By on August 6, 2009

“If it were up to me, I would ban drivers from texting,” the Secretary of Transportation tells the LA Times. Happily, LaHood does not have the authority to unilaterally enact laws, so, “that’s why I have decided to convene a summit of senior transportation officials, safety advocates, law enforcement representatives, members of Congress and academics who study these matters.” The conference is expected to yield “concrete steps” to curb the threat of distracted drivers. Like an education and awareness campaign. Meanwhile, the Avoiding Life-Endangering and Reckless Texting by Drivers Act (ALERT Drivers, geddit?) has been introduced to the Senate. This bill would force states to pass texting-while-driving bans (with DOT-set minimum penalties) within two years of its passage, or risk losing 25 percent of their federal highway funding. Just like the good old double-nickel days. Meanwhile, has anyone thought about the difficulty in enforcing such a ban?

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28 Comments on “LaHood Plans “Distracted Driving Summit”...”


  • avatar
    Airhen

    With all these laws, you have to ask what else makes it into the bills or comes as a result of it? Better impose some more taxpayer funded studies, or check points! All in an effort to save us from ourselves…

  • avatar
    minion444

    It’s great strong arm the states, by taking away funding to get a useless law passed. The current law RECKLESS DRIVING, just desn’t cut it.

    PS. Those overhead LED roadsigns cause more accidents and traffic slow downs, because most dullards can’t read and drive either.

  • avatar

    I’m all for it. Plus, it will force the police to go around looking inside of cars they pass to see if drivers are texting. (I see them doing it all the time.) That way, they won’t sitting on the side of the road looking for speeders.

    Plus, if it’s against the law, the sanctions for people who get into accidents while texting will probably be greater.

    Finally, it will be easier to shame people into stopping. I yelled at some woman who had been texting when we got stopped at a light, and she acting like she had every right to be texting, and that I was harassing her. If there had been a law, she probably would have stopped.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    All modern cell phones contain GPS receivers which can measure speed. Reprogram them so that calls are automatically dropped if speed exceeds 10 mph. The only exception would be calls to 911.

  • avatar
    segfault

    So, the bill would make it illegal for someone to text while driving, but legal for them to surf the web, apply makeup, or watch a movie? And how would the authorities know the difference?

  • avatar
    George Keller

    “All modern cell phones contain GPS receivers which can measure speed. Reprogram them so that calls are automatically dropped if speed exceeds 10 mph. The only exception would be calls to 911″

    What if it is a passenger doing the talking/texting?

  • avatar
    menno

    I’m not sure how yet more laws would help.

    How about applying some actual, real, “common sense” and actually trying to educate/remind drivers to actually drive their damn cars while they are driving their damn cars?

    Oh silly me, we can’t be expected to learn how to be responsible for our own actions… we’re post modern human beings.

    Sorry, silly me, I’ll go sit in the corner and shut up now!

  • avatar

    @Kendahl: So passengers can’t be on the phone either? That seems a little harsh.

    I’m all for a ban on texting. There are people who will obey it because it is the law. Lots of people equate what is legal with what is safe. Alcohol-affected driving is a great example; it’s not uncommon for people to choose to drive if they figure they’re under .08 BAC (or whatever the local law dictates) but that has nothing to do with whether they’re safe to drive at that reading or not.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    I like this idea.. make the fines for this more than what speeding laws are, and incentivize police to pull over the real threats to driving safety, not the guy going 85 in 75.

    OR, as pointed out above, enforce existing laws for reckless driving and call it a day.

    Nah, politicians have to appear to be doing something even if it means taking us backward.

  • avatar
    Jesse

    Meanwhile, has anyone thought about the difficulty in enforcing such a ban?

    Shouldn’t be too hard to spot someone texting. They’ll be weaving all over the road.

    I keep telling my family that if they ever make it illegal to text/talk on a cell phone while drive, I’ll become a traffic cop just to pull people over.

    I’m with David Holzman. I love to tell people they are endangering my life. I’ll deliberately not let people pull out in front of me if they’re on their phone. I’ll motion for them to hang up and keep driving.

  • avatar
    Daniel J. Stern

    Instead of bleating “Whadda we gonna do about enforcement?!”, take a slightly longer view and you’ll see this equation is easily and effectively solved: Get in a crash, your mobile phone and its record is scrutinised. If it’s found to have been in use at the time of the crash, you earn a big, costly ticket. Adjust regulations as necessary to allow insurance companies to, ah, adjust coverage and surcharges according to the results of the phone-and-records perusal, and voila. Can you say “Deterrent”, boys and girls?

    Or, here’s an alternative: Forget the texting-while-driving laws altogether, and simply ban automatic transmissions and power steering except by application for the elderly and infirm. ;-)

  • avatar
    Old Guy Ben

    You don’t need more laws, if someone has an accident while using their cell (phone, text, whatever) then they lose their license and have their vehicle impounded for six months.

    Then they can get their mom to drive them and they can text all they want! It’ll be perfect for those idiots that can’t seem to use all their minutes while not driving.

  • avatar
    Jesse

    What if it is a passenger doing the talking/texting?

    I HATE it when people talk on the cell phone in my car while I’m driving. It usually means I have to listen to half their conversation while the tunes I was enjoying get turned down.

    And it’s distracting. I’ve heard people yell “STOP!” and it makes me panic. Turns out their just blabbing to whoever’s on the other line.

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    Talking on your phone whilst driving is a massive distraction – texting whilst driving is just f*cking stupid. People who do it should be pulled from their cars and have their phone forceably inserted where the sun-don’t-shine.
    On another note, anyone else think that these massive signs by the side of the road stating “Don’t get distracted whilst driving” are a giant distraction themselves?

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Get in a crash, your mobile phone and its record is scrutinised. If it’s found to have been in use at the time of the crash, you earn a big, costly ticket.

    That should be outstanding for the pay-as-you-go phone market, and equally fantastic for the continued erosion of our civil liberties.

    I’m fine with an anti-texting law, but it has to be accepted that enforcement as a tool for compliance is next to useless and devoting resources to enforcing it is a waste of money that will deprive law enforcement resources from more important activities.

    The only way to achieve gains is to create a change in social mores that favor it and a social stigma against it, so that the behavior is self-enforcing. Being draconian may humor the vigilantes, but it won’t actually accomplish anything.

    That strategy worked with seat belt usage and achieved the early gains with DUI compliance, unlike the useless sobriety checkpoints that just lead to stops being made without probable cause. The same thing could probably work with texting, but it will take awhile and it would probably not be effective for phone calls.

  • avatar

    More nanny state laws to strangle us with.

    In between Cap & Tax, the new communist non-health care plan and now this nonsense, I have to wonder what day the revolution will start? Anybody seen any Vegas odds?

  • avatar
    FishTank

    This will soon be law in Ontario (Canada). One of the few “silly” laws I COMPLETELY AGREE with. Take a good look next time you’re driving (and try not to et killed doing so) – bets are pretty good that the person swerving in the lane ahead, or driving slowly in the passing lane, or reacting too late to traffic slowdown is texting. Was just watching a news piece on this – the anecdotal and video evidence to support a ban like this is astounding. It takes five seconds to look up from the phone and refocus on surroundings. Saying we should take away a license AFTER they hit/possibly kill someone is like saying we don’t fine someone for not wearing a seatbelt until _after_ they go through the windshield.

    How did we EVER get along without text messaging in our cars before? All that useless drivel and self-important texting couldn’t possibly wait ’til we get to work or home could it? [rolls eyes]

    Yes – enforcing it would be next to impossible, but at least making it a law with stiff penalties _might_ make people think twice about it. And if the authorities know that if they hit a car while texting, and the telco and cops can prove they were in the middle of a conversation then hit ‘em hard!

  • avatar
    NoSubstitute

    This is a simple matter of civil liberties. I may not agree with what the guy in the other car is texting, but I’ll fight to the death for his right to crash into me while his eyes are on his iPhone.

  • avatar
    Highway27

    This is one of those things that shouldn’t need to be a law, because it should be pretty darn obvious that you’re not paying attention to the road when you’re face down in your cell phone. But even without people knowing that, I don’t see how it doesn’t fit under current ‘reckless driving’ laws anyway.

    I also think the idea of ‘Let’s check records and if the phone was in use, we’ll nail them’. How are you really going to differentiate between someone who hung up the phone 30 seconds earlier, and was paying full attention and still gets walloped by someone else’s bad driving? And what’s the first thing you do after you get in an accident? Pull out the phone and call someone – Spouse, Work, EMS. Usually within 30 seconds of the accident. The time of accident’s not gonna be that precise, so the person who wasn’t on the phone and calls afterward would still be in jeopardy to checking that.

  • avatar
    dean

    NoSub: can’t agree with you, buddy. Protection of your privacy vis-a-vis post-crash examination of your phone records is certainly a civil liberty issue. Making a law against texting and driving, while redundant with reckless driving laws, is not.

  • avatar
    FishTank

    No Substitute: So by that reasoning, it’s my civil right to drive with my feet while closing my eyes? I kill one of your relatives (gawd forbid), and you’ll be sad, but hey that’s cool – It was my right to drive that way. Don’t know if it’s the law to drive with your eyes open, but it should be because people are DUMB. Driving really is a privilege, not a RIGHT. Next we’ll have people making pizzas or fresh coldcut subs in their cars, or maybe even design their dream home on their laptops while driving. Because it’s a “right”?

    Highway 27: You’re texting in your car – you’re busted. Normal hands-free cell phone use in an accident is ok. Who’s gonna text 911?

  • avatar
    hdtestrider

    If your required to have a eye test, you should also be required to have a I.Q. test.
    You must be “this” smart to drive.
    That would eliminate 80 percent.
    No more brains free driving.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    This is another law that simply will not be enforced.

    For years we had “handsfree only” laws for cellphones in Chicago while driving and I’ve never EVER read/seen/heard about it being enforced, even once.

    Btw, can we ban driving while smoking as well? I got hit by a lit cigarette yesterday. Bounced off my body armor while I was commuting to work on my motorcycle. I think next time I commute I might need to commute with some rocks in the cargo net. It would be a shame if they slipped.

  • avatar
    IronEagle

    Wouldn’t be hard to spot at all. On the way home from my girlfriend’s place about 15 minutes ago. Sitting in the turn lane at the red light behind some monkey in an Altima holding up his phone. Guy was swerving all over his lane when we got going on a 35mph two lane road. So he slowed down to about 25 mph with me behind him and so I blared the horn of the Ram at him real good. He sped up and was STILL looking at this phone. Made me wish I had the cowcatcher/spikes from Tyrese’s Ram in Death Race.

  • avatar
    Old Guy Ben

    I’m ready to buy one of those gizmos that jam’s cell phone reception, but apparently? THAT would be illegal.

    Looks like the idiots will win this one, too.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Finally, it will be easier to shame people into stopping. I yelled at some woman who had been texting when we got stopped at a light, and she acting like she had every right to be texting, and that I was harassing her. If there had been a law, she probably would have stopped.

    But there wasn’t a law, so she did have every right, and you were harassing her.

  • avatar
    Dangerous Dave

    I’m all for a law banning texting while driving, its insane. What I don’t like is the Federal Government blackmail of the states. Either make it a federal law, or recommend the states enact the law. Most states would jump on it as a new source of revenue, without the blackmail.

  • avatar
    Hellcakes

    I’m ready to buy one of those gizmos that jam’s cell phone reception, but apparently THAT would be illegal.

    They’re not strong enough to jam a phone 20+ feet away and behind two layers of Car, anyway. Not that I’d know…


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