Ray LaHood sticks up for hands-free devices for drivers

posted at 5:25 pm on December 22, 2011 by Tina Korbe

Score one for freedom. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood yesterday checked the zeal of the National Transportation Safety Board, which last week called for a nationwide ban on hands-free cell phone devices for drivers.

LaHood, who has made distracted driving his signature safety issue, said the focus should be on texting and hand-held cell calls, not fast-growing new technology that allows drivers to talk while keeping their hands on the wheel.

“That is not the big problem in America,” LaHood told reporters. “Most people don’t put Bluetooth or Sync in their cars because they can’t afford it. Everybody has a cell phone in their hand and it’s held up to their ear while they’re driving.” …

“Our efforts are good laws and good enforcement, and personal responsibility,” LaHood said. “We’ll work with anyone who wants to get on board.”

Ahh … good old-fashioned personal responsibility. How nice to hear it invoked from the most unlikely quarter!

Meanwhile, the folks at ITWorld.com are not impressed with Mr. LaHood — or with the individual’s ability to govern himself. They suggest the secretary rejected the NTSB’s proposed ban because he is beholden to automakers who are already heavily invested in hands-free systems. IT World reporter Chris Nerney writes:

[H]ands-free is becoming an emerging industry, with automakers such as Ford installing its Sync hands-free system in newer vehicles, so industry pressure will remain on lawmakers to ignore or dismiss research that shows hands-free devices also distract drivers.

The use of handheld devices while driving currently is outlawed in nine states and Washington, D.C., while 34 states plus D.C. ban texting by drivers.

These laws are routinely ignored, so it’s not likely that a nationwide ban would be effectively enforceable. Our only hope for reducing the growing dangers of distracted driving is the widespread individual application of common sense, judgment and self-control.

So, really, we’re screwed.

Oh, ye of little faith! Frankly, this decision from Mr. LaHood makes me want to stash my silenced cell phone in my glove compartment every time I drive just to prove we people do care to preserve our own lives. Yes, distracted driving is a problem — it killed more than 3,000 people in the U.S. this year and studies show hands-free devices can be distractions, too — but it’s one that should be addressed at the individual or local level. In other words, there’s no call for a national ban on either handheld or hands-free devices.

One last thought: Drivers were sometimes distracted before the days of cell phones. A particularly engrossing conversation with a passenger, squabbling siblings in the backseat, persistent worries about work or family — each could distract a driver. Should we ban all that, too?


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ITWorld.sdastfu!

KOOLAID2 on December 22, 2011 at 5:33 PM

What happened to the report that said teenage drivers were 5 million more times likely to get in or cause an accident if they had a passenger? OK, it wasn’t 5 million but it was a massive increase that indicated it is unsafe to let multiple teenagers be in a car as the same time.

HopeHeFails on December 22, 2011 at 5:33 PM

Get the regulating gubbamint off our backs and outta our hair. bastids.

BigSven on December 22, 2011 at 5:34 PM

Eating, drinking, talking, scratching, sneezing, yawning,passengers, music,…….all dangerous activites behind the wheel. Ban them all!

Ditkaca on December 22, 2011 at 5:37 PM

Why don’t we just get to the root of the problem.

NapaConservative on December 22, 2011 at 5:43 PM

If I were still a teenager, I would particularly dislike the massive consoles between the front seats so that you cannot put your arm around your sweetheart — and every date is effectively a doorhugger. Some distractions were well worth the added risk.

levi from queens on December 22, 2011 at 5:45 PM

My IQ is higher than all the people at the NTSB. Combined. Why do they get to tell me what to do?

speekr on December 22, 2011 at 5:45 PM

There should be a ban on having passengers in your car as they may distract you. Not only will it cut down on distracted driving, just think of the fuel economy we can get once cars only have to be designed to carry one person. Sure it will make getting the kids to school a little more difficult but hey, walking is good for them. Might even help cut down on the childhood obesity epidemic. And it will kill mass transit but hey, walking is good for you too and it might even help cut down on the adult obesity epidemic…

Rip Ford on December 22, 2011 at 5:46 PM

As a ham how do they tell my radio from something else I may be using. Because there will be an exemption for ham radios. Same with Faraday cages built into cars to block cell signals. Booming business in exterior antennas coupled with cell phones. Can’t stop that.

BullShooterAsInElk on December 22, 2011 at 5:47 PM

Ya know, if we are just going to consider the odds, the accident rate would look better if we just banned cars and trucks.

I’m concerned now that LaHood will get fired. He may not be stupid enough to be a federal guy.

MikeA on December 22, 2011 at 5:48 PM

That is a shocker….knowing LaHood I am surprised the government is not wiping my rear end for me.

tommer74 on December 22, 2011 at 5:49 PM

Funny how none of this seemed to be a problem when most of us were running around with CB microphones in our faces.

That was a tad more distracting than a modern $25 Bluetooth ear bug!

Old Dog on December 22, 2011 at 5:50 PM

The accident the NTSB cites as their reason for this involved a driver who MAY have been texting or talking while driving being crushed to death by a school bus. No one’s talking about what was distracting the school bus driver or why that driver was not maintaining a safe distance with a busload of kids.

CurtZHP on December 22, 2011 at 5:51 PM

Any concerned about cops driving around with those laptops and looking really distracted? I guess those that would be in-charge of enforcing this law would most likely be ignoring it as well.

tdavisjr on December 22, 2011 at 5:51 PM

Perhaps car stereos should be banned, too, they require manipulation and averted eyes. What about all those buttons and widgets on the dash, like climate control knobs and the such, they all require you to take your eyes of the road to manipulate them. And children in cars are a big distraction. As are wives.

Face it. We all should just take public transit, especially trains. Not only are they green, because after all, plants and trees have no use for chlorophyll-producing CO2, but trains will prevent you from making mistakes. They require no independent thought thereby relieving you of the burden of making decisions about whether to turn left or right. Especially right. The train knows everything. And the best part of public transit is that you will no longer have to worry about being late. If you are late for work, it will be the responsibility of the Ministry of Public Transportation.

Trains are the way forward to a brave new world.

keep the change on December 22, 2011 at 5:55 PM

Trains are the way forward to a brave new world.

keep the change on December 22, 2011 at 5:55 PM

Only two destinations anyway…..Salt mines and reeducation camps

Ditkaca on December 22, 2011 at 5:59 PM

One last thought: Drivers were sometimes distracted before the days of cell phones. A particularly engrossing conversation with a passenger, squabbling siblings in the backseat, persistent worries about work or family — each could distract a driver. Should we ban all that, too?

No need to ban all that. Ban cars and all that goes away.

rukiddingme on December 22, 2011 at 6:00 PM

Someone with sense. LaHood is a Republican, after all.

Paul-Cincy on December 22, 2011 at 6:03 PM

Nothing pisses me off more than the driver ahead of me texting and, of course, going slower and swerving while doing it, or failing to see the lights change. For them, it’s a good thing I don’t have bazookas or RPG launchers attached to the front of my truck. That said, there are already laws on the books that prohibit distracted driving, not to mention the risk of lawsuits should the distraction led to someone else’s injury or property damage. We don’t need more laws, period.

TXUS on December 22, 2011 at 6:07 PM

If I cause an accident because I was distracted by my cell phone, I’m already culpable and will be penalized for my negligence. We don’t need more laws and regulations.

flipflop on December 22, 2011 at 6:08 PM

I used to talk on my phone often when I drove home from work, until I realized that I was leaving work and arriving home without realizing what had happened for the short 10 miles it took me to get home. How many cars did I pass? Was my speed consistent? Did I cut anyone off? What was the sky like? Kinda freaked me out. I am a big fan of banning all cell phone use, including hands free, in vehicles. When I talk to my kids or players (I’m a coach) about drinking and driving I ask them how far they travel in 1 second in a vehicle going 35MPH. I then tell them to check the weight of their vehicle when they get home. At 35MPH a 1 second delay costs you 51.33 feet or about 17 yards. I see no reason to add the distraction of a phone, hands free or not to that equation. In my opinion the argument to ban particularly engrossing conversation with a passenger, squabbling siblings in the backseat, persistent worries about work or family, is hyperbole and distracts from the real issue.

Maynard G Krebs on December 22, 2011 at 6:12 PM

Of course illegal aliens would be exempt from the NTSB rule

rockstar on December 22, 2011 at 6:17 PM

The ban they want has absolutely nothing to do with safety, if you think for the moment the ban they want, has anything to do with safety than you are delusional at best. Most states along with the federal government are broke, billions and even trillions in debt, and they are look for more money any way they can get it including a new taxes, new fees, new sure changes, or now a new fine for cell phone use in a car, it is about the money and the money only.

Beastdogs on December 22, 2011 at 6:23 PM

I used to talk on my phone often when I drove home from work, until I realized that I was leaving work and arriving home without realizing what had happened for the short 10 miles it took me to get home…. I am a big fan of banning all cell phone use, including hands free, in vehicles… I see no reason to add the distraction of a phone, hands free or not to that equation. In my opinion the argument to ban particularly engrossing conversation with a passenger, squabbling siblings in the backseat, persistent worries about work or family, is hyperbole and distracts from the real issue.

Maynard G Krebs on December 22, 2011 at 6:12 PM

The only time I’ve had the “lost time” isn’t due to talking on a hands-free phone; but working 3rd shift and driving home at 7AM.

So my anecdote shows that we need to ban all 3rd shift work; and not hands-free phones.

However I have had passengers distract my driving; so that also would be valid.

Wait, I forgot… anecdotal data in your case is a valid argument; and someone else’s anecdotal data is “hyperbole” and should be dismissed.

Why is only your anecdotal data sufficient proof for the need of legislation?

gekkobear on December 22, 2011 at 6:24 PM

No need to ban all that. Ban cars and all that goes away.

rukiddingme on December 22, 2011 at 6:00 PM

Bite your tongue! How did you guess the real agenda?

Upstreamer on December 22, 2011 at 6:27 PM

It doesn’t make sense to me, all this fervor over cell phones and distracted driving. Yeah sure, we’ve all seen some idiot take to long to get going when the light turns green, or drive too slow, or maybe use up all their lane and the” some, taken note of the cell phone and said “YEAH, cell phones are a problem.” But those idiots have always been there, we are just taking special notice when they have a cell phone.

Thing is, traffic fatalities are lower than they’ve been in 30 years, not just deaths per 1000 cars on the road, deaths period. Yet there are millions more cars on the roads. The speeds have increased, the roads are packed, and YET accidents HAVE NOT spiked since the cell phone became common place in the last 15 years. More cars, faster cars, faster drivers, more distractions, but still, over all, safer roads.

I think it is a lot of paranoia about a threat that is more perceived than actually there. Or perhaps the roads would be totally safe by now with no one getting in a car accident or dying if it weren’t for those darn cell phones. OH and the drunk drivers, sleepy drivers, stoned drivers (more of those than ever with medical marijuana now), they are all still there too. How do we survive I wonder?

flyfishingdad on December 22, 2011 at 6:40 PM

take too long, not take “to” long to…yikes

flyfishingdad on December 22, 2011 at 6:41 PM

gekkobear:
My point is that I believe the use of a cell phone while driving causes an unnecessary distraction that puts other drivers at risk. I don’t believe that is anecdotal, every study I have seen agrees. I would be interested in seeing any peer reviewed studies that show otherwise. Banning everything under the sun, or in your case third shift work, is an easy out for those that disagree.

Maynard G Krebs on December 22, 2011 at 6:43 PM

I hate to bring this up, but you all do realize that this subject is another one of the government’s applications of the “one-size-fits-all” method of managing the population, right? Is there some point at which a person’s individual abilities, IQ, experience, whatever; comes into play? Or must we set regulations for all of us based on the abilities of the least able of us? Hummmm?

MikeA on December 22, 2011 at 6:48 PM

Why bother with partial solutions? When Oboobie has his way with gas prices, the problem will solve itself – you won’t be able to afford both gas and the phone bill.

Archivarix on December 22, 2011 at 6:57 PM

Even my husband, die hard union boy, has finally come around to the “wtf” side of the aisle with this topic. I don’t talk on my cell in the car, because I make the decision not to. And “hands free”? I have a Ford, 2 of them as a matter of fact, (love those Escapes) and I HATE the sync system. You’re driving along, happily listening to radio/CD whatever, and all the sudden your dashboard gives an ear splitting ring. Scares me EVERY time, way more than my cell phone ever did. Way more likely I’m gonna jerk the wheel when that thing goes off, than I ever did with a regular cell phone. And I’m a seasoned homecare provider who can manage 70 mph on the expressway with my elbows eating pasta salad………….sorry, don’t hate me, we don’t have time to stop for lunch.

waterytart on December 22, 2011 at 7:03 PM

This was a setup all along. Talk about a full ban. Get people angry. Then “compromise” and allow the masses hands free cell phones. See how pragmatic and responsible the Obama administration is?

And then in 5 years from now after further studies, they will go for the full ban again.

This has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with control. Control how people communicate. Control what they can drive. Control what doctor they see. Don’t worry, govt always knows best.

angryed on December 22, 2011 at 7:03 PM

No need to ban all that. Ban cars and all that goes away.

rukiddingme on December 22, 2011 at 6:00 PM

Yes. Do you realize how hard it will be to pedal a bicycle and text? On a level road, with no rain or snow. /s

PatriotGal2257 on December 22, 2011 at 7:04 PM

And after we ban cell phones we will ban

– radios in cars
– passengers in cars
– kids in the back seats of cars
– coffee in cars
– food in cars
– rain and snow
– bright sunshine
– darkness
– deer

since all these things can potentially make driving unsafe.

Aw hell, let’s just ban cars altogether. It will be a lot safer and think of all the pollution we’ll get rid of.

angryed on December 22, 2011 at 7:06 PM

angryed on December 22, 2011 at 7:06 PM

Amen sir. I grew up in a time with no seat belts, standing on the back seat drinking RC Cola (out of a glass bottle no less) an on long family vacations, one of us kids slept on the rear deck by the back window. And here I am to tell the story. Climbed some trees and monkey bars in my day too, actually played outside without a helmet.

waterytart on December 22, 2011 at 7:17 PM

This has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with control. Control how people communicate. Control what they can drive. Control what doctor they see. Don’t worry, govt always knows best.

angryed on December 22, 2011 at 7:03 PM

This. ^^^

PatriotGal2257 on December 22, 2011 at 7:19 PM

Beastdogs on December 22, 2011 at 6:23 PM

Yup.

jangle12 on December 22, 2011 at 7:19 PM

bazookas or RPG launchers attached to the front of my truck.

TXUS on December 22, 2011 at 6:07 PM

You just reminded me of an old George Carlin bit, thanks!! LOL.

waterytart on December 22, 2011 at 7:24 PM

Hands free is the only way to go in my way of thinking. It chaps me royally to get behind some dork with a phone stuck to his or her ear. They pay more attention to keeping the phone to their ear than they do to where they’re going or what they’re doing.

Babsy on December 22, 2011 at 7:40 PM

How did you guess the real agenda?

Upstreamer on December 22, 2011 at 6:27 PM

Having been waterboarded multiple times, my lone liberal friend spilled the beans.

rukiddingme on December 22, 2011 at 8:02 PM

Do you realize how hard it will be to pedal a bicycle and text? On a level road, with no rain or snow. /s

PatriotGal2257 on December 22, 2011 at 7:04 PM

Yes, my road is uphill – bothways. It rains and snows every day. It’s better for me to walk.

rukiddingme on December 22, 2011 at 8:03 PM

Heaven help us all if a friggin’ bee gets in the car. What would that be? Environmental? Home grown terrorism? Insectism? It boggles the mind. I’ll bet there would suddenly be 73 bills banning honey, dammit.

waterytart on December 22, 2011 at 8:32 PM

I can see texting while driving as a safety hazard, and to a point, having one hand on a cell phone while only one other hand is on the wheel. But pul-EEEEEZE! If “hands-free” Bluetooth calling is a “distraction,” so is talking to a live person, changing the channels on my radio, and looking in my rear view mirror. (Hey, if I’m looking behind, I’m not looking ahead, am I?) I’d just love to see a breakdown of how much of a menace “hands-free” devices really are, as opposed to texting, which is a separate issue altogether. With more technological devices in the car to enhance the driving experience (and to avoid having to look at a map while driving), some of this brouhaha is entirely unrealistic. Not to mention virtually impossible to enforce. I mean, if a guy looks like he’s talking to himself in the next lane, he could just be off his meds.

Happens to me all the time.

manwithblackhat on December 22, 2011 at 9:42 PM

Don’t worry – when we’re all forced into Volt Flambees and the ObamiNation “Smart”Grid chose us for the overnight rolling blackout so we can’t recharge either the phone or the rolling torch, we won’t ahve to worry about distracted driving.

Steve Eggleston on December 22, 2011 at 11:18 PM

gekkobear:
My point is that I believe the use of a cell phone while driving causes an unnecessary distraction that puts other drivers at risk. I don’t believe that is anecdotal, every study I have seen agrees. I would be interested in seeing any peer reviewed studies that show otherwise. Banning everything under the sun, or in your case third shift work, is an easy out for those that disagree.

Maynard G Krebs on December 22, 2011 at 6:43 PM

The radio in your car is a distraction; and it isn’t necessary to the function of the car. You’re going to need a better and more clear reason; or extend your proposed ban to cover a lot of other stuff that isn’t “necessary”.

Texting, and holding the phone, etc. take your attention and eyes off the road. Which is a more significant distraction than a radio. But a hands-free cellphone doesn’t really meet the same level of problem.

35 states have banned texting while driving on their own, and several have banned cellphones that aren’t hands-free; I don’t see a need for Federal involvement here.

I think you’d have a better case for proposing banning eating/drinking while driving; at least that has a hands+attention component.

Hands-free cellphone calls are less distracting than a number of legal (if questionable) activities. I’m not sure that banning all of those activities is a worthwhile pursuit, especially from the Federal Government.

gekkobear on December 23, 2011 at 12:59 AM

The radio in your car is a distraction; and it isn’t necessary to the function of the car. You’re going to need a better and more clear reason; or extend your proposed ban to cover a lot of other stuff that isn’t “necessary”.

Texting, and holding the phone, etc. take your attention and eyes off the road. Which is a more significant distraction than a radio. But a hands-free cellphone doesn’t really meet the same level of problem.

35 states have banned texting while driving on their own, and several have banned cellphones that aren’t hands-free; I don’t see a need for Federal involvement here.

I think you’d have a better case for proposing banning eating/drinking while driving; at least that has a hands+attention component.

Hands-free cellphone calls are less distracting than a number of legal (if questionable) activities. I’m not sure that banning all of those activities is a worthwhile pursuit, especially from the Federal Government.

A good argument. I still don’t see the need to use a cell phone in your vehicle except in extreme emergencies, and have no problem with a ban. Thanks for the discussion.

Maynard G Krebs on December 23, 2011 at 1:18 AM

I don’t really care what they do. I don’t own a cellphone, so I’m not a slave to it. No, I’m not from Mars.

Corporal Tunnel on December 23, 2011 at 1:21 AM

Should we ban all that, too?

Oh, Hell yes! I was in a store this AM and picked up a wood working magazine. Seems Fedzilla wants “flesh sensing” monitors placed on table saws. At the cost of $100.00 – $150.00 per saw. Oh, and from what I read, they are “one shot” numbers, so I guess if you try to stick your finger in the blade, the device kills the saw and the device must then be replaced. One of the driving occurrences behind the law was some idiot using a saw, and he received serious injuries to one hand which resulted in Ryobi being forced to pay out a $1.5m damage award. Oh, did I mention the complainant had REMOVED ALL OF THE FACTORY INSTALLED SAFETY DEVICES PRIOR TO THE INJURY??

No matter, we’ll just drive some more items off the market on our way to third world status.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!!!

oldleprechaun on December 23, 2011 at 2:30 PM

I don’t talk on the phone very often while driving. But I have a seriously disabled child and another child who has learning disabilities. They don’t need to call me often while I’m in the car but when they call me they really, really need me. It will be a cold day in Hades before I decide not to take a call from my children. I don’t care what the government threatens me with I will not give up my cell phone because my children need to be able to get in touch with me immediately if they have a problem. I know many other parents of special needs children who feel the same way I do. They won’t give up their phones either.

For those of you who suggest we buy Bluetooth my husband and I have both been laid off. We can barely afford to keep food on the table. We cannot afford to buy Bluetooth either now or in the future. We couldn’t have afforded it when we were working either. So that is not a solution that will work.

sherrimae on December 23, 2011 at 11:56 PM

LaHood sticks his finger into the air to see which way the wind is blowing, is all.

Dandapani on December 25, 2011 at 8:35 AM