an accident while talking on the telephone than you or I?

Millions of people drive and do other things while driving every day without crashing. Should they ban GPS’s? Car stereos? Smoking and driving? Really, what is the problem with checking your texts while you are stopped at a traffic light?

This is a way for politicians to claim that they are doing something good, but it is just a claim. The next campaign ad will use it to say that as …. candidate … saved millions of people from dying and cured cancer.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Exemptions, etc

Have you seen some of the exemptions written into some of the state laws that exempt just about any government official from the law?

One of the most egregious one’s I remember was the federal law against the possession of child pornography passed by Congress that, of course, exempted Congress. I guess they just didn’t want to give it up.

Spaceman Spiff (profile) says:

Something to it - not talking while driving

They call id DWD – Driving While Distracted. The only time I ever had an accident involving another vehicle (over 40 years ago) was when I was distracted by talking with some Latina hitchhikers I picked up on the Pacific Coast Highway in California. Perhaps we should just put the driver in a sound-proofed compartment with no view of the passenger area… Distractions happen. It is the driver’s responsibility to keep their attention on the road and conditions. Nothing that outside agencies do can change that, and there will ALWAYS be things competing for our attention.

So, I guess I am saying that regulations should punish drivers ex post facto – after an accident – if they are guilty of exhibiting bad judgment, but not before the fact just because there is something distracting in their environment.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Something to it - not talking while driving

“when I was distracted by talking with some Latina hitchhikers I picked up on the Pacific Coast Highway in California”

Those Latina hitchhikers are always distracting to me too.

Hey, didn’t Homer Simpson invent the car you are talking about?
http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://images.loqu.com/contents/821/153/image/C/U2148P2DT20080626081320(1).jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.loqu.com/ford-nuclear-reactor-top-10-craziest-concept-car/blogs/american-1206&h=282&w=494&sz=23&tbnid=-McOHJBF8pCVDM:&tbnh=74&tbnw=130&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dhomer%2Bsimpson%2Bcar&zoom=1&q=homer+simpson+car&hl=en&usg=__LTrjAxW8ciuIAXiwS89h9lel_vU=&sa=X&ei=sYG0TMB6wvrwBuncpIcM&ved=0CCwQ9QEwAg

Michael (profile) says:

Re: distractions while driving

I cannot find it, but there was a study about rear-end traffic accidents on highways in CT a few years back and the vast majority were the result of traffic slow-downs due to other accident scenes, police having someone pulled over, and construction.

The study was something about the ripple effect of traffic slowing.

So, I agree – let’s get the vehicles with lights off of the roads because they are a real problem.

Ron (profile) says:

Still holds:

… If you’re driving then your attention should be on driving, not on the other stuff going on inside the car or talking on the phone, etc. If you need to do something that distracts you from paying attention to the road, traffic, etc. then find a safe place to pull off and do what needs to be done. There’s nothing so important that it’s worth risking your life or the lives of those around you.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Still holds:

So what do you consider “too distracting”?

Can I adjust the volume on the radio? What about putting down my sun visor when the sun gets into my eyes? Oh – turning on the wipers or lights?

Drivers are all different and different tasks have a varying effect on their attention to the road. Outlawing all distracting behavior is not really feasible. It is a distracting world. Read a billboard lately?

We already have laws that say we can get fined for driving poorly. Making the punishments more harsh may work. Incentives for driving well are probably more effective. Making sure cars are safe in the event of an accident is likely to be more real-world useful. Outlawing talking on a hands-free device pretty unlikely to be useful in making us safer.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Still holds:

We already have laws that say we can get fined for driving poorly. Making the punishments more harsh may work.

I’ve read that harsher punishments are not a very effective deterrent, but increasing the chance of getting caught is. Unfortunately, harsher punishments are cheap and easy, while adding more police to the roads is expensive and (politically at least) difficult.

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:

Re: Re: Still holds:

You’re not even thinking of distracting things *outside* of the car. I should probably pull over every time I see one of those LCD billboards. Oh no! If I pull over too quickly, I’ll be stuck forever!!

I think we can safely assume that Google is the financial backing of this and all other ridiculous driving laws, to pave the way for their self-driving cars. (After sitting in ~2hrs/day of bumper to bumper traffic for 4 years, I’m ready for a car that drives itself!)

Ron (profile) says:

Re: Re: Still holds:

I stand by my original statement: If what you’re going to do distracts you from the primary task of driving the vehicle then don’t do it. If changing the volume of the radio cannot be done safely, then don’t. If pulling down your visor interferes with safe driving then don’t (although, one might consider that if a person cannot safely do that task then maybe that person should not be driving at all). Your primary goal is to safely drive the vehicle, not to engage in phone conversations, texting, searching for a radio station, etc. And, I said nothing about new laws. This is something for which PEOPLE have to take responsibility. Laws will not necessarily make for safer drivers. And, certainly banning little bits piece by piece will do nothing of real value.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Still holds:

Challenging your original statement, what makes you believe that talking on the phone distracts all drivers equally? Some people are quite able to focus on the road and handle their vehicles better than many who can’t. Others shouldn’t be tasked with chewing gum and operating an electric can-opener.

This is not a matter of “laws”, this is a matter of consequence. We get it that a law on banning things you deem inappropriate is well-intentioned, but that does not make it “right”. If the law does not fix the consequences (and initial reports on texting bans suggest they even make things worse as offenders will take their eyes ENTIRELY off the road to text from their laps, etc), it is a BAD LAW and should be repealed and replaced ONLY when you can demonstrate that a better solution to the problem exists.

I don’t advocate texting while driving, or ignore the benefits of some sort of a rule against them, but if the PEOPLE are the concern, I suggest it is the people who are to demonstrate their ability or inability to multi-task and consequences should be determined based on the findings at the time for the individual. And again, it’s a matter of enforcement, not new laws. Plenty of laws already exist for distracted driving, and I propose this narrow subcategory of specific distractions is more harmful than beneficial.

ron (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Still holds:

My original statement was: “If you need to do something that distracts you from paying attention to the road, traffic, etc. then find a safe place to pull off and do what needs to be done”. I said nothing about “talking on the phone distacting all drivers equally”. That was not even implied. People need to realize that the phone, textig, the radio, conversation with passengers, etc. is ALWAYS secondary to driving the vehicle. So, instead of additional laws, let’s get people into the mindset that when operating a vehicle, safely driving the vehicle is THE only important thing; everything else is secondary.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Still holds:

Challenging your original statement, what makes you believe that talking on the phone distracts all drivers equally?

It doesn’t. Neither does alcohol.

Some people are quite able to focus on the road and handle their vehicles better than many who can’t.

And some people are quite able to drink and drive better than others can drive even without drinking.

This is not a matter of “laws”, this is a matter of consequence. We get it that a law on banning things you deem inappropriate is well-intentioned, but that does not make it “right”. If the law does not fix the consequences (and initial reports on texting bans suggest they even make things worse as offenders will take their eyes ENTIRELY off the road to text from their laps, etc), it is a BAD LAW and should be repealed and replaced ONLY when you can demonstrate that a better solution to the problem exists.

And the drunk driving laws are all bad and should be repealed too, right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Still holds:

“And the drunk driving laws are all bad and should be repealed too, right?”

Actually yes. The same argument holds – banning something that affects different people differently and is synonymous with many other effects that could not be possibly banned (driving while tired?) is pretty silly IMO.

On the other hand it *should* be a factor in the secondary case. If you knowingly get behind the wheel when drunk or drugged and injure someone in the process it should be considered attempted murder and pre-meditated.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: There is a problem....

Ban stupid people.

That is a good idea, then there would be no traffic problems as most of the folks out there wouldn’t be driving. Depending on how high you set the bar (do you include even smart people that occasionally do stupid things?) that may include just about everyone. Of course, how do you enforce the ban? Many police officers (at least 50%, if we are talking about putting the bar at 51% on an IQ scale,) may not fall into the smart category and thus aren’t able to drive either. Then again, people who drive and text/drive and phone despite there being a ban, will likely continue driving even though they are banned because of being stupid.

I think the problem is usually that 99% of the drivers out there think they are good drivers, and can deal with distractions. Sadly, most drivers who think they are good drivers, aren’t. Most folks that have taken advanced driving courses (for driving emergency vehicles,) know that the problem isn’t just speed or distractions, but a combination of all sorts of problems: speed, driving too close (not giving yourself enough distance to avoid an accident,) not giving yourself a way out or having a backup plan, being distracted (day dreaming, shaving, reading, eating/drinking, fiddling with the radio, etc.,) not watching for threats further down the road (how many people only pay attention to the car or two in front of them,) and not being familiar with your location/how to get to your destination. The best drivers account for all of these…but then again, the best drivers don’t tailgate, don’t go faster than the normal flow of traffic, have a plan, try to remove as much distraction as possible, watch for problems far down the road, and know before they start driving how to get to their destination via multiple paths.

I don’t claim to be a good driver, nor do I think I am stupid, but I try my hardest to live by defensive driving techniques I’ve been taught, and part of those rules is not to talk on the cell phone and not to text.

Pips says:

Makes sense.

Makes sense, they’ve shown hands free is actually far more dangerous than talking on a cell phone in your hand because you get a false sense of security and end up piling into the back of a stopped truck a lot more than if you had not been on the phone to begin with. Holding a phone in your hand makes you aware that you’re on the phone, so it’s not quite as dangerous, but either method of talking is a distraction.

Anonymous Coward says:

Missin' the point

You’re all kind of missing the point here….. laws like this enable 2 things:
1/ The appearance of doign something useful rather than really dealing with congenstion and other road issues – “it’s all those evil drivers’ faults”
2/ You can *charge* people for doing something and generate revenue from it. “Oh no… it’s all about road safety really”

/cynicism

Anonymous Coward says:

Traffic safety laws are almost universally the province of the states, and not the federal government. I have never had the “FBI” issue me a ticket for a moving violation.

Seems to me this would be an unprecedented stretch of Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause and almost immediately challenged in court, as is currently the case with provisions of the federal health care legislation.

I wonder what would be the reaction if this subject was raised at The Volokh Conspiracy?

tbuskey (profile) says:

Mandatory seatbelt or car won't start

This reminds me of when seatbelts started getting required in the 70’s.

People were not using seatbelts while driving or as passengers. Air bags didn’t exist yet. I don’t think there were laws requiring people to use them yet. Kids didn’t use booster seats.

Some car makers started putting in sensors that wouldn’t let the car start unless you were buckled in. Another had something attached to the door that moved up to your shoulder after you closed the door.

People would leave the belt clicked and sit on top of it. Some figured out a way to slide out of it after starting. Some disabled the sensors however they could.

Now we have airbags and a good portion of the population wears seatbelts. Kids and grand kids admonish their elders to wear them. They always wear the seatbelts. And cars no longer have ignition locks on seatbelt use. Just the buzzer that tells you you’re not wearing one.

This will happen to texting/cell phone use too….

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Mandatory seatbelt or car won't start

If you’re the only person in the car it probably won’t usually make a difference, but under some circumstances you could get hit but still be able to control your car. This might give you a chance to avoid or minimize another impact (thus affecting other people), while if you were not belted you would get thrown around or injured and be unable to do so. How often would that happen? I have no idea.

If there are others in the car, anyone not belted in becomes a hazard to everyone else in a collision as they are thrown around the inside of the car.

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Mandatory seatbelt or car won't start

Interesting theory, but I don’t buy it. If shit breaks while I’m skydiving I could land on someone and kill them, but skydiving isn’t illegal. It’s the same as wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle, some states require them, but I can’t understand under what authority. Does the government have the ability to mandate that we not take foolish risks with our own bodies? I can’t imagine it does.

Where the hell is average_joe when I actually need that guy? ๐Ÿ˜›

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Mandatory seatbelt or car won't start

It’s the same as wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle, some states require them, but I can’t understand under what authority.

I agree with you about motorcycle helmets, there is no good reason for those laws. Though why you would want to drive a motorcycle without one, especially on the highway, is beyond me. Supporters probably trot out something about burdens on public health care when people get hurt and their insurance doesn’t cover it. I wouldn’t find that to be justification. Perhaps require adequate insurance in order to register a motorcycle, and that would solve that problem.

Also, don’t text while driving a motorcycle. ๐Ÿ™‚

Jon Snow (profile) says:

Passengers actually help

Can’t find the reference just now, but I remember hearing a bit on the radio a couple weeks ago that some new research is actually showing that having a passenger (not a kid I assume) can actually help the driver. Something about passengers reacting to things happening on the road in ways that the driver might subconsiously pick up on — like stopping talking when another car gets too close.

boatcapt says:

txting while driving

The issue with texting, cell phones, OnStar’s and GPS’s is that the driver now has to deal with multiple devices. Commercial airplanes have solved this issue – you have a pilot and co-pilot and even a navigator at times. Even military aircraft that are single seat suffer greater crash rates – some of it due to sensory overload.
These technologies are not going to go away – we need to redesign the car and give the passengers some of the responsibility

Yeah Right says:

Passengers actually help

Having a passenger can actually help the driver. Something about passengers reacting to things happening on the road in ways that the driver might subconsiously pick up on — like stopping talking when another car gets too close.

I’ll have to tell my wife about this. She just screams and digs her nails in my arm.

Anonymous Coward says:

And the Earth is Flat

though you can argue if talking to OnStar or to someone on the phone is really that much more dangerous than talking to a passenger.

Plenty of scientific studies have shown that it is, but I guess you could argue otherwise any. Just like you can argue that the Earth is flat. Though it only makes you look ignorant to do so.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop ยป

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...