Flummoxed by laws against distracted driving that haven’t been as successful as hoped, the Department of Transportation is now setting its sights on disabling cell phone technologies while a vehicle is in motion to prevent accidents.
Earlier this week, Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood voiced his ideas for preventing the 5500+ accident fatalities every year that can be traced to cell phone use while driving. According to him, cell phone blocking technologies – not cell phone jammers, since those are illegal – could be used to prevent motorists from texting or using a cell phone while driving. These sorts of technologies are already in the market, and have been developed by a number of private software companies.
It isn’t clear exactly what LaHood has in mind. In any case, these technologies are manufactured by private software companies, and motorists may be at liberty to have these activated or inactivated. A person who desperately needs to talk on a cell phone, could simply inactivate the technology. Even if the Department of Transportation moves to make it mandatory to have some cell phone blocking technology in all vehicles in the future, there will always be people who find a way to inactivate the system.
Much of the problem has to do with the fact that texting or talking a cell phone while driving is simply not considered as reprehensible as intoxicated driving. Tell someone that you drove home after a party with enough alcohol in your system to blow up half of Los Angeles, and they look at you askance. Tell them you had a two-hour conversation on your cell phone while driving home, and there would be little reaction. That attitude needs to change. Until then, any combination of legislation and technology will only be so effective.