Apparently, Ray LaHood's personal preference is that no one talk in the car, even with a hands-free device (it is uncertain whether he is OK with us talking to fellow passengers.)

"I don't want people talking on phones, having them up to their ear or texting while they're driving," LaHood said this week calling for research on hands-free systems. Hands-free phone conversations are a "cognitive distraction,"

And because Ray LaHood is US Transportation Secretary, we may soon all be forced to abide by Mr. LaHood's personal preference.


  1. Bill:

    I think the science supports him on this one. Apparently chatting on a cell phone makes a 20 something person as bad a driver as the average 70 year old or drunk driver.

  2. Dr. T:

    I agree with Bill. Every reliable study on cell phone use while driving indicates that the increased risk of accidents is due to the phone conversation, not the button-pressing. (Texting is a separate issue.) Studies also showed that conversing with passengers is not nearly as risky because (most) passengers will pipe-down during difficult maneuvers such as merging onto a highway or changing lanes in heavy traffic.

  3. Dr. T:

    I should have added that I don't agree with a dictatorial approach to driving safety. I would eliminate laws forbidding this or that activity or specifying "unsafe" levels of drugs while driving. Instead, the laws should be based on responsibilities and blame. Accidents caused by recklessness, carelessness, preventable distractions, or preventable impairments should result in the driver (or his estate) paying full restitution (for deaths, injuries, and property damage), suspension of driver's license, and other penalties. Auto insurance companies would not have to pay when accidents were caused by avoidable driver errors. (Just as they don't pay if you burn down your own home or business.) Simplifying the laws in this fashion probably would do more to reduce auto accidents than cell phone bans and reduced blood alcohol limits.

  4. phr3dly:

    I struggle with this issue. On the one hand, I firmly believe that we should be able to behave as we see fit, with the caveat that should our actions affect others, we pay the consequences.

    On the other hand I have, several times, been nearly hit by people talking or texting on their phones while I was behaving in a safe and sane fashion. Further I, while talking on a phone one evening, found myself driving directly through a red light (there was no traffic around). I stopped using a phone in the car after that incident as it was a stark indicator to me that average people (a group into which I feel comfortable lumping myself) are cognitively impaired while talking on the phone in ways that we are not while talking to a passenger.

    So which philosophy wins, and how can I feel internally consistent? Perhaps while operating a vehicle on public roads, we implicitly agree that our behavior may be governed by others. I'm not sure I'm comfortable with this and, as a cell phone ban seems more common sense than tyranny, I haven't worried too much about the inconsistency.

  5. Mesa Econoguy:

    Judging from his past statements, Mr. LaHood is likely correct.

    Since Mr. LaHood cannot drive and talk, or walk and chew gum simultaneously, it is best to mandate drivers of his IQ level to focus on individual tasks, like driving a car.

  6. David Smith:

    Sorry, I usually agree with your philosophy but in my experience, driving with mobile phone is a "clear and present danger" to everyone on the road.

    I don't know the proper legal way to stop it, but I strongly feel the goal of stopping it is very important.

  7. Gil:

    So basically you're sticking with the Libertarian premise that people are free to act in even obviously dangerously risky behaviour but as long no one gets hurt it's okay effectively making punishment being mostly due to plain bad luck. An exmaple of this could be someone who drives on the sidewalk and since everybody else got out of the way therefore the driver faces no punishment. Believe or not, there is a real world phenomenon called "change blindness" and this is why drivers ought to be paying attention to driving and nothing else.

  8. Roy:

    Dr T's second comment summarizes what leads me to oppose MADD. I have zero doubt that drunk driving harms. But banning drinking won't solve the problem. Nor will making drunks do schools, nor even do time. Making them personally(not someone's insurance company)responsible for restitution will. Rapidly.

    Same same for legalized weed. As soon as laws exist which make users personally responsible for harm caused others, then I'll support legalization. Short of that, nothing will suceed in regulating 'illegal' drugs.

  9. DrTorch:

    Thanks Bill.

    We say we want laws based on facts. Well, we have to take those laws even when they go against our _preferences_.

  10. smurfy:

    I think for the vast majority of people, making them personally responsible for restitution will only serve to make them bankrupt. Rapidly.

    And since that debt will be owed to private individuals instead of the government, they probably won't make that debt non dischargeable.

    I just can't get too worked up about cell phones and driving considering that soon enough, Google will have the wheel.