Transportation Secretary Expects To Use Technology To Block All Mobile Phone Usage In Cars [Updated]

from the unintended-consequences... dept

We've noted in the past that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has long been an advocate of wider bans on various technologies in cars. Just last month he said he hoped to have a complete ban on talking to any kind of device in your car, including mobile phones, telematics systems like OnStar, and GPS systems. His latest argument (as sent in by quite a few of you) is to suggest that perhaps the US government will mandate technology that blocks a mobile phone from working while the car is moving. We've talked about this technology before (though I'm having trouble finding earlier posts on it). It would simply recognize if the phone is moving at a certain rate of speed and then block the phone from being used. LaHood seems to like the idea:
"There's a lot of technology out there now that can disable phones and we're looking at that," said LaHood on MSNBC.... "I think it will be done," said LaHood. "I think the technology is there and I think you're going to see the technology become adaptable in automobiles to disable these cell phones. We need to do a lot more if were going to save lives."
Of course, it's unclear why passengers shouldn't be able to use mobile phones while in a car (or bus or train) as well. There are also different ways that this can work, whether with scramblers or with software installed on the phone but, in either case, you could see it banning phone calls in perfectly safe situations (on a train or a bus?). Once again, this seems like overkill. Furthermore, it will almost certainly have unintended consequences. We've already pointed to some recent research that showed that driving-while-texting bans increased accidents, as drivers kept on texting, but hid their phones lower, taking their eyes even further off the road.

No one denies that distracted driving is quite dangerous. But we shouldn't be rushing into simply banning stuff or mandating blocks without thinking through the actual implications of that.

Update: LaHood is now claiming that his remarks were misrepresented. However, it's not clear that's the case. He restates the first part of what he said on MSNBC and doesn't say anything about the second part -- when he was pushed on whether or not the tech would become mandated, and he said "I think it will be done." In his response, he seems to ignore that part of what he said...

Filed Under: distracted driving, driving, ray lahood, technology


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  1. identicon
    Kevin, 25 Dec 2010 @ 7:22am

    Obviously VERY FEW comments are fm parents.

    My 15 yr old daughter IS very attached to her phone (as are her friends/passengers). If her friends are rec'ing texts/photos, they will add more distraction sharing the info w/ my daughter. The vehicle/device should jam signals while the vehicle is in motion (GPS based/gyro based). Jamming would stop w/ vehicle stopping (parking, accident, etc). A moving vehicle could ONLY contact E911 (allowing driver to rep diabetic shock, heart attack, etc).

    I am VERY liberal! My only concern is that my daughter returns home SAFELY!!

    I have NO desire to bury my 15 yr old daughter because she crashed (cell phone usage while driving) or someone else's 15 yr old daughter crashed INTO my daughter (cell phone usage while driving).

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