Should the feds ban mobile phone use while driving?

Fleet managers deploying new hands-free efficiency technologies, as well as automotive company focus on smart vehicle systems should watch developments closely.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

Sounds like the feds are getting more serious about the issue of using your mobile phone to text or talk while driving. Although 38 states have already passed laws that regulate the use of cell phones while behind the wheel -- part of their efforts to cut back on distracted driving -- U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has renewed his calls for a federal law to ban the practice.

According to several articles covering a speech made by LaHood at a distracted driving summit in Texas, the transportation secretary believes a separate law is necessary for mobile phones because of the explosion in usage and the because it believes there were at least 3,000 fatal traffic accidents in 2011 directly related to mobile phones.

A Reuters article covering LaHood's speech quoted his rationale: "Everyone has a cell phone and too many of us think it is OK to talk on our phones while we are driving."

I don't think any one of us would argue against the need for people to apply more common sense while they are driving. Chances are, you have almost been sideswiped on the highway by someone glancing down at a text while they should be watching the road. And admit it, you've probably sneaked a peek yourself while stopped at a traffic light. Smack yourself, would you?

But the federal push against this practice could have broader implications for in-vehicle technologies that are being installed by fleets in order to improve efficiency and for voice-activated in-vehicle systems being installed by automakers. If the laws are written too broadly, many of these smart systems could fall under the mobile phone and gadget ban.

During his speech LaHood commented that the transportation department is studying the impact of hands-free devices quite closely, according to the Reuters article. Apparently, LaHood has personally called major automotive CEOs to urge them to "think twice" before putting too many Internet-connected devices into cars, the article reported.

This is nowhere near a law, yet, but it's another example of how innovation often outpaces the ability of society and human behavior to manage it.

[via Reuters]

(Image courtesy of Stock.xchng)

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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