Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Can You Hear Me Now?

Photograph by Artpose Adam Borkowski / Shutterstock

I’ll admit, I’m guilty of texting while driving occasionally. (Although I really try not to)   The National Transportation Board (NTSB) has recommended that all cell phone usage be banned by all drivers.  The ban would include talking, texting, and using all hands free devices.  An exception would be made for devices that “aid” driver safety, such as GPS.  

There are 35 states that ban texting while driving.  In my experience (PA is one of them) these laws are usually very “liberally” enforced; if at all.  To me this is one of the problems that I have with this proposal.  In theory a law that bans people from talking on or texting while driving is a great idea.  However if it’s not enforced, just how effective is it?  

 I live in Philadelphia and including myself, I see too many people to count driving while talking and/or texting.  I’m not saying it doesn’t happen but I’ve yet to talk to anyone that has received a ticket for violating this law.  I’ve also seen the same cops that are to enforce the cell phone law, actually breaking the law while on duty.  So to me maybe the problem isn’t the law, it’s the enforcement.

The second problem that I have with this proposal is the reasoning behind it.  The NTSB has given numerous examples of deadly accidents that have occurred due to people talking or texting while driving.  Now, I’m not an idiot.  I agree that it should be illegal to text and talk on the phone while driving.  What I don’t agree with is banning hands free devices.  It’s not that I don’t agree that having a phone conversation while driving could be distracting.  My issue is what about all the other things that can go on in a car while driving that are distracting?

If you are going to ban having a phone conversation on a hands free device while driving, how can you possible say that a GPS is ok?  If you’ve ever driven or ridden in a car that is using GPS it can be pretty distracting.  What about eating or drinking while driving?  How many people have you’ve ever heard of getting a ticket for eating a bacon, egg and cheese?  What about playing with the radio in a car?  I’ve had my driver’s license for 16 years.  Of those 16 years I’ve had a cell phone for 13 of them.  Number of accidents caused by using a cell phone?  Zero.  Number of accidents caused by playing with the radio?  One.

Courtesy of
The NTSB argues that having a phone conversation while driving, even on a hands free device, can cause the driver to lose focus.  So can driving while not having enough sleep.  Do people get tickets for that?  I’ve had many “heated” conversations while driving that very easily could’ve led to me “losing focus”.  Never received a ticket for any of those times.  Billboards on the highway, street signs, etc. can all cause a driver to lose focus yet they’re all legal.

Courtesy of
The point I’m trying to make is that while in theory the NTSB’s proposal makes sense, it’s just not practical.  Since most states already have laws dealing with this problem, the simple solution is to simply enforce the existing laws.  In my opinion there are a ton of things that can distract a driver; to focus on cell phones just doesn’t make sense. 

Just to be clear, I’m not against banning texting and/or talking while driving.  You are never going to be able to completely get rid of people texting while driving.  Enforcing existing laws could help.  Who knows, maybe by enforcing the existing laws would free up time to solve some real problems that are going in this country.  I’m anxious to hear everyone’s take on this issue so be sure to leave a comment. 

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @Obs_Views_Blog and like our Facebook page.  Until next time this is Jimbo saying please don’t read Obstructed Views while driving….pull off to the side of the road first.


  1. I think that if they're going to start banning everything distracting in the car then the number one thing that needs to be banned is driving in the car with small children! I've had to referee fights, put down and umbrella my son opened while I was driving on the beltway, and saved my 2-yr-old from choking himself with a pair of goggles while driving, all of which have been far more distracting than anything I've ever done on a cell phone.

  2. Here in Australia, we have enforced laws about using a phone while driving. I know quite a few people who have received a $250 fine for using a phone while driving. Though I agree, it is misguided to target phones when people can smoke, eat, and put on makeup, at least it's enforced here!

  3. When I heard of this proposed law, my thought went immediately to eating food or how about smoking. Hmm, maybe this is the backdoor to banning smoking in cars? (No, I am not a smoker and find that whole argument questionable at best.) The government is still engaged in social engineering and has not learned its lesson from prohibition. Thanks for your perspective,

    Leanne Hoagland-Smith

  4. From a philosophical point of view, I agree with the ban. Studies done suggest that the real risk is the lack of shared context: the person on the other side of the call doesn't know what you're doing, seeing, etc. This isn't the case when talking with someone in the car, or even when listening to music, using a GPS, etc. While all are distractions, the "shared context" distinction puts conversations on a different plane. (As far as texting--please! It's never been okay to read while your driving, or fixing your makeup, etc. We probably need the law due to proliferation of the habit.

    From a practical point of view, it can't happen by legislating behavior and using resources to police that behavior. The only successful method of enforcement I can think of would be to legislate some kind of shielding in the cars themselves, something that activates when the motor's running.

    My last point is that I've heard some argue that this is a personal choice: it's not. Other people can (and have) died because someone thought the most important thing they could be doing (as opposed to driving) was to tell somebody about the absolutely killer chicken salad they just had at the Cheesecake Factory. Frankly, I'd like a bit of protection from those people!

  5. I read an article in our newspaper this morning about people who were opposed to this proposed ban. Lawyers, businessmen, etc. who use their cars as their mobile offices claimed using their phones while driving was essential to their business. The lawyers claimed they added many billable hours to their income by responding to their clients' calls wile driving and one businessman apparently uses his phone the entire time he's driving (a total of three hours driving to and from work) for business. Frankly, I find it alarming that so many drivers are driving around out there with their attention focused on things other than their driving. Maybe those drivers could add a red flag to their car antenna to warn the rest of us!