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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: Plastic Bubble
By TomZ on 7/23/2009 3:11:58 PM , Rating: 5
Exactly. You can't fix stupid. Personally I think even holding a cell phone while driving only makes an already bad driver worse. For a good driver, it does not affect them because they know they need to pay attention to the road first. At least that's how I act.
You're fooling yourself. People only have a certain amount of mental capacity, and if you divide your attention across a number of different activities, of course they will all suffer relative to just doing one at a time. It's just common sense.

Here's something also to think about. Suppose talking on the phone delays your reaction by just 1 second. How many feet will a car go in 1 second? And do you think that is enough to either cause or avoid an accident?

Or another way to think about it...imagine your braking distance was for whatever reason extended by around 90 feet (1 sec @ 60MPH). Would you find that acceptable?

Obviously you know where I stand on the issue. For me, safety is #1 priority when driving. I'm a father, have children, and my first priority is getting there safe and sound. Talking on the phone while driving, especially habitually and for no important purpose, is stupid.

RE: Plastic Bubble
By hyvonen on 7/24/2009 7:12:44 PM , Rating: 1
Here's something also to think about. Suppose talking on the phone delays your reaction by just 1 second. How many feet will a car go in 1 second? And do you think that is enough to either cause or avoid an accident?

IF talking on the phone would delay someone's reaction time by 1 second, then yes - maybe they should not be talking and driving (and they should know this. But it doesn't delay mine by one second.

And even if it did, I can do a lot of preventive measures that give me more margin on reaction time: not driving next to another car, following the traffic three cars ahead (instead of just one), only driving behind cars you can see through, keeping distance to the next car, matching your speed to traffic...

Talking on the phone while driving, especially habitually and for no important purpose, is stupid.

You're very critical of other people, and use the s-word a bit too easily. You're entitled to your own opinion, but calling other people's opinions stupid is just plain immature, especially if these opinions are based on reasonable arguments (you not being able to understand them is not an excuse).

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