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December 23, 2011 • News

(Don’t) Hold the Phone: NTSB Secretary Nixes Support for Hands-free Ban

A week ago Michael Anderson posted a thought-provoking article here about the National Transportation Safety Board showing data that tended to support the notion that hands-free cellular use was just as hazardous as using a handheld phone. That the NTSB was mulling a recommendation for total cell phone/hands free ban was dire news indeed, both for automakers who spend huge sums on developing hands-free car technology and for us as the driver/talkers. In an abrupt split from his department however, NTSB Secretary Ray LaHood told reporters on Wednesday:

“The problem is not hands-free. That is not the big problem in America. Most people don’t put Bluetooth or Sync in their cars because they can’t afford it. Everybody has a cell phone in their hand and it’s held up to their ear while they’re driving.

Anybody that wants to join the chorus against distracted driving, welcome aboard. If other people want to work on hands-free, so be it.”

(via Detroit News and Reuters)

Personally, I’m curious why several of the NTSB board found the data supporting a total ban compelling enough to take such a radicle position, while Mr. LaHood did not. Why the divergent opinion? I suspect LaHood, a staunch anti-texting foe, is likely taking the more realistic approach. Right or wrong, there is a great deal of infrastructure and driver expectations built around mobile phone/hands free technology use. And while an outright ban may be the safest policy, it would undoubtedly be inordinately difficult to pass and problematic to enforce. Moreover, it would be costly for auto manufacturers and consumers alike in an economy that is already experiencing more than its share of issues.

Also, assuming such a policy could have been passed and implemented, how many people really would abide by such a ban, especially younger people who have grown up in such a culture where cell phone usage in the car was the norm? What do you think?

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