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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 dark matter on 7/23/2009 4:03:25 PM , Rating: 3
How did I know you were someone better than everyone else.

Everyone thinks they are a better driver than everyone else.

Put it this way.

If the call is not that important that it isn't affecting your driving, then why are you having it. Let it wait.

If the call is important that it requires you to actually think, ie a call from work, then that requires your concentration. In which case it is affecting your driving.

Either way, there is no NEED to drive and talk at the same time. Yet there is an increased risk if you do. Work it out will you.

RE: Plastic Bubble
By FITCamaro on 7/24/2009 8:18:35 AM , Rating: 1
There is no NEED to drive period. We could walk or ride a bike. Driving is a convenience and a privilege.

I did not claim to be better than everyone else. I did claim that there are a lot of stupid people out there. And that any good driver should be able to have a conversation while staying aware of the situation around them. To me talking on the phone is no different than having a passenger in the car and talking to them. Should that be outlawed too?

RE: Plastic Bubble
By hyvonen on 7/24/2009 3:11:14 PM , Rating: 1
If the call is not that important that it isn't affecting your driving, then why are you having it. Let it wait.

If the call isn't affecting your driving, why not have it? Yes, there is no NEED to drive and talk at the same time, but it might be useful for you to talk while driving (e.g., ask for directions).

The increase in risk depends on the person (good drivers vs. bad drivers). How about if you let me evaluate my risk myself, and set the penalties to punish me appropriately if my evaluation was off and I committed a traffic violation.

I haven't been in an accident or even had a ticket for 15 years, and I've used a cell phone while driving all that time. I've had only two accidents before that, and they were caused by 1) using the car stereos, and 2) looking at a pretty girl in a mini-skirt. I know I can handle a cell phone while driving.

RE: Plastic Bubble
By TomZ on 7/24/2009 4:16:37 PM , Rating: 3
If the call isn't affecting your driving, why not have it?
Because it is negatively affecting your safety and the safety of those around you. And for what? To chat with your buddy about some nonsense? That kind of tradeoff is not too smart if you ask me.

It's perfectly obvious to me that you're overconfident in your abilities and in denial about the research and statistics that are emerging.

RE: Plastic Bubble
By hyvonen on 7/24/2009 7:21:31 PM , Rating: 1
Again misinterpreting my words. I clearly said "IF the call isn't affecting your driving..."

How do you know that I would be chatting with my buddy about some nonsense? (FYI, I usually keep my phone conversations short, and to the point.) How do you know that I'm overconfident? Maybe I'm being truthful; you don't have any way of knowing.

Also, it seems you don't understand statistics. There are people whose driving ability is affected by cell phones only a little bit, while an average person would be affected significantly more.

In my opinion, even if talking on the phone, I'm still safer to those around me than someone who changes lanes without signaling. Do you signal every time you change the lanes? Do you signal when turning BEFORE breaking?

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