Tuesday, December 20, 2011

OPINION: Government suggestion to ban use of hands-free cellphones by drivers is ridiculous, overreaching

Any time “the government” tells us we shouldn’t do something, I get nervous.

Deep down, they might have good reasons and want to help us, but it almost always leads to overreaching and unnecessary rules being imposed on the public.

That very much holds true for the announcement last week that a U.S. panel (the National Transportation and Safety Board) – which thankfully can only make recommendations and not actually impose laws on the public – has recommended that all 50 states pass a law banning the use of cell phones in cars completely – not just in the hand, but also hands-free use of the devices.

To a point, they are right. Every state should ban drivers from texting while driving, and even from making phone calls with the device in hand. This is inherently dangerous.

But extending a ban to hands-free devices is ridiculous on many levels.

For one, hands-free devices have become part of our lives over the past decade, to the point where that can’t be undone. Are you going to ban people from using all Bluetooth headsets in the car? There are millions of them out there. OnStar and other equipment comes now built into cars so you can use your voice to do almost anything on the newer vehicles coming out. This is great technology that actually makes things safer on the roads, as you never have to pick up any phones to do what you need to do.

Also, there is just too much money invested by companies in the hands-free market. You can’t tell companies to make devices safe by making them hands-free, then change your mind and tell them even those are not safe. It’s just ridiculous, and even worse it’s not true.

Using a hands-free device is no different than talking to someone in the car. And obviously that can’t be banned.
What’s next? Banning radios, as looking down to change the station might cause an accident?

Of course that won’t happen, because it’s ridiculous.
And so is the suggestion to ban all hands-free use of cellphones in the car.

It’s a ridiculous rule suggestion by a group that is definitely overreaching. Luckily, the states should be smart enough to realize that it will never happen, so the recommendation should go unheeded.

Bans on texting and other use of electronics are good. This recommendation is not.
If anything, the government should be focusing on ways to improve hands-free technology to make it even safer, not trying to get rid of it – because they are just fighting a losing battle.

It’s here to stay.

Matt Myftiu can be reached at matt.myftiu@oakpress.com.


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