Howard: A cell phone ban has "potentially massive ramifications"

Howard: A cell phone ban has "potentially massive ramifications"

For an American society whose long-standing love affair with motor vehicles is rivaled only by its new-found lust for mobile smartphones, the National Transportation Safety Board recommendation that all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia enact legislation banning all forms of cell phone use (including hands-free use) while driving has potentially massive ramifications for our personal and professional lives.

When you consider the statistics associated with cell phone use while driving, it’s easy for anyone to see why the NTSB made its recommendation:

– The 23X increase to crash risk when drivers text

– The 3092 ‘distraction-affected’ traffic fatalities in 2010

– The $300 billion cost to our economy every year

However, when you consider the complexities of enforcement, the NTSB recommendation is most definitely easier said than done. Here are four reasons why:


1) Bans (alone) just don’t work:

A 2010 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that state texting bans’ have a short-lived impact on driver behavior and may actually contribute to increased crashes because people begin to use their cell phones surreptitiously in an effort to reduce the likelihood of getting caught.

2) Bans are difficult and expensive to enforce:

NHTSA pilot enforcement programs conducted in two small cities and consisting of highly visible, specialized law enforcement and public service advertising had a notable impact on people’s cell phone behavior.

That’s the good news. The bad news, however, is that the results required more time, manpower and funds than most police departments could dream of having.

3) Ignoring bans is easy for drivers to rationalize:

According to NHTSA’s recent survey on distracted driving attitudes, more than 80 percent of drivers think texting makes other drivers unsafe, but 25 percent say it has no negative impact on their own driving.

4) Bans alone are no match for the sheer addictive power of mobile devices:

There’s also compelling evidence that even if drivers do want to kick their distracted habits, they can’t – not without powerful motivation in the form of active and passive enforcement aides.


And that’s where technology becomes part of the solution, not just part of the problem.

NTSB Chairman Hersman herself noted during her press conference that safe driving technology, like ZoomSafer, already exists, and that she hopes individuals, companies and law enforcement agencies all make use of such solutions as part of their enforcement efforts.

Echoing the NTSB’s support for technology solutions to distracted driving, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Julius Genachowski also highlighted ZoomSafer and other cutting-edge solutions in a Huffington Post editorial as the next steps in the distracted driving fight.

Says Genachowski, “Innovative solutions from wireless carriers, handset designers, software developers and automobile manufacturers are helping to decrease distractions and keep our roads safe.”

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