U.S. Secretary Ray LaHood is continuing his crusade against cell phones and upping the ante, proposing a nationwide ban talking, texting and e-mailing while driving. His latest forum (see the news story by Reuters) was a distracted driving summit in Texas last week. His main argument centers around the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's estimate of 3,000 fatal traffic accidents in 2011, caused by distracted driving. The NHTSA also states that cell phone use delays reactions just as much as a BAC of 0.08.
According to LaHood:
It used to be that if an officer pulled you over for drunk driving, he would pat you on the back, maybe call you a cab or take you home, but he wouldn't arrest you. Now that has changed, and the same enforcement can work for people who talk on cell phones while driving.
Opponents believe that existing laws prohibiting distracted driving, whether it be because of food, make-up application, or unruly kids in the back seat, are sufficient. Certainly there may be existing laws against distracted driving, but do they really permit officers to write meaningful tickets in the absence of a car accident?
It's hard to know where this will lead. There is certainly a lot of momentum behind the distracted driving movement, and it is incredibly dangerous--none of us should be using cell phones behind the wheel. LaHood is investigating whether hands-free devices like Bluetooth and Ford's Sync have a similar effect on drivers.
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