Should It Be Illegal To Drive And Talk (Or Text)?

Today the National Transportation Safety Board recommended a nationwide ban on the use of cell phones and texting devices while driving.  The NTSB says it is a safety issue, because drivers who are talking or texting aren’t paying attention.

The NTSB argues that distracted drivers caused more than 3,000 roadway fatalities last year.  In fact, it believes the actual number probably is higher, because distracted drivers don’t own up to the real cause of accidents.  Proponents of a ban point to evidence that a horrific chain-reaction accident in Missouri that killed two people and injured more than 30 others was caused by a texting driver and argue that making such conduct illegal might avoid such accidents in the future.  (It’s interesting that the NTSB proposal apparently would be not to ban “hands-free” devices that the manufacturer builds into the car.  What is the rationale for distinguishing between an automaker’s built-in hands-free device and one purchased separately?)

I think distracted drivers are a problem, but I’m not sure that a one-size-fits-all ban of cell phone use by drivers is a meaningful solution.  Texting and talking on a cell phone can be distracting for some drivers — but so can inserting a CD into a CD player, fumbling to light a cigarette, putting on makeup, or fishing for french fries in the bag you picked up from the McDonald’s carryout window.  Indeed, some people can be distracted without even doing anything with their hands, because they are preoccupied, or angry, or fighting drowsiness.  Are we really going to try to ban every form of activity that might make bad drivers worse?

3 thoughts on “Should It Be Illegal To Drive And Talk (Or Text)?

  1. You bet your patoodi they should ban talking or texting. Just becsuse there are other distractions, such as smoking or eating behind the wheel doesn’t mean we should overlook this new and much much more dangerous attention-diversion.,

    I learned to drive at over 50. My reflexes are stellar … I can beat any whiz kid ten-year old at computer games and can play the Flight of the Bumblebee, faster than any bumblebee ever dared to fly. BUT ….. I found that even the radio/CD player in my car was a distraction, Conversation was out of the question.

    i’ve been driving accident free … apart from a tendency to back into the pillars in my hotel’s parking garage … for almost four years, I LOVE driving, And now can listen to Bach and Zipoli comfortably …. But I’ve kept the same CD in the slot for four years, not daring to risk a change in repertoire. Conversation is now possible, providing I avoid topics like Sarah Palin or the insufferable Newt.

    But make no mistake. Distractions ARE distractions and DO impact one’s alertness. To risk an accident over a phone call or text is unconscionable.


  2. There is growing evidence that a driver using a hand held phone is as impaired as is a driver with a BAC over 0.1, well above the legal limit in every state in the country. A driver attempting to text is far worse, and may as well be trying to drive blindfolded. As a cyclist, I have seen first hand the mayhem a driver can cause while on the phone. For whatever reason, Americans seem to forget when they are driving that they are piloting a 2,000 pound (or more) missile. Not only would I ban the use of these devices, I would impose very stiff penalties for violations. This is not a question of a nanny state; it is a question of forcing people to be accountable for their conduct. Sure, I’ve heard people insist that when they are on the phone they are not at all distracted. Then again, I’ve heard people similarly insist that they can drive just fine with a nice buzz on.

    Hang up and drive, for goodness sake!


  3. I don’t drive, never have, bad driver recognize my limitations, the story is too long to tell. Since I don’t drive I have a lot of time to observe while we hurtle down the freeway. What I’ve noticed is EVERYONE is on their cell phones. Young women seem to be the fastest, most reckless drivers, frequently riding other driver’s bumpers until they can pass and texting so much that I’m surprised they haven’t worn their fingerprints off.


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