U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood may push total ban on phone use while driving
Jonathan Oosting | MLive.com
AP Photo U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood this week continued his aggressive campaign against distracted driving, suggesting he could push states to ban any use of mobile phones by drivers.
Michigan lawmakers last year passed legislation making it illegal to send text messages while driving in the state, but LaHood said research underway could prove the need to ban all forms of phone use -- including the hands-free variety.
Bloomberg, Oct. 8: LaHood, whose campaign against texting and making calls while driving has led to restrictions in 30 states, says his concerns extend to vehicle information and entertainment systems such as Ford Motor Co.’s Sync and General Motors Co.’s OnStar.
"I don’t want people talking on phones, having them up to their ear or texting while they’re driving," LaHood said in an interview this week. "We need a lot better research on other distractions," including Bluetooth-enabled hands-free calls and the in-car systems, he said.
Those comments came in the wake of a report by the Highway Loss Data Institute report suggesting text messaging bans have had little effect on crash rates and have not dissuaded drivers from sending texts. LaHood called the report "completely misleading" and said "all the reputable research we have says that tough laws, good enforcement and increased public awareness will help put a stop to the deadly epidemic of distracted driving on our roads."
It's unlikely LaHood would or could push for a federal ban. Rather, Bloomberg suggests he could use the governments clout to persuade states to strengthen their distracted driving laws, much like it did when awarding highway aid funds to states that raised the legal drinking age to 21 or required the use of seat belts.
Such a ban could be a blow to Ford and GM, who promote on-board computer systems for their ability to interact with smart phones and facilitate hands-free conversations, which Lahood called a form of "cognitive distraction."
Chrysler, meanwhile, announced Wednesday it is sponsoring a free, hands-free cell phone application developed by Car and Driver magazine intended to "combat the dangers of texting while driving."
When running, the twee-titled "Txt U L8r" automatically responds to incoming texts with a customizable message along the lines of "text you later." At the same time, the application reads the incoming message aloud to the driver, and a paid version allows the driver to respond with voice commands.