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U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood wants to make our roads a safer place. Distracted driving is arguably his number one issue, and LaHood is waging a concerted campaign to try and curb it. Is he taking things a step too far, though? According to Automotive News, LaHood has now stated that he believes motorists are distracted by any use of a mobile device while driving. This includes making hands-free calls through the use of in-car or in-ear Bluetooth devices. LaHood's department is going to begin researching all types of mobile device usage to see how they affect drivers. He also plans to meet with automakers to try and gain support for his campaign to eliminate distracting driving.

According to the report, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration feels that Ray LaHood is focusing too closely on one area of motoring safety, rather than the bigger picture. NHTSA officials are quoted as saying that current distracted driving crash statistics may be inflated because not all law enforcement agencies are properly trained to recognize a distracted driving accident. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety even went so far as to release a study showing that new texting laws have not influenced accident rates in a positive manner.

Ray Lahood has quite an uphill battle on his hands. Even if he and his team can prove that hands-free usage of mobile devices increase accident rates, the practice is so deeply ingrained in the brains of the overall driving public – not to mention the businesses associated with it – that it will be difficult to convince motorists to not use their phones while driving at all. LaHood is optimistic, however,
"The bottom line for me is to get where we're at with seat belts and with drunk driving. When those programs were started, people were very skeptical that you could get people to buckle up."
So don't adopt the "You can pry my iPhone from my cold dead hands" attitude just yet. Secretary LaHood is merely investigating the matter at this point. There are no plans to call for a ban just yet, but at least one NHTSA official admits it's a possibility.

[Source: Automotive News – sub. req.| Image: Mark Wilson/Getty]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      BRAVO Mr. LaHood!!!! Please do so ASAP!
      • 4 Years Ago
      I propose those caught on act to be put in jail. They shoud be convicted for attempting comiting suicide and homicide.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Not gonna happen. That genie is out of the bottle.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Texting while driving it not a good idea, but banning all cell use is going too far. Gotta love Big Brother!

      • 4 Years Ago
      Reading all these comments you would think you have some right to drive a car? DRIVING A CAR IS A PRIVELEDGE IN THIS COUNTRY NOT A RIGHT!
      At one time BMW refused to put cup holders in there cars,why? Because they believe as i do that both hands should be on the wheel at all times.Not holding a cigerette, lip stick tube, reading the newspapers, or a book and holding the phone yacking away. It amazes me that any of you would even consider knocking this since i know all of you on here hold the steering wheel with both hands, right Autoblog editers?
      • 4 Years Ago
      It would be funny to see them try and enforce this.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I would think that Ray LaHood's time and our money would be better spent pushing mass transit options than trying to ban all in-car communications. If there were reliable wide-spread mass transit options for all in even moderate suburban areas, you would remove far more cell phone callers and texters from the road than by outright banning the devices. How many people need to work ridiculous long or weird hours and are only able to make personal calls (or required to make business calls) while traveling? I know that when I had a cell phone for work, I was expected to take calls regardless of where I was or what I was doing. If I could have been on a light rail commuter train (or a non-disgusting bus), everyone would have been safer.
      • 4 Years Ago
      He's asking for too much at this point.

      I agree with texting and hand held bans on 100% of the country, i also think stiffer penalties would help reduce the number of people that do it.

      But he's being counterproductive in asking for all phone use including hands free to stop. People were previously on his side, but nobody likes when you ask for a hand and take the whole arm.
      It's a battle that even if he wins on paper, how do you prevent people from using bluetooth headsets?

      Getting manufacturers online for this too? Ya, right.
      Last time i checked ford and gm were making a bundle on the sync and onstar.
      • 4 Years Ago
      People have only really had cellphones in their cars since the late 1980s, and later in many cases. It was a super-luxury item, and then a luxury, and then just expensive long before it became a mass item.

      So this is not like something that has existed since the dawn of time. It's only about the last 20 years and less for a lot of people. I got my first cellphone about 13 years ago and at the time almost nobody I knew had one.

      People managed to drive before they had a cellphone and could drive after.

      My first car had a cassette tape player. Oooh. My current car streams internet radio and plays MP3s and such. There's also a DSTAR radio when I get bored and want to hear people sound like Skype or talk to them. All these things are nice to have but they and the cellphone are just extras. Ultimately getting from place to place from point A to point B is unchanged and pretty much the point of driving.

      • 4 Years Ago
      I have a huge problem with this. Number one the ultimate expression of this ban would be to prevent drivers from doing anything but staring at the road and holding the wheel with both hands while driving. Secondly, it assumes that all accidents that occur when someone was on a cellphone happened SPECIFICALLY because the person was on the cellphone, as opposed to because the person is a scatterbrained moron that can't walk and chew gum at the same time. I once knew a guy who ran into a car in front of him because he was staring at a hot chick on the street. It's rather obvious that banning hot chicks and/or banning a driver from looking out the side windows of their car is not a sensible solution.

      Even the idea that someone shouldn't talk on a cell while driving because it "dangerously" occupies one of your hands is ridiculous. It's legal to eat while driving and it's legal to drink a beverage while driving, both of which occupy your hands. It's also legal to shift gears on a manual. It's even legal to adjust radio stations and heater/air conditioning controls. They gonna ban that too? Don't laugh, it could happen. Also how can they justify that police officers and firemen are allowed to use a CB and computer in their car WHILE driving, but Joe Public can't?

      What I'm also seeing happen here is that there's this elitist utopian idea that one day accident statistics will be reduced zero if only we keep banning and banning anything that may conceivably cause an accident. This is something that can never happen because accidents by design are an unforseen consequence to behavior you thought was benign. What they're doing is called "Levelling down" where the assumption is that all drivers are retarded and can't drive, thus must be protected from themselves. This is not the correct way to deal with the problem. It also punishes a majority for a minority's faults.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'd prefer a more reasonable ban....that of window tinting so that I can clearly see phone-to-ear or head-down-texting and give the car a wide berth, or know that a horn blow at a car stopped at a green light is completely justified. ;) realistic...not so much.

      In rush hour I find myself honking at the first car in line lately, who is usually someone banging away a text, which will ultimately cause a few people to miss the light, causing heavier traffic to last longer.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Wow. I bet Ford is not happy with that because its MyFord Touch will be targeted too.
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