flickr photo from jamacdonald

This is a guest blog entry from Karin Gerber.

Recently, U.S Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made a statement that since the use of mobile phones while driving is so dangerous, he wants to forcibly stop drivers — and in-car passengers — from using them.

I understand the importance of safe driving.  I do agree that talking on the phone with a handset or text messaging while driving is a distraction to the driver by lowering the ability to concentrate, but I find it absolutely outlandish to want to force drivers and passengers in any moving vehicle from using them.

Last month he (Ray LaHood) said he hoped to have a complete ban on talking to any kind of device in your car, including mobile phones, telematics systems like OnStar, and GPS systems.  His latest argument is to suggest that perhaps the US government will mandate technology that blocks a mobile phone from working while the car is moving.  (via TechDirt)

But why ban passengers from using a cell phone?  What if you’re on a bus or train, will the technology know the difference?  What if there is an emergency while you’re driving and you need to make a call for help?  Does that mean that whenever my passenger has to make a call, I have to dodge traffic to pull off the side of the road?  How would this technology distinguish between a civilian’s car and that of a police car, fire truck, or ambulance?

This seems like overkill to me.  So my question is… whatever happened to personal responsibility?  Why is it that we need big brother watching us over in government to make sure we do things correctly according to their regulations?  If the ban on cell phone usage should happen because of its dangerous distractions, then what about people who have passengers or children in the car with them?  Aren’t they a distraction, too?  Will they be outlawed along with those distracting cell phones?  And does that mean all cars should no longer have radios installed in them, because as we all know, changing a radio station can cause distractions?

LaHood also needs to be reminded that jamming with radio signals is in violation of the Communications Act of 1934.

The operation of transmitters designed to jam or block wireless communications is a violation of the Communications Act of 1934… The Act prohibits any person from willfully or maliciously interfering with the radio communications of any station licensed or authorized under the Act or operated by the U.S. government… The manufacture, importation, sale or offer for sale, including advertising, of devices designed to block or jam wireless transmissions is prohibited.  (via the FCC)

Currently there are cars that come with safety features that warn the driver when they come to close to another driver (i.e., adaptive cruise control/collision mitigation).  Maybe features like that need to be installed in cars and not cell phone scramblers or other such frivolous devices that us tax-payers then have to foot the bill.  I mean, if I have to pay for some kind of safety device, I’d rather invest it in the collision mitigation feature than some cell phone scrambler that can actually put my life IN danger by preventing me from making, let’s say, an emergency phone call.

Ray LaHood, keep your politics out of my car and off my cell phone… at least until you start paying my bills.