Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

Want Drivers Not to Be Distracted? Jam Their Cell Phones

Texting and driving

Before you fire an e-mail off to me claiming I need to get a clue, ask yourself this question: back before we had cell phones, what was it like driving a car?

I ask this because I am increasingly of the belief that the only way to keep drivers off the phone is to jam their cell signals when they are in the driver's seat.

If we've learned anything over the last 10-15 years, it's become clear that the problem of distracted drivingis not just whether the driver is holding phone and texting, dialing, or surfing the internet for an updated sports score. This issue is whether the driver is distracted. And that distraction happens even when you are not holding a phone. Need proof? Last year 3,092 people were killed in distraction related accidents

In recommending the complete banon drivers using electronic devices (including use of hands free cell phones), the NTSB is not suggesting the cell phone signals of drivers be jammed. But the NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman says the cell phone industry should develop technology to help drivers keep from being distracted.

What does the cell phone industry think?

It agrees on banning texting and driving. But the statement from CTIA-The Wireless Association takes a different approach to the issue of people talking while driving. It says, "As far as talking on wireless devices while driving, we defer to state and local lawmakers and their constituents as to what they believe are the most appropriate laws where they live."

Here's the deal, the genie is out of the bottle. Drivers have become so accustomed to talking on the phone while driving, that they won't put down the phone completely. Sure, bans and state laws help (35 states now ban texting and driving) and campaigns against distracted driving, like those against drinking and driving, will also help.

But the only way to make a huge dent in distracted driving is to take the distraction away from the driver. Drivers can't help themselves. A survey by AAA found 88 percent acknowledge using a cell phone while driving is dangerous, yet 35% in the same survey had read or sent a text message in the last month.

What about emergencies? You bet. There should be software or technology that allows legit emergency calls. Even better, pull over, put the car in park. Once the car is no longer moving, the cell signal returns.

Funny to think we went decades driving without seat belts, airbags, and other safety advancements. Looking back, it seems silly to think people fought advancements that make driving safer. Actually, it's easy to understand. Look how many people refuse to put down their phone while driving, even though they know they should.


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