Jamming Cell Phones in Cars: “I think it will be done,” says Ray LaHood

November 22nd, 2010

The U.S. Secretary of Transportation has been on the warpath about cell phone use, particularly texting, in cars, which has killed some 16,000 people in 6 years in the U.S. The department has a new video campaign with heart-rending stories of young people who have been killed in distracted driving incidents.

In an interview last Thursday, responding to a question about jamming phones, the secretary said:

I think it will be done. …I think the technology is there and I think you’re going to see the technology become adaptable in automobiles to disable these cell phones. We need to do a lot more if were [sic] going to save lives.

Then, on his blog, LaHood backwatered a bit, saying “personal responsibility—that’s the bottom line.” Well, sure, Mr. Secretary, but that begs the question of what is the most effective and efficient way to prevent these deaths. All the tear-jerk videos in the world won’t make people more responsible.

Predictable outcries about government interference went up all around the Web, but many commenters offered other solutions, not all of which were crazy. I heard somewhat less of the “I don’t want no Big Brother in my car” comeback than before.

Some of the more interesting responses were: treat texting as a DUI; jam only the driver’s phone; override the jamming for emergency situations; focus on better driver training, stricter licensing, tougher traffic laws.

We’ve heard most of these before, and finally it becomes a matter of how seriously people are going to take this issue. A recent poll shows nearly two-thirds of Americans backing a ban on use of cell phones while driving (with predictably fewer—“just over half”—of 18-to-34-year-olds in favor).

But putting such a ban into effect is something else. One commenter (#2) said it this way:

Good luck. I suspect the only thing that will piss people off more than getting groped at airports is having Uncle Sugar tell them they can no longer drive recklessly while yapping on the phone. Congress would cave in a heartbeat.

There are presently bans in 21 states and several cities, which aren’t working. Do you think some kind of jamming law is a better way to prevent cell phones leading to distracted driving accidents?

—jgoods

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  1. randy
    November 22nd, 2010 at 21:44 | #1

    I’d happily pay $200 or so for an effective jammer to use in the car. More laws and police aren’t going to any good because our current law enforcement is so minimal and the phone abusers so numerous that there’s no way police can make a difference. Drivers know that they can talk and get away with it, shucks, they even see the cops doing it. (Who, by the way, are some of the most distracted drivers around, with loads of equipment in their cars, including computers, and a lack of interest in obeying the same laws they enforce on us.) Being literally knocked off the air every 100 yards or so will condition them to not bother with the phone in the first place. And yes, I think texting should be treated with the seriousness of DUI– it’s that dangerous a practice.

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