Here We Go: Ray LaHood Calls For A Federal Ban On Cell Phone Use While Driving


LaHood has been flirting with the notion of banning wireless phone usage for a few years, running it up the flag pole, pushing cities and states to ban the usage, but, many people stated that this was simply Ray thinking out loud, a little wishful thinking, nothing would happen. But, now

(MSNBC) U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called on Thursday for a federal law to ban talking on a cell phone or texting while driving any type of vehicle on any road in the country.

Tough federal legislation is the only way to deal with what he called a “national epidemic,” he said at a distracted-driving summit in San Antonio, Texas, that drew doctors, advocates and government officials.

LaHood said it is important for the police to have “the opportunity to write tickets when people are foolishly thinking they can drive safely or use a cell phone and text and drive.”

LaHood has previously criticized behind-the-wheel use of cell phones and other devices, but calling for a federal law prohibiting the practice takes his effort to a new level.

Just another in a long line of big nanny state liberals. However, the chance of there being legislation crafted and voted on in Congress is effectively nill. Nor would Obama attempt an executive order. Whether some Congress Critters, particularly Democrats, call for legislation, or at least hearings, well, that I could see happening. And perhaps a law which creates a “spreading awareness” campaign that costs hundreds of millions of dollars.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 3,000 fatal traffic accidents nationwide last year were the result of distracted driving. Using a cell phone while driving delays reaction time the same amount as having a blood alcohol concentration of .08, the legal limit, the highway agency said.

On the other hand, LaHood has a good point. Driving while using electronic devices is pretty darned distracting

The nine most common distractions observed in conjunction with a risky driving maneuver were (for 2010):

  • Object in Hand/44.5%
  • Talking on a Handheld Mobile Phone/13.4%
  • Beverage/12.7%
  • Food /10.1%
  • Smoking/9.9%
  • Operating a Handheld Device/9.1%
  • Talking/Listening Mobile Phone – Hands Free/5.2%
  • Manifest, Map or Navigation/1.0%
  • Grooming/Personal Hygiene/0.6%

Basically, driving a car is risky behavior. Taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chance of being involved in an accident. Missing from the list above is talking to passengers and car stereos.

Whether it’s turning around to talk to your kids or looking at the person sitting in your passenger seat, the NHTSA estimates that talking to passengers was the leading distraction in 7,000 crashes last year. Although the department’s research stated that passengers typically pose only a “cognitive” distraction, it’s still one of the most common causes of distracted driving.

We should have a federal law banning passengers. We should ban beverages and food, because they are, for all intense purposes, as bad as talking on a phone. And MP3 players should be banned. I know I’ve been distracted by them while searching for a song. I bet you have, too.

Exactly what would a law do? There are already existing laws that make distracted driving illegal. At the State level. Driving while impaired laws are state laws, not federal laws (except on federal property. A federal law covers that). If a State or city wants to pass laws, that’s within their right. The last thing we need is more federal regulation, though, I wonder if the Feds would sue and state or municipality that passes restrictions that are tougher than federal law, like with the Arizona and other states’ immigration laws.

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach.

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