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The National Highway Safety Administration has suggested that state and local governments ban all cell phone activities from the road, including the use of hands-free headsets.  (Source:
Hands free devices also too risky, administration says

California made headlines when it began enforcing legislation that enacted pricey fines for those caught talking without hands free headsets or texting on their cell phone while driving.  The provision and similar ones across the country seem reasonable, considering that some studies found cell phones to impair driving more than even commonly abused drugs like alcohol or marijuana.  Many drivers in California did the seemingly logical thing -- switch to hand-free headsets.  However, some research indicated that even conversations on hands-free headsets can still be distracting and dangerous.

Now an unprecedented suggestion by the U.S. Highway Safety Administration has been revealed -- ban all cell phones on U.S. streets.  The suggestion was actually first made in 2002, but has only now been revealed, thanks to The Center for Auto Safety and Public Citizen, which filed a lawsuit to obtain documents from the agency under the Freedom of Information Act.

The NHTSA draft on cell phone policy states, “We recommend that drivers not use these devices when driving, except in an emergency.  Moreover, we are convinced that legislation forbidding the use of handheld cell phones while driving may not be effective in improving highway safety since it will not address the problem. In fact, such legislation may erroneously imply that hands-free phones are safe to use while driving."

The agency's request was reportedly shared with state traffic departments and select lawmakers, but was kept from even the majority of national lawmakers.  The agency feared that both members of Congress and the public would be upset at the report.

At the time when the report was made, there were 170 million cell phone subscribers in America, "more than half of the U.S. population".  There are now 270 million subscribers -- 87 percent of the population -- according to CTIA-The Wireless Association, the cell phone industry trade group.  According to the NHTSA report, "Driver distraction contributes to about 25 percent of all police-reported traffic crashes. Though all distractions are a concern, we have seen the growth of a particular distraction, namely cell phone use while driving. While the precise impact cannot be quantified, we nevertheless have concluded that the use of cell phones while driving has contributed to an increasing number of crashes, injuries and fatalities."

The agency comments that in the research it has reviewed, hands free headsets were shown to provide "little, if any, difference between the use of hand-held and hands-free phones in contributing to the risk of a crash while driving distracted. Hands-free or hand-held, we have found that the cognitive distraction is significant enough to degrade a driver's performance."

The agency says that legislation against using cell phones while driving is a decision for states and local governments to make.  It urges them to consider bans and points out that "at least 42 countries restrict or prohibit use of cell phones and other wireless technology in motor vehicles, and several more are considering legislation."

Even if cell phones are not outright banned, many places across the country increase traffic fines if a violation is committed while the offender is on their cell phone.

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RE: As bad as DUI
By deathman20 on 7/23/2009 10:37:08 AM , Rating: 3
Couldn't agree more with the blue-tooth portion of it. When I got my new car, one of the things TOP on my list was to make sure I had hands free in the car via bluetooth. Yes before I really hated having the mic attached to my headset, or making sure I hand my hands free headset there in the car. Let alone me digging in my pocket to get the phone out to talk.

As for all out banning it, I think not. I feel its more distracting talking to someone in the car since you can turn your head looking at them vs talking via hands free.

RE: As bad as DUI
By clovell on 7/23/2009 12:58:07 PM , Rating: 2
The most distracting part of a cell phone while you're driving, for me, is digging the damned thing out of my pocket when it rings, or dialing on it. Plugging in and synching a bluetooth headset is just a pain.

It'd be so nice to have everything integrated and seamless.

RE: As bad as DUI
By Mitch101 on 7/23/2009 1:54:46 PM , Rating: 2
I would like that too. One of my pet peeves is seeing someone driving a 65K car like crap with their cell phone to their ear. Wait you have 65k for a car but not $20.00 for a cheap blue tooth headset? But then they can probably afford the attorney when they screw up.

RE: As bad as DUI
By MrBlastman on 7/23/2009 1:58:52 PM , Rating: 3
Most people driving 65k cars lease them. Also, around here at least, it is not uncommon to see people driving these cars yet they live in an apartment or in a crappy run down neighborhood. The ones that don't typically are up to their eyeballs in debt and are leveraged like crazy.

So, no - they probably all can't afford the attorney. The majority of the time they are all flash, all show. Sad, but true.

All the wealthy individuals I know, with only a couple of exceptions, live in modest homes, drive average cars and don't have all that flashy stuff.

"When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." -- Sony BMG attorney Jennifer Pariser

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