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Let's cut off phones in the car

A driver uses a phone while behind the wheel of a car in New York City.
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A driver uses a phone while behind the wheel of a car in New York City.

By now, I thought car companies or the telecom folks would have figured out how to disarm cellphones in automobiles. They may have figured it out but just don't want to do it. They have kicked the can down the road, hoping the next guy would take care of it.

Mind you, cellphones should work if the vehicle is shut off. And there should be an override that would allow them to be used in an emergency. But in general, using a cellphone while driving is a bad idea.

I am amazed at how many people I see using their phones to text or check email while driving. They are an accident waiting to happen.

Of course, we could wait until autonomous vehicles are ubiquitous. That would put an end to the problem of distracted driving. But until then, we are injuring and killing way too many drivers, passengers and pedestrians.

Driver distraction has always been an issue. We used to worry about drinking coffee or eating fast food in the car. I've seen people shaving or putting on makeup while driving 70 mph. But cellphones have taken the problem to a new level.

We need a solution — a simple but effective step. Somehow, we have to make drivers believe that when they are driving on public roads, they are on a racetrack. The road needs every bit of their attention.

Thousands of lives are being lost with distracted driving. There are too many diversions for drivers, even without cellphones. Let's use cellphones outside the vehicle.

This column originally appeared on AutoNews.com.

Commentary by Keith Crain, the Editor-in-Chief of Automotive News.

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