Ban the hands-free in-car phone

Dec 16, 2011

I’m one of those kooks who doesn’t completely mind the government sometimes trying to protect me from myself and others — like on the road, for example. I’ve been in car accidents — hit from the rear, hit on the side, hit head-on — but I’ve survived them all, no one died. Maybe it’s just luck.

Usually, it was a driver who was distracted — even for just a split second — that caused the collision. That distraction could have been looking away from the road ahead, looking down at something dropped onto the seat or floorboard, speeding up and cutting in a too-tight space and slamming on the brakes … you get the picture; we’ve all been there.

Then there are the countless near-hits when someone runs the light or stop sign sometimes on purpose, sometimes unaware and, nowadays, sometimes distracted not by a screaming kid in the backseat, but by calling/receiving/texting on a phone. We’ve all been there, too.

I’ve noted before that it’s rare that I use my cellphone while driving; for me, I have to be aware of what’s happening on the road and be able to react as quickly as possibly. That’s me.

But as much as I want the government to have some driving regulations to protect me from others — some  traffic lights and stop signs, lines to direct us to stay on our side of the road, and the like — banning all drivers from using cell phones (even hands-free devices) to converse while driving is one reg I can’t back. Sure, almost 1 in 10 accidents are blamed on drivers using cellphones. But drunk drivers, meth-crazed drivers, texting drivers, dads turning around to swat at their backseat kids fighting with each other, wannabe show-girls adding eyeliner … you get the picture … also cause accidents because they’re distracted.

Distracted drivers — with whatever distracts them — are a sorry fact of everyday life; we can’t regulate their stupidity, their inconsideration. At best, we can punish them for their transgressions that injure others (and many are punished with severe fines and jail time).

As drivers want to be more connected and, thus, more distracted, and as carmakers do their best to accommodate, the OEMs and aftermarket have to be wise and, yes, be accountable for developing devices to help us protect us from ourselves and from others. The government can work with industry to help it serve and protect us, but an all-out ban on such in-car phone use — including hands-free devices — just won’t work. People will continue to be distracted. So, as a driver it’s my job to not be distracted, to watch out for them, to continue to have some luck on my side.

You get the picture. We’ve all been there.

Ban the cell? No.