Yesterday, the NTSB recommended banning all cellphone use in cars. The proximate cause of this was the horrific crash in Missouri that tgriffith referred to below. The probable cause of the crash was “distraction likely due to a text messaging conversation…” Further NTSB details are here; more examples of what influenced the NTSB are here.
We’ve written, probably to the point of your distraction, about driver distraction. My last piece advocated rigorous national standards for driver licensing and enforcement. But, as one of our commenters pointed out, the problem really is that driving is no longer seen as a privilege but has become a civil right, a “basic freedom.”
So we now have a situation in which people conceive that they have a right to do whatever they want in their vehicles, whether their actions endanger others or not. Well, they don’t.
Cellphone use has become endemic in America and around the world. There are 5.3 billion mobile phone subscribers—that is, 77 percent of the world’s population. So, we ask, why has the cellphone become so predominant and important? And how could a ban on its use in cars possibly work?
The seemingly irrepressible need to be connected seems to me like a kind of plague. Maybe it’s part of what my friend Bill Davidow, writing in The Atlantic, calls Internet Compulsion Disorder:
people who can’t put down their smart phones and kids sending and receiving hundreds of text messages a day. Many families no longer have dinner together. They sit at the same table but use their iPhones to check in with virtual friends on Facebook. The person weaving from lane to lane on the freeway is thumbing away on his BlackBerry.
There is indeed a kind of addiction operating here, some sort of dopamine pleasure reward that a person gets from being connected. Bill compares it to the way fast food has hijacked the American diet. Twitter has hijacked our brains.
Our retail economics are built on the manipulation of desire, and a national cellphone ban for cars certainly won’t change that. Most state bans are ineffective. Though there have been a few successes, they are simply Band-Aids. The NTSB can only recommend a ban to the states.
The Congress needs to pass a law that electronically disconnects cellphones in cars, and don’t hold your breath for that to happen. Even then, how do you take even the first steps in combating the electronic addiction?
On the New York Times story about all this, one commenter (Joe6paq) has a solution:
Maybe if the USA would encourage cell phone use and texting while driving, the IQ of the general public would be improved by getting rid of stupid people.
Would a national ban disconnecting cellphones in cars help or hurt?