Ban hands-free car phone use? Who, us?

by Walter Olson on December 27, 2011

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, who has made “distracted driving” his “signature safety issue,” is putting distance between himself and the NTSB’s call for a sweeping ban. [Reuters, Tina Korbe/Hot Air, earlier here and here]

{ 4 comments }

1 AZFlyer 12.27.11 at 5:38 pm

The distraction is not created by holding a phone to your ear. It’s created by diverting your attention from the road to the conversation. Studies with vehicle simulators show that the distraction level is the same with either type of phone. Why should “hands-free” even be an issue?

2 Smart Dude 12.27.11 at 8:34 pm

Long distance truckers have been using hand held CB radios since 1958. They have been barrelling along the Interstates at 75 miles per hour in their 80,000 pound (40 ton) tracter trailers.

After 53 years, I am unaware of this ever being a safety issue.

On the other hand I commonly see other drivers texting and/or surfing the Internet with their smartphones.

Why don’t we focus on this real problem, rather than hands free talking? Otherwise the federal Hyper-Bureaucrats will outlaw talking to other passengers next, with a new criminal charge to boot.

3 Scott Jacobs 12.28.11 at 3:36 pm

AZFlyer – by that logic, they need to ban radios in cars, and passengers, as both can cause distraction.

4 AZFlyer 12.28.11 at 6:25 pm

Scott,
Where in my “logic” did I advocate the banning of anything? I agree that many things can cause distractions. I was merely pointing out that the distinction between hands-free phone conversations vs. handheld ones has not proven significant in the laboratory, although the common wisdom seems to believe otherwise.

I’ve particpated in several aviation studies related to distractions, communications and ergonomics in the cockpit. Distractions come in varying degrees and cannot all be lumped together as your “logic” suggests. I would only say, at this point, that the data on driving while having a cell phone conversation appears to show a much higher level of distraction than listening to the radio or conversing with a passenger.

Anecdotally, as a motorcycle rider for the last 30 yrs., I have noticed in the last decade or so, that the vast majority of people making stupid manuevers that threaten my life, seem to be talking on the phone.

As far a banning goes, I’d like to see the science first.

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