"Is the Government About to Block Cell Phone Signals in Cars?" That's the molotov cocktail of a headline that Time magazine ran yesterday when it announced that U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is looking at new ways to curb distracted driving. (He's been doing so for ages, but apparently Time was having a slow news day.) Dig a little deeper, though, and you'll see that beyond the incendiary headline, LaHood's big plan centers on educating drivers, not jamming their mobiles.
Time's story -- which was really just a link to a longer piece in Discovery News -- stems from a statement LaHood recently made on MSNBC's "Morning Joe": "There's a lot of technology out there now that can disable phones and we're looking at that." Okay, admittedly, that sounds troublesome. But LaHood continued: "That's one way. But you have to have good laws, you have to have good enforcement, and you have to have people take personal responsibility. That's the bottom line." Translation: LaHood may be looking at emerging technologies for ways to address the problem, but he understands that educating folks about the hazards of distracted driving is far more cost-efficient -- not to mention legal.
On that note, we should point out that deploying or even advertising a device that jams cell phone signals is generally illegal in the U.S. (though if you're in the market for such things, China doesn't care much about American law.) As we've mentioned at SocialCarNews, there are a number of apps that disable cell phones in moving vehicles -- and some show promise in certain situations -- but those are purely voluntary, meaning that widespread adoption will be awfully tricky. (That said, if automakers were to hop onboard with in-car apps, the process could speed up.)
And as far as the expense of a tech solution to distracted driving is concerned...well, we won't hazard a guess as to how much LaHood would have to spend to implement cell-jamming devices across the country, but he could probably get a dozen or so high-speed rail lines for the same amount of dough.
For now, driver education is the best way to curb distracted driving. And not so coincidentally, that's what LaHood is doing with his recently launched "Faces of Distracted Driving" campaign. Here are a couple of clips from that campaign; the first demonstrates that LaHood may not be the best spokesman for the job, but many of the other videos are very, very effective:
During the holidays, when we're all spending a little more time on the roadways and drinking a few more highballs than usual, now's as good a time as any for everyone to remember their responsibilities behind the wheel.