Cell Phone Ban Considered for US Drivers
US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said on Dec. 21, 2011 that texting and hand-held cell phone use while driving are dangerous distractions, but that he does not support banning hands-free cell phone use.
LaHood’s statement comes a week after the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended that states ban all cell phone use while driving, including hands-free calls. The NTSB recommendation was prompted in part by an Aug. 5, 2010 fatal crash in Missouri that involved a driver who was texting.
“The problem is not hands-free. That is not the big problem in America. 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,” LaHood said on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011.
NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman argues that banning hand-held cell phone use but allowing hands-free cell phone use while behind the wheel is not enough. “The distraction that is there is not just from manipulating something. There’s a cognitive distraction,” she said on Dec. 13, 2011.
Distracted driving killed 3,092 people in the United States in 2010, according to the Department of Transportation. 35 states and the District of Columbia ban texting while driving, and nine states and the District of Columbia ban all hand-held cell phone use.
According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration survey released on Dec. 8 , 2011, half of drivers aged 21-24 use their phones for sending texts, emails, and posting updates on social networking sites.
A July 2007 study by University of Chicago Booth School of Business Professor Saurabh Bhargava and Cornerstone Research Associate Vikram Pathania found that “current cell phone use does not result in a measurable increase in vehicular crashes.”
On Oct. 1, 2009, President Barack Obama issued an executive order banning the use of text messaging while driving for federal government employees on official business or while using Government-supplied equipment. He said, “Text messaging causes drivers to take their eyes off the road and at least one hand off the steering wheel, endangering both themselves and others.”
Keith Laing, “LaHood Steers Clear of Hands-free Cell Phone Use While Driving Debate,” www.thehill.com, Dec. 21, 2011
“U.S. Officials Split on “Hands Free” Ban for Drivers,” www.reuters.com , Dec. 21, 2011