We'll admit, whether checking news feeds or listening to Pandora, we've fiddled with our phones in the car a few times. If Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood gets his way, the use of mobile phones in any capacity may soon be banned while driving.
LaHood's persuasion over the past several years has led to 30 state governments banning texting while driving. His latest concern however is that mobile devices as a whole are a distraction, including Facebook, Twitter, and internet radio. He even claims hands-free talking over a Bluetooth connection remains a distraction on some level. The proposal may even lead to the limitation of vehicle connectivity systems including Ford's Sync and Kia's new UVO systems.
General Motors' OnStar currently has plans to implement voice-activated Facebook and Twitter updates for its users. Ford's Sync also has the ability to respond to several voice commands, with intentions to improve driver focus. Many smartphones also have the ability to receive voice commands, aiming to reduce distraction. "I'm absolutely opposed to all of that," said Transportation Secretary LaHood, as he continues to see the technologies as distractions.
Automakers are likely opposed to an outright ban, as they've invested millions of dollars in developing new technologies. While new gadgetry not only differentiates them from competitors, but it also accounts for a large part of their revenue. "Our feeling is it's a matter of balancing what we know people are going to do anyway with what technology can help them do safer in a vehicle," said Wade Newton, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers.
The further bans are likely to come as distracted driving was linked to 5474 deaths in 2009. However government efforts are believed to be the reason such fatalities were reduced by six percent from the previous years. The department believes that some 5-percent of all drivers on the road at any given time were using their phone last year - a modest figure in our eyes.
Should the DOT sponsor a complete ban on all phone use while driving -- like the texting ban -- it would have to be passed in each state independently.