We live in a George Jettson world regulated by a National Transportation Safety Board from the Fred Flintstone era.
The NTSB wants texting and all cell phone use - hands free and otherwise - banned in all 50 states. They also want mobile phone providers to devise a technology that blocks a driver’s calls and messages while a vehicle is moving
The recommendation comes on the heels of an investigation of an August 2010 crash in Missouri where a 19-year-old pick-up truck driver sent or received 11 text messages in the 13 minutes prior to slamming into the back of a big rig. Two school busses then crashed into the two trucks. Two people died.
The National Transportation Safety Administration this month noted that 9.5 percent of all traffic fatalities - or 3,092 deaths - are the direct result of distracted driving.
It makes sense to outlaw texting and the use of any device in your hand other than the steering wheel when you are driving.
But the nanny state mentality zeroed in on George Jettson ignores Fred Flintstone-style issues.
On the same day the NTSB issued its decree, a police officer in Miami ended up snapping a stop sign and getting his patrol unit hung up on a power pole guide wire. The officer wasn’t texting. He wasn’t using a cell phone, hands free or otherwise. He had dropped a pen as he was driving and reached over to pick it up.
So why doesn’t the NTSB encourage all 50 states to outlaw picking up dropped items while driving or drinking any beverage while driving or even blowing your nose while behind the wheel? They can all serve as distractions. Talking to passengers can do the same thing especially if they are out-of-control kids you’re trying to calm down. Outlaw those transgressions too.
I’ve had more than my share of close encounters as a pedestrian with people who have a cell phone glued to their ears while driving. And while I get how talking to someone on a hands free device can be a distraction it doesn’t make sense as it is really no different than talking to someone in the car.
To make it clear I do not use a cell phone while driving. If I have to use it, I pull over. That said I’m sure I do enough things that classify as distracted driving such as changing a station or a CD while driving. I’ve even been known to take swigs out of water bottles.
But pushing for technology to jam cell calls by drivers when they are behind the wheel of a moving vehicle? What about cases where users of cell phones have helped police catch drunken drivers or help keep track of fleeing suspects? The odds are they are probably as numerous as cases where hands free cell phone users have caused accidents.
Come to think of it, how many accidents - and deaths - have been caused by drivers talking on hands free cell phones that are voice activated?
Is it less than people bending over to pick up dropped items? If so, why isn’t the NTSB pushing to outlaw taking hands off the steering wheel, period.
The bottom line is the law is clear you are supposed to drive distraction free. In reality, everything is a distraction from adjusting the heater, reading a billboard, and selecting a new station on the radio to taking a sip of water.
What the NTSB is suggesting makes sense for texting but it is blatant nanny state overkill on the hands free devices.
People should drive when they drive. I get that. But they are going to push the envelope anyway so why not at least give the rest of us a fighting change by letting them use hands free technology?
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-249-3519.