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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