LaHood Still Looking at Cell Jamming Technology for Cars

Ray LaHood has once again shown a tendency to want to completely block technology in the car.

“There’s a lot of technology out there now that can disable phones and we’re looking at that,” Raymond LaHood, the Secretary of Transportation said during a discussion during MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

This will never happen. Ever.  There are to many legitimate reasons to use a phone in car (e.g. 911, passengers making calls, etc) and to few benefits to blocking it…not to mention the FCC wouldn’t approve it.  I don’t seen a need to spend a long time discussing this issue.  It’s just not going to happen.  Not even if there was a catastrophic distraction related accident to use as a rallying cry.

To be fair, LaHood went on to say, “That’s one way. But you have to have good laws, you have to have good enforcement, and you have to have people take personal responsibility. That’s the bottom line.”  Which is far more reasonable an approach.  The interview coincides with the Department of Transportations new, “Faces of Distraction” campaign which will no doubt seek to demonstrate the dangers of distracted driving (i.e. scare people).

I’m not sure what the impact of federal laws would be as the states seem to be doing a pretty good job of creating the restrictions themselves.  Handset use restrictions are becoming standard and seem to have a positive impact on the issue of distraction.  Texting bans are also being rolled out across the country, but the effectiveness is not the same.  The difference between the two is that it’s fairly obvious when someone is holding their phone to their ear.  It’s easy to enforce.  On the other hand, a texting ban is basically impossible to enforce.  Not only can users just keep the phone low (where law enforcement wont see it), but it’s not illegal to use your navigation system or radio while you drive and as more and more drivers use their phones for directions and music it is impossible to tell the difference legal and illegal uses.

The remaining option is apps that will limit the functionality of the phone while in motion, but this also wont work because enforcement is essentially impossible.  The applications are opt-in, essentially requiring a driver to choose to restrict their own access.  In the end, that means the person is willing to not use their phone while driving, but doesn’t have the will power to self enforce.  It’s a small percentage of people that will fall into this group.  I can see an opportunity in the corporate or fleet environment where the use of the application can be required and enforced.

MSNBC also spoke with Paul Atchley, a scientist at the University of Kansas who studies distracted driving.

The real answer to the problem is a change in people’s attitudes. The research on drunk driving and distracted driving is quite similar, but the reactions of people to both are far different.

“When we ask young drivers about drunk driving, they say that judges should throw the book at drunk drivers, but not the person texting while driving,” said Atchley.

“The bottom line is that people want to use these devices,” said Atchley. “And things are going to get worse before they get better.”

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