Wednesday, December 14, 2011

NTSB, A National Ban Of Cell Phones In Cars, And You.

I'm going to take a step back from the usual video game focused features I post here and discuss something that I feel really needs as much attention as it can get.

Yesterday the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) put forth a suggestion to the United States Government indicating that they desire legislation requiring all states to completely ban cell phone operation in motor vehicles; even hands free, bluetooth, etc.

Admittedly, I laughed when I first heard this - then I had a moment of sheer panic, and then I laughed some more.  Why?  I live in a state that bans cell phone use while driving, unless you're using some sort of hands free technology with it.  I use my phone on long drives, talk to friends, get directions in places my GPS can't assist me, etc.  Everyone does this from time to time - if you don't, good for you, but you're in the minority.

I'm not too worried though, its unlikely that this legislation will pass.  Why you might ask? Here's a few questions I need answered:

1 -  How will talk radio shows that require listeners to call in and participate survive?  I can't imagine more than 2% of their entire listening population is in something other then a car.  Of that 2%, most of them are probably at work and can't call in anyway.  Will all these networks shut down and/or reformat?

2 -  I'm fortunate, I have a car with a lot of built-in hands free technology.  I won't go down the route of 'Who will reimburse me for the extra add-on's I purchased to get this feature, now that they are illegal?'  But what if I did?

3 - Are you going to get every car manufacturer to either stop inserting blue tooth technology into their cars, and or add more features to disable it?  Best of luck with that, they'll pull every single cent they currently spend in congressional funding in a heartbeat.  Next, you'll start a war in a recovering industry, costing jobs when competition is inevitably eliminated.  Which company will adapt first?  Which ones will refuse to adapt?  Which one will develop the 'jamming' technology to prevent cell phone use when in motion, etc.

4 - What's next?  Telling me I can't use the built in GPS in my car?  Please, tell me how the call to Mercedes, Audi, BMW, Lexus, etc. goes when you tell them they need to strip out their command consoles because drivers might get distracted.

5 - Where does government regulation stop?  People won't self regulate, we all know that. 

Lets compare this problem to drunk driving.  If you do it,  you get fined, lose your license, etc.  The financial repercussions of a drunk driving arrest are insane, and deterring enough for 99% of the population.  This, coupled with the moral compass we all possess keeps all but the most selfish and inconsiderate people on the planet from driving around when they're intoxicated.

What if we approached cell phone use while driving the same way, except a little more severe? (and I'd propose these adaptations for drunk driving arrests as well).

If you cause an accident, property damage, etc. while driving, and your cell record shows you were (doing anything with the phone in your hand while driving), you are automatically at fault in the accident.  You lose your license for two years, massive fines, etc.

Do it again?  5 years.

Do it again?  No more driving.  Ever.  No plea bargaining, no bullshit.  No more driving in the United States, ever again.  You get a permanent criminal record (one that can not be expunged), and you learn to take mass transit.

All of the above penalties compound with any additional tickets, charges, etc. you face.

The entire idea for this rant started when I actually heard someone call into a talk radio show today (while driving) and say two things.  The first was "You're out the $X you spent on the car upgrades.  Isn't $700 worth someone's life to you?  Well yeah, it is.  Of course it is.  But it was my choice to purchase that upgrade, with my money, and use it accordingly.  *I* haven't cost anyone their life, and I use it every single time I step in my car.  Why do I get penalized?  Is that fair?  Me sacrificing my car's capability to do that -MIGHT- save a life.  I might win the lottery tonight, too. 

I'm not too big on might.  Here's why - I've been driving 12 years.  I am in the top 1% of the top 1% that has made it their first decade+ and never had a car accident.  When I do have one (knock on wood), will it be because I'm 'distracted'?  Or because I'm 'due'?  Ask the insurance agencies which one they believe in, their the ones who got 12 years worth of my money for insurance I might need.

The second thing they said was that it was 'their right' to be protected from other drivers [that use their cell phones while driving].  I love the generalization that all people driving and talking on a phone (hands free) are dangerous.  I also love that he was making that call on a cell phone, while driving.  I'm not too sure that's a right in the sense you're talking about, but if you're that paranoid, why go outside at all?  You could catch a cold, or be rammed off the road by someone who sneezed at an inopportune moment.  Or perhaps your tire goes flat at 65mph.  Are you going to stay away from roads completely because you're too afraid of being hit by a car?

I'd hate to continue to beat a dead horse, but am I insane for thinking that HARSH penalties will completely deter people from doing this?  Or at least get the idiots who can't handle multitasking (probably the most important ability a human can possess these days) off the road?

There are already laws that bring the hammer down on provisional drivers (the first year you have your license) if they get caught doing ANYTHING with a phone in their hand.  Make them stupid, and don't monetize them.  Money is meaningless to idiots.  Inconvenience them.  Give them a $1 fine, they have to pay by money order every month for ten years - no advance payment.  Then take away their license for awhile.  Then take it away forever.  Enough of the pandering to the scared and frightened, teach the actual people causing a problem the lesson, and we'll all be better off for it.

A final thought:  They install breathalyzers in drunk driver's cars, install cell phone jamming stuff in someone car if they cause an accident while using one.  That's the best deterrent we have, right?  Out right banning it?  Ready for me to go into crazy land?  Why don't we just outright ban alcohol too, its always dangerous - it's literally POISON.  Oh wait, we tried that.  From what I'm told, it went well. . .

 "He who trades liberty in the pursuit of security will get none, and deserves neither."
-Benjamin Franklin


  1. I agree completely with everything you have written here. The tech ban is utterly stupid. I think all GPS manufacturers might be a bit pissed about it. By the way, almost all GPS systems have a warning at the beginning that tell the driver not to use it while moving in the vehicle.
    I don't like the idea that the government is controlling more and more of my life. I'd like to point out that there is also no "right" to be protected. That's not in the bill of rights, sorry. People in this country need to take responsibility for themselves. I think seatbelt laws are a bit silly for this same reason. On one hand, it does save lives.
    On the other hand, if you're idiot enough to be driving around without a seatbelt, it's your own fault when you go flying through the windshield and splatter on the pavement. Maybe you don't deserve this fate, but it is still the one you made for yourself.

    I don't think something like this is going to pass. I'm pretty sure there are a bunch of people in the house who use GPS in their luxury vehicles. ;-)

  2. People in the houses don't drive themselves anywhere, most aren't allowed to, the rest think its 'unbecoming'. Yes, really.

    I agree, and to an extent I miss natural selection. But their point is somewhat valid, and I have to say I support it - I don't like the idea of some teenager plowing me off the road, helpless, because someone stole their cheese and they needed to text about it.

    Not any different from any other accident, or distraction, though. Bring the hammer down on 'em for doing it, and lets stop catering to idiots.


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