LaHood: We Must Kill Distracted Driving Before It Kills Us

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood kicked off the DoT’s first-ever “Distracted Driving Summit” in Washington today with a speech calling texting while driving a “menace to society.” LaHood cited just-released NHTSA data ( PDF) showing that 6,000 road deaths, or about 15 percent of the 2008 total, were caused by distracted drivers as evidence of what he termed a “deadly epidemic.” According to the Detroit News, LaHood singled out drivers under the age of 20 as the worst offenders and called for “a combination of strong laws, tough enforcement and ongoing public education.” And though there seems to be little outcry over the singling out of young whippersnappers, the cell phone industry wants to make sure its products don’t become the scapegoat for LaHood’s ominous metaphors. Makeup, GPS systems, food and other distractions are being discussed as potential targets for action. The summit’s media facts page even points out that “distraction from cell phone use while driving (hand held or hands free) delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent.” Sorry Ford! A Maine law banning all forms of driver distraction is being looked at as an example, but even LaHood concedes that “We cannot rely on legal action alone, because in reality, you can’t legislative behavior. There aren’t enough police on patrol to catch everyone who’s breaking the law.” Which is a fantastic point, but one that’s apparently not stopping LaHood from considering invasive enforcement techniques.

In an ongoing livechat at the DOT website, the question was raised:

James Clawson: Again, it’s going to be almost impossible to prove that someone was texting or surfing the internet while driving. How do they enforce these laws?

The answer?

Sec’y LaHood’s Team: Good point, James, but I think it may be easier than we know–via our wireless providers.

Fantastic. So, LaHood and company acknowledge they’re tackling an ineradicable issue, but they’re willing to use Patriot Act-level techniques to prosecute it anyway? Any other deep thoughts from Team LaHood?

What about enhanced penalties for killing someone while driving and texting? Like many states do for alcohol offenses or gun offenses.

So now distracted driving is a hate crime?

Panels and discussion are scheduled throughout today, and LaHood will announce an action plan sometime tomorrow. Here’s hoping it doesn’t involve a declaration of martial law, the suspension of posse comitatus and the establishment of re-education camps.

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  • on Oct 01, 2009

    Here's a wild idea, punish people for the damage they create. A local lady got a slap on the wirst for vehicular manslaughter when she rear ended a stopped car in a construction zone while texting at 65 mph. How about treating people like her like the murderers they are. No need for unenforceable laws, other than the politicians need to look like he/she is doing something. By the way, is anybody else tired, annoyed, even po'd by all of the "summits" and "czars." Who first got the idea to expand the number of bureaucrats by coming up with the position of czar within the federal government? P.S. Texing is already illegal in California, and I had a CHP officer tell me that the law is impossible to enforce. How often is somebody going to text while holding the phone up for the cop to see them doing it? Most people text with the phone down in the vicinity of their lap. At least that's my observation and the officer's.

  • Love2drive Love2drive on Oct 01, 2009

    Since police can't enforce this, more likely outcome is that phones technology will be legislated to link in to the CAN BUS in cars, disabling the phone when it's traveling more than 5 mph or something. It'd be tricky software, but it's possible. Older cars without CANBUS will work, but then they'll all be crushed in the next round of cash for clunkers...

  • JamesGarfield What charging network does the Polestar use?
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