The more things change, the more they stay the same. According to a report at carinsurance.com, Department of Transportation chief Ray LaHood isn't the first person to take on distracted driving.

In 1930, George A. Packer, then the Massachusetts registrar of motor vehicles, wanted the state to ban "newfangled" radios that were beginning to come with the cars. Radios, Packer argued, were dangerous because of the distractions they caused. Motorists would have to take their hands off the wheel to adjust the volume or search for a new station. Soft music at night might lull drivers to sleep. Louder music might even distract drivers in other vehicles.

Massachusetts even held a hearing on the dangers of the radio in motor cars, but, ultimately, Packer's efforts failed.

LaHood has fared better with his campaign against texting and general distracted driving, carinsurance.com points out. So far, 39 states have banned texting while driving and 10 states have banned operating a handheld phone behind the wheel. More bans are likely. And that may not be a good thing.


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  • 33 Comments
      TubsMckenzie
      • 2 Years Ago
      "More bans are likely. And that may not be a good thing." Good lord, I cannot believe what I am reading. I am ASTOUNDED that any intelligent car enthusiast could possibly have this opinion. Flabbergasted, even. Are you honestly comparing radios to texting? A radio can be operated without looking at the device. The typical while-driving operation involves pressing a preset button or turning a knob. They are physical buttons so you can feel a tactile response, and if you've owned your car for longer than a week, you should be able to locate them without even looking. The process of changing a station or volume takes one second max. Maybe this was different back when we had analog tuning knobs, but it's not a relevant argument now. Texting requires nearly 100% of your mental attention, it requires you to look at your screen to see what you're typing, and even if you fancy yourself a good thumb-typist who can do it without looking, current day smartphones don't have physical keyboards you can feel. YOU HAVE TO LOOK AT THE SCREEN TO TYPE. Plus, texting is either quick with two hands or incredibly slow with one hand. So either you have zero hands on the wheel and your mind is preoccupied for 10 seconds, or you have 1 hand on the wheel and your mind is preoccupied for 30 seconds. Neither is ideal. So radio operation requires a passing thought and 1 second of one hand being off the wheel, and texting requires full mental attention, and half a minute (if you're skilled) of one or both hands being off the wheel. And you're SERIOUSLY going to imply that these are comparable from a risk/legal standpoint. Jesus Christ.
        SpikedLemon
        • 2 Years Ago
        @TubsMckenzie
        I'd argue that many of the touch screen devices with no tactile feedback as to what you're selecting without visual feedback do take your attention off the road. Example: Ford's Sync.
          Brett
          • 2 Years Ago
          @SpikedLemon
          The nice thing about many of those systems though is that you can use voice commands. I made a 900-mile drive in a SYNC-equipped car and it connected and voice-activated my iPhone so I could make calls and play music without any manual input from me.
        telm12345
        • 2 Years Ago
        @TubsMckenzie
        Tubs, I don't think anyone is implying that its the same thing, but radios are the number one cause of accidents in the US. I think the issue is cultural. Luxury cars in Europe allow for TV functionality which would never happen here because we are terrible drivers. We are distracted driveres here, period, and the laws preventing this hardly get enforced and the ramifications even when caught are way too small. The issue is that we need to adopt much more difficult driver's tests and much bigger penalties. The fact that people can take a test on an automatic and then drive a manual here as they wish does not exist in most other 1st world nations. The other issue is that we allow parents to teach kids to drive when they are 15/16 when in other countries it requires a licensed professional to teach anyone how to drive and not before they turn 17/18 (not counting scooters). We just don't have respect for vehicles or the road and no one cares, so this is the result.
      djpatrick35
      • 2 Years Ago
      Why is this even an ongoing topic? My blood curdles when I'm on the highway in traffic and someone pulls up behind me texting or yacking on the phone while (s)he's driving. Why? Because I, like so many people on this site, LOVE my car! Seriously. I can't tell you how many times I've nearly been rear-ended by people jacking around with their cellphones rather than driving their cars. Sure, it won't stop everything, but tickets may make a few think twice. That, and it's something that can be controlled and has a real-world solution - Bluetooth. Everything else - eating, messing with kids, etc, there's no easy alternative and phones are simple to spot and single out - they're the cigarettes of the driving world.
      Randy Perkins
      • 2 Years Ago
      The person who ran into me was not diddling with their radio.....it was texting.
      Big Squid
      • 2 Years Ago
      Drivers who text while driving should have their phones confiscated and smashed right then and there at the side of the road. Clearly the author, Scott Burgess, is guilty of texting and driving as well. He thinks he is special and should be able to get away with it because his life is so important that he shouldn't put it on hold for anything. Take his iphone and smash it in front of him.
      Brett
      • 2 Years Ago
      I'd really like to see Burgess' justification for that twanger at the end that leaves us hanging. What about the bans may not be a good thing? Not necessarily arguing, because I enjoy calling and catching up with friends and family on the road (great way to stay awake on a long drive), but please, don't leave us hanging with an unsupported claim like that one...
        Mpowered
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Brett
        i know seriously. i clicked the headline to try to read more and was sorely disappointed when there was none.
      SloopJohnB
      • 2 Years Ago
      You're a moron and a stupid twit if you can't STFU while driving. Texting too.
      telm12345
      • 2 Years Ago
      I am sorry, but I've had enough of this distracted driving topic. The issue isn't distracted driving, its just plain lazy driving we are used in the US. Its also the reason why we have so much more road rage here than in other countries (i.e. Italy). No, it's not okay to drive and text, nor is it to sit in the left lane going 68 MPH because you just don't care. It starts with how easily we get licenses here without real respect to what vehicles are capable of and rules aren't taught well nor respected or enforced. Its just getting worse and worse because we expect everyone else to take the blame. Like suing McDonalds because you got fat or like suing someone who texted you because you were stupid enough to try and text them back while driving.
        Mike Callen
        • 2 Years Ago
        @telm12345
        Kinda like having children...
        Jason
        • 2 Years Ago
        @telm12345
        I can say the same thing for getting a license in Japan. For a Japanese, it is nearly 100% necessary to get a license via a driving school which costs between $2,000 to $3,000 to complete over at least a month's time, if not longer. That cost is more than I spent on my first car! Even for me, already having my U.S. driver's license, I had to go through a driving course, both written test and a very hard driving test, that is unbelievably strict. I actually failed the driving test the first time, which is the norm. The reason for failure? Brushing a curb lightly while driving down a super narrow S-curved road on the driving course. So it might not be a bad thing to increase the cost of getting a license in the U.S. as well as the education process for obtaining the license.
          telm12345
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Jason
          Jason, out of curiousity, is it a different license there if you drive a manual vs. automatic?
          Jason
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Jason
          @telm12345 -- Yes, it is. I took the test in the government's automatic vehicle. The only driving I really ever did in Japan was in rental cars which were all automatic. Taxi drivers mostly drove automatics there too. However, in Korea I saw that pretty much every taxi was a manual, as were a lot of other Korean friends' cars as well.
        Andre Neves
        • 2 Years Ago
        @telm12345
        "It starts with how easily we get licenses here..." THAT! The reason Europeans tends to have much higher driving standards than we do here is the fact that getting a driver's license over there is FAR more difficult than in the states. Takes longer & is very expensive so people have a higher respect for it.
      Dark Gnat
      • 2 Years Ago
      Texting while driving should be considered a DUI. I've seen people weaving and swerving, nearly hitting other cars because instead of looking at the road, they were staring at their damned iphone. If you text while driving - you are a sphincter. Radios are fine, but I think touchscreens are potentially dangerous. With my "old-fashioned radio" I can change channels/tracks, adjust the volume and navigate directories with a remote while keeping my eyes in the road. I can feel the buttons and know what I'm doing. I also don't have to lean forward, so I can still the mirrors. Touch screens require visual contact to operate. When you are looking at a screen, you are not looking at the road.
      thumerzs
      • 2 Years Ago
      Bad analogy, or perhaps, anatomy. Texting requires concentrated effort of one's eyes. Radios only require passive use of one's ears. In general, I believe a deaf man would drive better than a blind one.
        telm12345
        • 2 Years Ago
        @thumerzs
        Thumerzs, believe it or not most accidents, albeit not deadly, are caused by distracted driving due to using the radio, not anything else. I agree that its getting better with redundant controls, but it is still the number one cause of accidents.
          telm12345
          • 2 Years Ago
          @telm12345
          Sorry, radios are number 2, close 2nd to phones. Sourced all over the internet as well.
          telm12345
          • 2 Years Ago
          @telm12345
          I love people downvoting factual information. Any better definition for ignorance?
          telm12345
          • 2 Years Ago
          @telm12345
          Source? I am an AAI certified insurance analyst.
      Dbm
      • 2 Years Ago
      And let's not forget those dangerous windshield wipers that will hypnotize drivers.
      Andre Neves
      • 2 Years Ago
      Until they make penalties a lot more severe other than the typical sub-$100 fine if caught, I don't see this problem going away. The fines aren't high enough, there are no moving-violation points involved(which I think their should be), & the thought of getting caught by police isn't too concerning. If they treated this as they do with intoxicated people since you have similar risks & dangers, people would look at it in a whole new light. Higher fines, points, & license suspensions would make people think twice about it.
        telm12345
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Andre Neves
        Agreed. Frankly, I think if you're texting and driving and get caught you should go to jail, period. Harsh? Maybe, but you shouldn't be doing it in the first place - risking your lives and others.
          Carbon Fibre
          • 2 Years Ago
          @telm12345
          I think whoever took the pic is some stupid no lifer bastard.
        Snark
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Andre Neves
        I don't see it going away even with severe fines. Using the severity of the punishment as a deterrent, when getting caught is unlikely, work far less well than you'd think.
      The Mercers
      • 2 Years Ago
      Any way one looks at this, it is a tough issue. If one comes at it from the perspective, say, of the airline industry, there would be no cup holders, radios, texting devices, ANYthing in the car, that distracts from the job of controlling 3,000 pounds of mass moving at 60 mph. I can't imagine staying on a plane if I saw the pilot balancing a slurpee while texting and bopping to LCD Soundsystem on the headphones. I remember talking to a Mercedes engineer over 20 years ago who thought Americans were insane for asking even for cupholders! Should I eve be allowed to play my car radio so loud it drowns out the sound of other cars' horns? But if one comes at from a consumer perspective, well why the heck can't I drink a coffee and listen to the radio if I am stuck in traffic. I just don't see any clear and comprehensive way to balance the two perspectives. "Common sense" would be a nice rule to apply, but good luck with that. Those on the more libertarian end would assert that I can do what I want as long as I don't hurt anyone else... but it is at the point when you DO hurt someone else that the argument becomes practical rather than theoretical. As a wise person once said, "Cars are born with original sin." Whether you are an OEM or a customer, it is one of the few products you can buy where you KNOW, sooner or later, someone is going to die as a result of you either making the product or buying the product. This changes the stakes so much that getting the balance of safety and convenience right is beyond crucial. To hopelessly mangle Talking Heads: "This ain't no iPhone, or TV Tivo, this ain't no foolin' around..."
        citidriver
        • 2 Years Ago
        @The Mercers
        As you said, "well why the heck can't I drink a coffee and listen to the radio if I am stuck in traffic" is fine, it's a time you aren't driving. You're basically standing in line. But that's not the same as when you have multiple lanes of vehicles with all manner of drivers, their in-car activities, and their level of expertise, not to mention manners, all traveling above 60 or 70; that's when there is no justification. A mindless little tug on your steering wheel at 5 mph in bumper to bumper has no effect compared to the same little tug at 70mph.
        SloopJohnB
        • 2 Years Ago
        @The Mercers
        No. It's only a tough issue because of the other stupid things people do while driving. Texting and yapping only adds fuel to the fire.
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