US looks to ban cell phone use while driving

How many times have you been driving down the highway and seen somebody not paying attention to the road while they chatted carelessly on their cell phone? While many states have laws against texting and driving and a few have laws against talking on the phone while driving, Reuters reports that the United States government wants to make a federal law prohibiting both activities.

According to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, cell phone use while driving has become a “national epidemic,” resulting in many preventable deaths each year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that over 3,000 traffic deaths are attributed to distracted driving, although they don’t break down how many are caused by cell phone use compares to other activities like reading the newspaper, eating, or applying makeup while driving.

However there are a few issues with LaHood’s request for a federal ban on cell phone use in vehicles. The first is that the NHTSA doesn’t break down distracted driving deaths into categories. How many are from texting versus calling? How many are from eating McDonalds or reading the newspaper? The second issue is that while studies show using a phone and driving is equivalent to driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08, that’s the legal limit; if a driver is legally allowed to drive in that condition, why shouldn’t they be allowed to use a phone? Another interesting statistic is that, according to Wards Auto, "U.S. highway deaths in 2010 fell to their lowest level since 1949, even though motorists drove nearly another 21 billion miles."

The most serious issue, however, is the potential overstep of the government. Regulating roads is the responsibility of the individual states, not the federal government. Indeed, ten states already ban the use of handheld cell phones, and 37 states ban texting and driving.

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What about me using my phone for GPS / Music while driving? It's mounted on my windshield. Then they should also ban GPS's and media consoles that come in luxury cars.

Or... they could stop pretending to be relevant and responsive to the changes of the world by passing half-baked legislation.

Well I've noticed now, since switching off my BlackBerry and moving to Android, that its become MUCH harder to text while driving. With the QWERTY keyboard I could text one handed without even looking at the phone! That means less attention paid to the phone, and more to the road (I never got into an accident while texting anyway so whatever) But now with these new phones with the digi keyboard... I can see how many NOVICE texters screw up even more. Its definitely much harder then using a BB keyboard to text, especially while driving. So this is understandable when most people dont know how to drive properly in the first place.

Every time I see this law being "proposed" somewhere I laugh. If you're going to tell people they can't talk on the phone while driving, you damn well better stop them having kids in the car or noisy passengers, because honestly, if you think a mobile phone conversation is more distracting than kids, you've obviously not had kids in your car.

Every year they create another law to protect the stupid from themselves, when are they going to start making laws for regular people and stop creating laws that only inhibit the rights of those who are able to make intelligent decisions for themselves. Not long now until 1985. I'll see you all on the other side of the fence.

I completely agree. Ban talking and texting on phone.

If you need to talk, ALL phones have a hands free speakerphone feature now. No excuse at all.

htcz said,
I completely agree. Ban talking and texting on phone.

If you need to talk, ALL phones have a hands free speakerphone feature now. No excuse at all.

Lol you make no sense.

Talking via a speakerphone is better than talking with the phone to your ear? NOT.

People always drive one-handed anyways, you know. It's not a cell phone that causes that.

People always drive one-handed anyways, you know. It's not a cell phone that causes that.[/quote]

What research are you basing this on? By watching other drivers are your driving? Sounds to me that too is also dangerous.

In Texas...it's only banned in school zones.

They tried to ban the use of cell phones state wide...it passed the Texas House and made it to Gov. Perry's desk for signature..but Perry veto'd the bill saying it was too much government intrusion.

Hey!

Is it possible? The U.S. might actually do something intelligent?

Should've NEVER allowed cell phones while driving in the first place!!

I'll vote for this to become law in a heart beat!! I'd even vote for making cell phones illegal, period!!

It's illegal here in NZ get caught get a big fine cops are also looking at equipment to plug a cell into to get evidence of the Mobil being used when seen so no chance of denying it in court

people can get distracted equally by eating messy burgers while they drive or the kids fighting in the back seat... some kids might get brutal about thier fights and even throw things that would cause more of a wreck then a phone. people just need to learn to use handsfree or somethin... thing is lots of people use thier phones for navigation as well... this is unenforcable...

Just more government control that's all it is... I can drive and make a call or text without a problem, people that can't do it without killing someone probably should not be driving in the first place.

NoLiMiT06 said,
Just more government control that's all it is... I can drive and make a call or text without a problem, people that can't do it without killing someone probably should not be driving in the first place.

That's the biggest crock of crap I've ever heard in my life!!

NoLiMiT06 said,
Just more government control that's all it is... I can drive and make a call or text without a problem, people that can't do it without killing someone probably should not be driving in the first place.

The fact is that you THINK you can drive fine, but you're not actually aware of the fact that you're driving worse while texting vs while not texting. You simply won't be able to react to something as quickly, since you don't have your eyes on the road all the time.

If they want to argue that talking on the phone while driving is to much of a distraction and should be illegal, they will have to make it illegal to talk to other passengers also. Social norms alone make people look at who they are talking to. That is more of a distraction than talking to someone on the phone will ever be. Was almost in a wreck as a child going to school. Bus driver was to busy talking to the bus monitor to pay attention to the road.

ILikeTobacco said,
If they want to argue that talking on the phone while driving is to much of a distraction and should be illegal, they will have to make it illegal to talk to other passengers also. Social norms alone make people look at who they are talking to. That is more of a distraction than talking to someone on the phone will ever be. Was almost in a wreck as a child going to school. Bus driver was to busy talking to the bus monitor to pay attention to the road.

I believe it's more the "Dialing the phone number...." part of talking on the phone they don't like. Cause otherwise, talking on a phone vs talking to a human is identical

Lets see here, so the plan is to totally ban cell phone use while driving even if you have bluetooth head set or a car that has a build in bluetooth. But hey texting is safer, damn so smart, how about the idiots who need to talk on the phone constantly pull over? It seems that people still have a difficulty learning when to use a cell phone. If you can not afford a bluetooth device than maybe you should not buy a expensive smartphone to. I don't understand how listening to your MP3 player distracts someone but if you were smart you setup a play list or when you want to listen to the radio you setup your favorite radio stations, almost all cars can do that and you can use your steering to switch stations by now all cars have that ability. Better idea, ban stupidity.

If one is going to get "serious" about distracted driving, don't just limit it to cell phone use. Include anything that distracts--phone use, eating, drinking, applying makeup, combing hair, looking at GPS displays, etc. Actually, anything that prevents the driver from having both hands on the steering wheel and eyes focused on the road.
Confiscate the phone; as a possible substitute/enhancement to a fine, assign points to the license.

TsarNikky said,
If one is going to get "serious" about distracted driving, don't just limit it to cell phone use. Include anything that distracts--phone use, eating, drinking, applying makeup, combing hair, looking at GPS displays, etc. Actually, anything that prevents the driver from having both hands on the steering wheel and eyes focused on the road.
Confiscate the phone; as a possible substitute/enhancement to a fine, assign points to the license.

Are there any states where driving and putting on makeup is legal? I think you'll already get pulled over for things that stupid.

I love how people here are saying "Oh I can/have done it all the time and never had a problem"..... Ever hear of the phrase "Pride comes before a fall?" Don't think you're immune from accidents because you've been "doing it for years"... All it takes is a fraction of a second of distraction at the wrong time and you could find yourself on life support or worse. I never text and drive anymore, haven't for years... Talking and driving.... I generally keep it to a minimum... It's a relatively rare occurrance for me.

As for laws to ban it.... Meh... I think hands free driving is good enough... Banning phone calls would put UPS, USPS, travelling businessmen, and virtually every modern trucking company out of business. You really can't do that in today's world, unless the govt wants them all to go back to using CB radios...

Great now people will just be more discreet while doing it or will simply be texting instead, causing more accidents like here in Canada.

Hey, following your Canadian neighbours i see

Honestly, it is a needed law. Its kind of like no drinking and driving. Yes some people are not going to obey it, but the majority will and it prevents many accidents that just should not happen.

Old news where i live (Canada)
You can get charged / fined or whatever the penalty is etc
And its a driving while distracted offence, not just cell phones
but it was implemented because of cell phones though

I have close friends / family that do this chronicly and there is NO
way to get them to stop.. they its funny i think.
I don't find it funny when sum dumb chick almost ran me over on the sidewalk.
Stupid cow had her head down urried in her phone in some HUGE pickup truck,
luckily the chick noticed in time and veered back on to the road

I have no sympathy for people who get punished for cell phone driving

I support this whole heatedly. I think that the driver should be banned from talking/texting while driving. The passenger should not have to be subjected to the same rules.

KillTheIrishman said,
I support this whole heatedly. I think that the driver should be banned from talking/texting while driving. The passenger should not have to be subjected to the same rules.

Lol so we're all supposed to sit silent without talking at all while driving? Great idea.

I say ban it and enforce it...you can't do one with out the other. By def of talking on the phone I mean holding it up with one hand off the wheel... I don't mind the hands free as you could be talking to someone beside you in that respects but at least never turn to look away from the road.

The most serious issue, however, is the potential overstep of the government. Regulating roads is the responsibility of the individual states, not the federal government.

And of course, the federal government will manage this the same way they enforced a national speed limit (which they actually didn't have authority to establish either), they'll simply deny highway funding to states that don't pass laws that comply with the rules they want to set. And who wants to bet that our technologically ignorant, shortsighted congressmen will conveniently forget to make exceptions for handsfree devices?

Oh, and while 3000 deaths per year sounds like a lot (taking the number for ALL distracted driving deaths), that is less than 1/10th of the number of suicides, and a tiny fraction of the number of deaths by other causes. It is slightly less than the number of deaths by drowning, so are we going to ban swimming next?

Edited by roadwarrior, Apr 28 2012, 6:49pm :

It is slightly less than the number of deaths by drowning, so are we going to ban swimming next?

There's a difference. A pretty big one. If you drown, nobody else dies because of your stupidity / lack of swimming ability etc.

Texting and driving? You could kill yourself and someone else who was just trying to get home to their family or w/e because of your stupidity.

Also, this is about mitigating a risk, not eliminating it. In the case of swimming, I imagine a lot of jurisdictions require public swimming pools or beaches to have qualified lifeguards when they are open - this is a trade off between enabling people to enjoy swimming and addressing the biggest risks.

The same goes here for driving. The roads unfortunately cause deaths, but there are sensible precautions like seat belts, safety standards for vehicles, barring people from driving under the influence and restricting distractions like phones that we can take without unreasonably impinging on people's freedom to drive.

roadwarrior said,

And of course, the federal government will manage this the same way they enforced a national speed limit (which they actually didn't have authority to establish either), they'll simply deny highway funding to states that don't pass laws that comply with the rules they want to set.

I'm actually surprised more people don't know/care about federal vs. states rights (based on the comments here, anyway). I don't disagree with you at all, but most comments are saying "yay!" to this proposal...

Interesting stats on suicide/drowning as well. Fits in well with the lowest death rate since 1949 and over 21 BILLION more miles driven in 2010 compared to 1949...

roadwarrior said,
Oh, and while 3000 deaths per year sounds like a lot (taking the number for ALL distracted driving deaths), that is less than 1/10th of the number of suicides, and a tiny fraction of the number of deaths by other causes. It is slightly less than the number of deaths by drowning, so are we going to ban swimming next?

You forgot to realize that cars are much safer now, thus there could be 100,000 accidents due to distracted driving but it only results in 3,000 deaths, whereas 10 years ago it could have resulted in 15,000 deaths, for example.

Giving us the stats on deaths is useless (it's just a scare tactic). Stats on accidents would be far better.

-Razorfold said,

There's a difference. A pretty big one. If you drown, nobody else dies because of your stupidity / lack of swimming ability etc.

Texting and driving? You could kill yourself and someone else who was just trying to get home to their family or w/e because of your stupidity.

Texting is, IMO, like reading, filing your nails, eating etc. etc.
Speaking using a hands free or headset device is a different story......

Most if not all states already have laws that cover this. If you're on a cell phone and are unable to operate a vehicle safely a LEO can use either careless driving or reckless driving depending on the situation. Passing laws for talking or texting on a cell phone are nothing but political posturing.

about time. People do not think beyond their own little horizon and do not realize that they put others in danger with their behavior as well. I've seen many drivers on their cell phones and even texting when going to work every morning. Often it is obvious by the erratic driving style that somebody is busy with something else.
McKay, may I remind you of the movie The world according to Garp, in which somebody is beheaded of his manly-hood while driving under the influence (bj)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0084917/

As they proved on Top Gear, driving is easy ;-)

James May drove around the track in a sleeping bag,
Jeremy Clarkson drove around the track sewing a button onto his shirt.

However Richard Hammond chickened out of driving around the track whilst "Performing an act on himself".

I love that show.

McKay said,
As they proved on Top Gear, driving is easy ;-)

James May drove around the track in a sleeping bag,
Jeremy Clarkson drove around the track sewing a button onto his shirt.

However Richard Hammond chickened out of driving around the track whilst "Performing an act on himself".

McKay said,
As they proved on Top Gear, driving is easy ;-)

James May drove around the track in a sleeping bag,
Jeremy Clarkson drove around the track sewing a button onto his shirt.

However Richard Hammond chickened out of driving around the track whilst "Performing an act on himself".

Slight difference here - driving in carefully controlled conditions, on a race track designed to accommodate what would usually be dangerous driving, with noone else on the road and an acceptance by those involved that this might be a little dangerous. You probably knew that - unfortunately a lot of drivers and motorcyclists don't seem to get it.

As others have said, I think it depends on the person. I'm still a learner driver, but the amount of concentration required for driving (talking about town/city road driving) is very high. I have no idea how people can concentrate talking on the phone and driving. I know I can't use the computer whilst on the phone otherwise I don't listen, so goodness knows how people can be on the phone and drive.

I remember once, I was trying to code whilst on the phone and implemented a really stupid bug that took me hours to find. Luckily, this bug didn't kill me or anybody else - driving might.

I have to admit I rage pretty bard when someone is driving and on the phone, 95% of people just simply can't drive and talk at the same time, they cause too many accidents and I see them almost getting on accidents weekly!

Lucas said,
I have to admit I rage pretty bard when someone is driving and on the phone, 95% of people just simply can't drive and talk at the same time, they cause too many accidents and I see them almost getting on accidents weekly!

Same here.
Thankfully it's deemed pretty bad form to drive and be on your mobile at the same time here in the UK.

Great i agree , i hate when im driving and there some much of the time woman talking on the or testing but not moving ... no offense to woman but is truth. you know what i do i pull out and talk simple.

thommcg said,
Make their use in the cinema illegal too.

over here in NZ it'll get you kicked out if they see you using your cell in the theater

Years ago I use to drive a manual, use my phone, and have Starbucks in my left hand. Never got in an accident and people use to think it was comical. It can be done, it is just must people can't multitask.

Michael Churma III said,
Years ago I use to drive a manual, use my phone, and have Starbucks in my left hand. Never got in an accident and people use to think it was comical. It can be done, it is just must people can't multitask.

Completely true. Everyone has different abilities. If my friend is texting while walking, he'll completely zone out and come to a crawling 1 mph walking pace. I, on the other hand, behave pretty normal.

Michael Churma III said,
Years ago I use to drive a manual, use my phone, and have Starbucks in my left hand. Never got in an accident and people use to think it was comical. It can be done, it is just must people can't multitask.

I've had people walk out in front of me oblivious to the oncoming traffic while talking on a cell phone before. Dang near hit that kid too.

I disagree.

What's the difference in trying to punch in an address to a GPS, changing CDs or even the radio station, or just having a conversation with passengers. What about eating or drinking? Should they ban drive-throughs and gas station convenience stores for selling chips and other driving distractions? What about billboard advertising? If you ban phones because they are distracting, do you ban kids cuz they scream and distract in the back seat. Makes no sense!

Chaging CDs take at most 10 sec. Talking on the phone can take up to 5 minutes easily.

If you're not dumb you'll change your CD while waiting at a red light. If on a highway then you'll slow down a little bit and do this by part. First part eject the cd. Check the road. Second part put this CD somewhere. Check the road. Take the new CD out of the case. Check the road. Put this CD in the player. Check the road. Optionally put the old CD in the case. Check the road.

In all your eyes never left the road more than 2 sec.

While talking on the phone you are distracted for a good period of time. I've seen a guy going straight thru a red light while talking on the phone. Not going to happen while changing CDs.

As for radio stations every new car support preset and search. You just have to click a buton ...

Soon most cars will come with internal flash memory and mp3 support so chaging CDs wont be a trouble anymore.

grockk said,
I disagree.

What's the difference in trying to punch in an address to a GPS, changing CDs or even the radio station, or just having a conversation with passengers. What about eating or drinking? Should they ban drive-throughs and gas station convenience stores for selling chips and other driving distractions? What about billboard advertising? If you ban phones because they are distracting, do you ban kids cuz they scream and distract in the back seat. Makes no sense!

I know, it's pretty silly. Years ago, people would look at a paper map while driving. Surely that's more distracting than a digital map.

The main problem is that when some people text, they completely zone out. My friend is like that. He's a idiot lol, he's slow down to a walking speed of 1 mph while texting and walking. Just imagine what him texting while driving would be like!

grockk said,
I disagree.

What's the difference in trying to punch in an address to a GPS, changing CDs or even the radio station, or just having a conversation with passengers. What about eating or drinking? Should they ban drive-throughs and gas station convenience stores for selling chips and other driving distractions? What about billboard advertising? If you ban phones because they are distracting, do you ban kids cuz they scream and distract in the back seat. Makes no sense!

Most modern GPS don't allow you to program them while moving.

grockk said,
I disagree.

What's the difference in trying to punch in an address to a GPS, changing CDs or even the radio station, or just having a conversation with passengers. What about eating or drinking? Should they ban drive-throughs and gas station convenience stores for selling chips and other driving distractions? What about billboard advertising? If you ban phones because they are distracting, do you ban kids cuz they scream and distract in the back seat. Makes no sense!

When I was young and stupid and had just first started driving I was on a one lane mountain road one snowy winter day, huge dropoff on the left side. One of my tapes fell into the passenger side floorboard and I leaned over and reached way down into the floor to get it, at the same time I must have inadvertently cut the wheel a bit. When I got up it cut back and the car started sliding in the snow towards the cliff. I got it straightened up and after my heart stopped pounding I decided to never do that again.

LaP said,
Chaging CDs take at most 10 sec. Talking on the phone can take up to 5 minutes easily.

If you're not dumb you'll change your CD while waiting at a red light. If on a highway then you'll slow down a little bit and do this by part. First part eject the cd. Check the road. Second part put this CD somewhere. Check the road. Take the new CD out of the case. Check the road. Put this CD in the player. Check the road. Optionally put the old CD in the case. Check the road.

In all your eyes never left the road more than 2 sec.

While talking on the phone you are distracted for a good period of time. I've seen a guy going straight thru a red light while talking on the phone. Not going to happen while changing CDs.

As for radio stations every new car support preset and search. You just have to click a buton ...

Soon most cars will come with internal flash memory and mp3 support so chaging CDs wont be a trouble anymore.

So let create cars with an insulated cell where the driver cannot speak with passengers etc. etc. ......

Should start selling 60/40 split manual transmissions. Better fuel economy, and people wont be able to hold their phone as well in the city (highway we are still ****ed).

I figure smart people will learn to do it either way, and the people we are worried about will never learn to use their cell phone and drive standard transmissions.

ObiWanToby said,
Should start selling 60/40 split manual transmissions. Better fuel economy, and people wont be able to hold their phone as well in the city (highway we are still ****ed).

I figure smart people will learn to do it either way, and the people we are worried about will never learn to use their cell phone and drive standard transmissions.

Lol I can still manage to text or check the map while driving my manual RX8. Granted I only do it when it's safe (driving in a very straight road with little to no cross traffic, or when stopped at a red light).

Fact is, people can still be just as distracted without cell phones (looking at a paper map is actually worse than a digital one in terms of distractions, in my opinion)

One cannot argue that because fatalities are down, it is safe to text/talk on a phone. Cars become safer every year, reducing fatalities. Most cell phone user accidents occur from slamming into the car stopped in front of them or from lane drifting. Both are usually non-fatal.

There's also no statistics on how many obstructions occur while texting/calling. We've all seen people chatting away not realizing they are 15 under the speed limit. Or, the ones that sit at a green light texting their insignificant life details to their friends, completely oblivious to the world around them.

The best way to stop it is to make it socially unacceptable, it worked brilliantly in the UK just as the campaign against drink driving did. It's only taken around 5 or so years and the numbers using their mobiles at the wheel has dropped drastically. Making it an endorsable offence also reduced numbers too (Now 3 penalty points in the UK, 12 equals a ban under totting up).

Liquidfox said,
The best way to stop it is to make it socially unacceptable, it worked brilliantly in the UK just as the campaign against drink driving did. It's only taken around 5 or so years and the numbers using their mobiles at the wheel has dropped drastically. Making it an endorsable offence also reduced numbers too (Now 3 penalty points in the UK, 12 equals a ban under totting up).

I have a big issue with penalty points for these types of offences. Its not that I'm in favor of people using phones while driving or eating for that matter, but these penalty points only really target the poorer or misinformed.

Its rare that any of the notice of intent to prosecute, or on spot fines given out will be actually enforced if the driver takes it to court. More then half of the cases are dropped by the plaintiff because of lack of evidence right off the bat, or in the cases of such as speeding, the camera's haven't been operated and documented correctly.

Anyone who has enough money to throw at a court case in the event that they actually lost, has a very high chance that pleeding not guilt will result in the case either being dropped, or being found not guilty resulting in no fine or points. Not only that, but many go on to take it to a civil court for time off work and their defenec costs.


Its not fair across the board and officers know this too, yet they never get all the evidence but are too happy to hand them out anyway. Most people will fill in the fine and send it back thinking they have no other option due to the bad wording on most of the letters they send out or hand out (that can get the case thrown out by it self).


What would be more benefitial would be education and as you've already said, making it socially unacceptable. I'd be more in favor of training courses in rather then fine/points system we currently have because at least everyone should would have the same outcome.

Already banned here. Just has made everyone hold their phones lower while driving. They are still texting...in some ways its worse now but I think it needs to be against the law. Not safe anyway you cut it.

As it is now if you're caught on the phone while driving in NY you get a several hundred dollar fine. I'm fine with that.

Amarok said,
As it is now if you're caught on the phone while driving in NY you get a several hundred dollar fine. I'm fine with that.

What about hands-free or headset devices?
Oh true "Prohibition" all over again.......

Amarok said,
As it is now if you're caught on the phone while driving in NY you get a several hundred dollar fine. I'm fine with that.

Except this drives people to use their phones out of sight, meaning that they have to shift vision.

This kind of law makes cell phone users more dangerous.

They could always do something intrusive like making the phone disable texting/calling functions when it's traveling at a certain speed.

Enron said,
They could always do something intrusive like making the phone disable texting/calling functions when it's traveling at a certain speed.

And how exactly would that work for passengers in the car?

roadwarrior said,

And how exactly would that work for passengers in the car?

They're screwed. Shouldn't be having side conversations anyway, lol.

roadwarrior said,

And how exactly would that work for passengers in the car?

could be good if it puts it in a vibrate mode maybe.. that way passengers can still check their phones and drivers may feel the phone vibrate but it wont be beeping and ringing nonstop